Canadian Camps

Sep 20, 2022 | Sports Friends Canada

Sports Friends Canada launched in summer 2021, with several new sports ministers participating  in a virtual Basic Training. When the week for hosting the pilot camps arrived, everyone met in person for the first time: an assembly of coaches and volunteers from different churches. Serving the Lord together is a remarkable thing – it’s like the family of God simply coming together! You would never have known that these people did not know each other two months prior, they were immediately praying, eating, hanging out and serving together like long-lost brothers and sisters – the family of God in action is amazing!

Relationships developed quickly between coaches and players, even over just a few days. A caring and authentic coach is able to recognize and affirm the strengths in an individual team member, as well as call out things that will hinder their personal growth and development. One boy faked a foul during a match at camp. He was clearly the most talented player on the field and did not need to cheat at all, but he was mimicking the way he saw professional players behave on television. His coach also happened to be officiating that match, and stopped the game to address the issue. He encouraged the young man’s raw talent and zeal for the game, but told him that this team plays differently. This team plays with honor and integrity toward each other, toward referees, and toward the rules of the game. There is no room for deception. For the rest of the week, the young man played uprightly. He experienced greater freedom by acting honestly, focusing on developing his own skills, and honoring those around him. 

Not everyone at camp was a great athlete, though. At one camp a certain young attendee participated without much athletic ability but with a genuine desire to be part of a team. Late in day two, just before the game began, he was jumping with his hand raised to catch the attention of the leader. Once the microphone was in his hand he announced with great joy, “Today I found a friend!” The thrill was evident, and his joy spread throughout the group. This camp had been called Soccer Friends, and true to its name the simple gathering was blessing young people with something sweeter than athletic skills. 

 Serving in Jesus’s Name always impacts the servants, not only those they serve. These camps demonstrated the heart of Sports Friends, which is really not about sports at all, but about ministering through sports to reach the hearts of young people and their families. One woman whose background included experience as a skilled athlete, a prior coach, and a school teacher was able to visit camp for a  day. That was all it took for her to see how her natural abilities could be dedicated to fulfilling the passion of her heart: sharing Jesus with those who don’t yet know Him. She is now driving forward sports ministry in her church.

Another young coach who participated in camp was serving as a summer intern at her church. Directors lovingly describe her as “a more delicate, kind, little person with not one ounce of athleticism.” They proudly tell of how she fervently engaged her group of young people at camp and would not be stopped by her size and skill. More impressive still, she was one of the few summer interns who returned to help develop ongoing ministry through fall and winter. She is learning sports, but she already knew how to be a friend, and could clearly see how meaningful this outreach had been to young people and their families. 

Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of serving You. Thank You for your invitation into the family of God, into the precious work of God to bring life and love to all ages and all nations. Thank You for bringing truth and light to every context of life. Thank You for always being ready to receive as “friend” all who desire to come to You.