Gospel Margin

Nov 8, 2021 | Sports Friends The Americas

According to our team working among refugee populations in the USA, the most profound opportunities to share the good news do not come during programs or presentations, but in natural conversations that happen on the drive home from practice, over coffee, and late at night after dinner.

The gospel work happens in the margins,” our team leader reports, “because of the sensitivity of our work here. And because lots of our neighbors have never even heard the gospel before, we have to be very thoughtful about the way we present it and the way we share.” 

Our Sports Friends USA team lives and works among families that come from a religious background that contains teachings about Jesus, but those teachings are contrary to what Jesus said about Himself. In this context, the Holy Spirit has directed our team to simply be a faithful presence. So it is the daily life of a faithful-to-Jesus friend, soccer coach, or playmate that creates opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Well, we wonder, what is a Central Asian refugee community’s response to a humble, loving and engaged soccer coach, who is openly a Christ-follower?

They’re literally begging us to come over… They’re pulling me into their homes saying, ‘Come, have dinner with us right now!’, and then they want me to stay for three or four hours!”, the team leader answers. As such, he encourages volunteer Sports Friends coaches in the USA to intentionally carve out margin time for tea, for chatting after practice, and for sharing meals with the young people on their teams. After all, this does seem to be the original model! It’s what Jesus did: He spent time with people and talked with them. They asked Him questions, and He answered with wisdom and authority they’d never before encountered. Our team continually discovers that Jesus is still doing it that way in their neighborhood.

Refugee families’ frequent and enthusiastic invitation into their personal lives is a beautiful expression of their hospitable culture, and is very conducive to conversations that will matter for eternity. But it’s admittedly difficult for most westerners as it is so countercultural to our structured schedules and typical formal invitations for social events. When our North American coaches are tempted to groan over how late it is when that invitation comes to stay for tea, they remind themselves that the invitation often comes from Christ. They remember that He’s already there, moving in that family. Then they discover again and again that Jesus is giving people dreams about Him, stirring up questions, drawing hearts toward Himself. Then He invites us to step in and join Him. At the end of a drawn-out dinner or late-night chat over tea, coaches and volunteers regularly go home filled with joy and with the Spirit because they’ve encountered His presence, and they’ve joined in His work.

Our team leader challenges us all: 

“It’s going to take [Western] believers seeing TIME from a kingdom perspective to be able to step into that. To step into awkward situations when they don’t know what’s going on, but be able to say, ‘Lord, my life is Yours to spend. My TIME is Yours to spend.’” 

Please join us in this, wherever you are. Ask the Lord to open your eyes especially to refugees or foreigners near you who may be feeling lonely, overwhelmed with transitions or loss, and longing for a welcoming embrace. Let God sift your heart, your value systems, your calendar. 

Make margin for His move, and let Him make your margin magnificent.