Hope for a Heavy Life

Jan 2, 2020 | Sports Friends Africa, Sports Friends Malawi

“Malawi is a land of extremes: extreme poverty, and extreme joy.”
-Fostance, Country Leader, Sports Friends Malawi

Sports Friends has been present in Malawi for seven years, and the ministry continues to grow. In 2018, Sports Friends Malawi saw more than 700 young people receive the life and hope of Jesus, and two new churches were born to sustain and train up new believers to know their good God. Currently two full-time Malawian staff work with local churches to facilitate the training and ongoing support of more than 550 active coaches. Around 16,000 young people are playing on Sports Friends soccer and netball teams around the country this year. The young men play soccer, and the young women play netball (netball is somewhat similar to basketball, and Malawi’s national team is highly ranked in the world). Each young person who is passionately involved in these sports has been strategically surrounded by coaches who love Jesus, and are passionate to see the youth know the depth of God’s love. We interviewed the Country Leader, Fostance, to get a better idea of what the spiritual and social environment they are working in is like. Please join us in supporting them with prayer, thanks, and understanding.

What are some specific answers to prayer you’ve seen recently? We want to praise God with you.

We praise God for His work in our coaches, especially in the eastern region, that is heavily dominated by followers of another faith. Our coaches love these people and want to serve them. Last year, two new churches were planted in the East, through Coach Nasmera. Another of our coaches in the region, called Dixon, was showing God’s love to all of his players, but especially to one young man. This boy’s life began to change, and his family noticed. He had been rude, disrespectful, and disobedient before. His parents attributed the changes to his coach’s training, and began inviting Coach Dixon into their home to hear more of his teachings. The young boy soon asked to go to church with the coach, and within a few weeks, his parents brought their entire family of twelve to the church, stating, “We want to serve the God of this coach. We want Him to be our God.”

We have many partnerships also. We partner with a children’s ministry group, and trained the Sunday school teachers in sports ministry. We also partner with orphan ministry. They were feeding and educating the kids, and wanted to reach the entire community with the gospel, so we do sports ministry there too.

What are some specific prayer requests for the work, staff, coaches, players? We want to gather the global Church around you and lift you up.

Since May 2019 the men in Malawi have been demonstrating. They are unhappy with the current government. Two times every week, human rights defenders are on the road, and many things are not working. Social life, economics… things are not going well. Prices are going up for basic things. Please pray for peace in Malawi.
We are also looking forward to camps in August. We will have netball and football (soccer) camps for a week long. We are very busy preparing for the camps. Pray for Sports Friends Malawi teams, and for volunteers. Pray that God gives us energy, zeal, and [that we] prepare well for the campers, so that they will be blessed.

What are three of the biggest struggles for youth in your region?

This depends on the area. In the east, kids drop out of school early. The girls marry early, or the boys move to South Africa to look for a “green pasture”, or a better way of life. In the south, it is prone to floods. The government provides for camps, but there is poverty. After Cyclone Idai, many lost their homes and their beloved ones. Sports Friends staff were able to reach out to them and show they care. It is part of a hard life in this area.

What are some of the particular challenges for your coaches?

The ministry has certain church leaders who are enjoying the fruit of the ministry (spiritual growth and church numbers), but don’t want to support the team by buying balls, etc. We want them to understand the importance of supporting their own teams, and to understand sustainability. We have few workers in the office. The work of four staff is now in the hands of two. We’d love to have a coach to train coaches, and we need more coaches.

What are the great barriers to the growth of the work in your country?

Network and communications. Coaches struggle to communicate with their own church leaders. It is difficult for coordinators to keep coaches and denominational leaders connected. There are also limited resources, and leaders may not have time to follow up with all the coaches. We need also to hear what is happening in different locations, in order to build momentum and encourage each other, and for us to unite in praise to God.