Last October, Sports Friends hosted a 20-year celebration in Charlotte, NC. Local friends, supporters, and ambassadors of the ministry joined with national and regional leaders from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe to celebrate God’s wonderful works.
Plenty of official work was accomplished, but the real blessing was the joy of merging time and space for this Body to be together. Men and women who have served Jesus through Sports Friends, some since the beginning in 2002, traversed continents and oceans to be in one place at one time. They have worked in unity, meeting regularly for prayer and training, developing Bible study and coaches training curriculums, strategizing engagement within their diverse cultural settings. They have sought God together for both corporate ministry and intensely personal needs. They have spent their lives seeking to bring the kingdom of God to young lives and families, and they all do so together by equipping churches to develop strong and effective sports ministry that reaches their unique communities. Some of these workers have moved their families across the world and back again to see the Great Commission fulfilled.
One of the striking beauties of the global Body of Christ, especially in a team working toward a unified goal, is the relatively simple and steady flow into and out of geographical togetherness. We love each other deeply, but we love Jesus most. We love being together, but we love being exactly where He has us most. We love hugs and handshakes and looking each other in the eye over coffee, sweating side by side on the pitch, and sharing meals around one table. But most, we love that the Author of this Story, and this specific work He has us in, writes a beautiful narrative that will not end. We have eternity to explore, discover, play, tell stories, recount His miracles and surprises.
But those nights we sat together, we brothers and sisters born of the same Father. We looked and sounded Ethiopian, Peruvian, Nigerian, Malawian, Thai, Ghanaian, Canadian, British, US American. We laughed and cried, ached and hoped. Most of all we celebrated the goodness of God, whether we were meeting face-to-face for the first time ever or finally embracing again our long-time friends. We roared over stories of cross-cultural faux pas and language quandaries. Then we howled all the more when our British Director of Communications realized that the comfy cushion on the floor she’d chosen was the host family’s dog bed. The poor pup sat and stared at her with a silent charge to find her own human seat, and another story was added to the record.
What a marvelous and mysterious thing, to be more than family, to know in Christ we are One even before we’ve met. We are one Body, and you are part of us. It’s a Body alive without end, ever growing, developing, discovering what becomes possible when we work in alignment with the Head (Christ) and with each other. May we faithfully function in such a way, bound together with the bond of peace. May Jesus thus find He can move freely and joyfully in us.