Showing Up, Part II

Oct 17, 2021 | Sports Friends The Americas

You’ve told us how things got started in the sports ministry work among refugee populations in the US, and it’s clear to see that God is moving powerfully! We love that perspective, how He is redefining the boundaries of peoples’ time and space so that they might seek Him and find Him. What an opportunity we have to reach nations within our own neighborhoods!

Tell us a bit more about the work you’re engaged in. What are some of the main struggles the youth in your community face?

The young people are largely from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and other places full of war. Lots of the children we work with have PTSD, and it’s a challenge for them to resettle in the US. It’s a safe place comparatively, but it’s also very different. They have to learn English, they sound different, they dress differently. Unfortunately, a lot of them are teased and ridiculed for their differences.

The housing situation is also very difficult. Many of these are large families with 6-8 children, and they’re living in a one-bedroom flat. It’s very tight. One of the fathers told me that they feel like they’ve left war, and now they’re in prison. They’re in tiny spaces and they don’t feel welcome. But by God’s grace, that is changing. As Christ-followers go to them, that feeling is beginning to change. 

What are some of the challenges and barriers you face as Sports Friends leaders in this particular context?

There is a daily challenge in lack of parental involvement. We work among people newly settled in the west, and refugee parents are trying so hard to work enough to pay the bills. So often parents simply can’t come to practices or games, and that creates logistical issues like, “how can I transport 15 kids to an away match? I only have one van.” This is where some of our other volunteers can really step in and serve in significant ways. 

We also have some key roles that we need filled. We need more men to be involved. Men in the US are just very busy and distracted. The ladies are showing up, but we need more male coaches to step up for the boys and men in our neighborhood.

The cricket outreach is really growing, but we need more volunteers from the church who are willing to learn cricket, which is not an American sport, and make connections. But there are amazing things happening on that front! We have more than 70 people out there twice a week to play, and only 1-2 followers of Jesus joining in among them. 

Every day we hear stories of conversations people are having about the Lord. Many people from local churches are coming together, being equipped, and being sent out as lights into the community. But really, for the number of refugees and immigrants among us, there aren’t enough Christ-followers willing to commit the time out of their schedules. We need more people who are willing to step into awkward circumstances, and SHOW UP for the glory of Jesus.

The situations can be awkward, no doubt: unfamiliar customs, unknown languages, unpracticed games. But if we consider the incredible journey these courageous neighbors of ours have endured in order to be here now, “awkward” seems like a silly deterrent to reaching out with friendship. When we remember of how Jesus intimately knows each of our neighbors’ hearts and stories, and recognize how passionately He desires relationship with them, taking time to play out His love feels simple. We can be a deeply valuable friend to lonely people… just by, as you say, showing up to do the fun parts of life together! We’ll certainly join you in prayer that God will move to provide the wisdom, connections, and human resources needed for the work He’s giving you. 

The breadth of this ministry is beautiful. We love the brand new freedom that girls are finding to take time to have fun, play sports, and adjust to life in America with the loving wisdom of women who walk with Jesus. It’s amazing to hear of the flourishing cricket ministry as well! Immigrant people who love that game may not find a whole lot of chance to play in the US, but here are Jesus’s followers, creating opportunity just for them, then joining in, learning along the way. Hiking, camping, biking, running – these are all great activities that we love to do in the US. What a perfect setting to build friendships, model character, and share our lives. May we keep our eyes open to individuals around us. May we see through the lens of Christ, who is drawn toward the lonely, the vulnerable, and the brokenhearted. May we welcome seekers of refuge into the embrace of the Savior, and may our lives be so saturated by His love it leaves an undeniable mark on all we draw near to.