To Both Ends of the Earth

Nov 8, 2022 | Sports Friends International

Time went on and the vision grew. Berhanu directed the work in Ethiopia while Tripp and Brian returned to Charlotte, NC, to work from SIM’s international headquarters. They all had the sense that this ministry was to reach further, so they visited Nigeria to cast vision for sports ministry there. National pastors and expatriate workers traveled to Ethiopia to see how it all worked, and Sports Friends was soon training coaches and sports ministers across West Africa in the church-centered sports ministry (CCSM) model. Thousands of young people discouraged by poverty, broken families, and dismal futures encountered Christ through coaches personally investing in their lives. Regions long resistant to Christian influence welcomed godly soccer coaches into their communities, and new churches were born.

Above: First Basic Training in Asia

Next, SIM workers in Asia asked for help reaching youth in the east; many of their local teens were caught up in drugs, violence, and internet addiction, and churches were struggling to effectively connect with them. This required careful thought; Asian customs were vastly different from both American and African culture. Some countries reaching out for training were less than 1% Christian. The churches were often quite young and not yet well-established, but they were zealous to serve the Lord and share the gospel with their neighbors. In 2008, Tripp and Alison moved to Thailand with three other families to establish sports ministry in Asian churches, and God once again rose up local leaders to continue training more.

Above: Peru, South America

South America was next. Her churches needed strategies to reach young people who had little interest in the ways of God, so CCSM took root in Peru. Over recent years as world events drove multitudes of refugee families and orphans into Europe and North America, Sports Friends has responded. Ministry has begun to flourish among these displaced populations, offering relationship, belonging, safe space, and joy to a generation uprooted from all they knew. Everywhere it has gone, the vision has not changed: to see a global movement of churches using sports to make disciples of Jesus Christ. All of this is to the glory of God. 

Today, Sports Friends operates in 18 geographical countries across five continents, but impacts far more nationalities where workers concentrate on refugee populations. Tripp has recently stepped down from his role as Global Leader for the ministry, and looks back over 20 years with profound gratitude and amazement at what God has done. He’s amazed at the power of sports to bring people together, cross all kinds of barriers, and cultivate passion for the kingdom of God. He’s amazed at the faithfulness of thousands of volunteer coaches who serve sacrificially, often in difficult or dangerous scenarios. They carry great faith that God is going to work and he believes that  they are the heroes of the ministry. 

Tripp loves God’s Church and has been honored to serve her instead of try to dictate her. He loves seeing churches strengthened as representatives of Christ, joining Him in pursuing those who don’t know Him yet. Most of all he loves the taste of Heaven he gets when Sports Friends leaders from around the world gather together in one Spirit to praise their one God and seek His continual direction. There is no question in his mind that investing the past 20 years in this work has been worth it, though only God knows the fullness of the return. That’s okay; it has all belonged to Him from the beginning.