Where 2020 Shines

Dec 3, 2020 | Sports Friends Thailand/SE Asia

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

While every nation on earth has been in some way impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our fields have felt the effects in harsher ways. Many of the nations Sports Friends serves already experience the crush of poverty, instability, and persecution on a regular basis, and when a novel virus struck the entire globe with both deadly infection and the fear of how much worse it could get, entire regions began to shut down. Businesses closed and transportation systems were halted, trying to reduce the spread of the disease. One country leader in a high-risk location (we’ll call him Lee) described his situation: 

We were in a very serious lockdown. [We were told] ‘You cannot work; you cannot go out. You will be arrested.’ Everyone had to be home.”

Many lost jobs. Many could not afford or access food consistently. The ministry shifted its focus from mentoring young people and sharing the light of Christ in a sports setting, to caring for the basic necessities of Sports Friends’ volunteer coaches, their vulnerable team members, their families, and other community members in need. As the Caring for Coaches and Communities initiative unfolded, our teams were thrilled that they could be a chain of blessing in very practical ways for the needs of the moment. They organized groups to visit coaches and their team members who were really struggling, distributed food and aid to their families, and encouraged them.

As sports ministry leaders we want to care for our coaches in the holistic way. We pray for them, we care for them; in body, mind, and heart as well. When we’ve been able to come and visit the coaches’ families or the athletes’ families, we’ve been able to know their lives, and to really share life with them in this COVID pandemic,” Coach Lee explained. He tells how many church leaders were surprised to see them step into what would normally be considered social and medical ministry.

“We see even how the people in the community copy us. It creates a wave of love and charity. So the gift that we gave them became a seed of love and care.”

Lee told how after they formed distribution teams and prepared to deliver the items supplied by Sports Friends, church members (and sometimes community members who do not know Jesus) raised money to help cover transportation costs to visit many cities and villages. 

He also told of one city where they had planned to deliver supplies. After sharing the program at the church and training a volunteer distribution team, Sports Friends leaders invited anyone to bring what they wanted to personally share. One man brought five kilos of rice to them. After he had given his gift and gone out to serve others, the leader for this area said, “This is the poorest guy on the whole team. His name is on the list of people we’re going to give food to.” Later, when they arrived at his own house to deliver 10 kilos of rice, noodles, sugar, salt and cooking oil, his whole family cried. They were very poor themselves, but were still willing to give to others in need. 

Lee summed up the impact of this unexpected branch to Sports Friends’ ministry: 

“Even in the midst of a world where we think selfishly and about our own benefit, we can share love in action. Each of us can share a little bit of what we have to help others in need… We believe what Jesus taught in the Bible: if we do this for the least of people, we do it for Jesus.

We are for sure the light of the world. Even during this COVID-19 we say let’s do this 100%, with all of our heart, our mind, our strength, to serve and to share the good news of Jesus.

We love to share that message strongly whatever situation we face.”

May you and I go and do the same.

Get involved: www.sports-friends.org/give