In early July, eleven of us from Sports Ambassadors partnered with European Christian Missionaries to assist in their church planting efforts in Spain. We learned, gleaned, and were impacted by many things. However, it was summarized by two things:
#1 The Need – We had heard the statistics…less than 1% evangelical believers in Spain. Yet, this did not fully hit me until we were driving late one night. As we came to the city of Cordoba, a provincial capitol city of 300,000, I asked Hazel, the church planter we were serving, how many churches are in this city. He replied that there are 8 churches with an average of 10-15 in each church. I was absolutely stunned into silence as I thought of Colorado Springs with a similar population and all it’s churches. Additionally, as the week went on, we would travel through small towns of 2500-8000. Hazel would say as we passed through these towns, “no believers and no church”. As he shared about the need, he would weep. I found myself weeping as well. How can people hear the Good News without believers to share the Good News with them?
#2 The opportunity sports ministry offers to meet the above need – Hazel explained to us that evangelical believers are often viewed as a cult. One of the biggest things our team can help with, along with sharing the Gospel, is simply using basketball to connect with people in a natural way so that they see us believers as “normal” people. This happened as we had continual contact with folks in the midst of leading clinics, playing 3 on 3, and participating in a regional 5 on 5 tournament each night. It was so obvious to us that God was hearing prayers. We saw God open many doors to share the Gospel in a natural way corporately and individually. We saw God give us favor with the local government (a local government opening doors for evangelicals we heard later is unheard of). We saw Hazel being able to make friends as they began to see him as a “normal” guy. The local team even invited him to play each week with them. This was huge as we found out later for the local team to invite an evangelical pastor to be part of their team is EXTREMELY unusual. Praise God!!!