Opening doors for transformation

Sports can provide opportunities for conversations about right and wrong. Coaches Rhoda (Zambia) and Rojas (Tanzania) share stories of lives transformed by sports ministries in Africa.

Sports coaches are uniquely placed to deliver lessons beyond sport-specific skills, such as how to stay positive, overcome adversity, work together for a common purpose, be resilient and be there for others. When a Jesus follower combines their faith with this role, they have the opportunity to transform lives and even whole communities.

Inspired by teammates

Arnold grew up in Zambia with a Christian father and a Muslim mother. His parents instilled in him their respective values and beliefs, but as he tended to spend more time with his mum, her own faith and heritage was the one Arnold found himself sharing.  

That changed when Arnold joined a football team run by Coach Rhoda, who is a Jesus follower.  

Initially, Arnold's behaviour was troublesome and rude, especially when the Bible was discussed during the Discovery Bible Study the team did together. “He believed the Bible was false and that only Muslims were good people,” shared Rhoda. Rhoda saw Arnold's passion for the game and wanted him to continue spending time with his friends, so he continued to invite Arnold back.  

One day, a teammate shared a story about his Christian parents who, despite coming from different cultures, selflessly love each other and sacrificially support their son’s sporting activities. As Arnold listened, he was moved to tears. He realised that parents from diverse backgrounds could live harmoniously and that his friend’s parents’ love was inspired by following Jesus' example.

“Soon after that, Arnold came to me and asked for a Bible,” Rhoda said. “He began to read the Bible and ask some deep questions about the Christian faith. He started leading by example, eagerly answering questions and inspiring others with his newfound positivity.”  

As Arnold continued the path of transformation, he faced new challenges. “His teammates did not believe him, and to be honest, even I was not sure at the beginning,” Rhoda shared. “I just feared that he was acting, or someone would change him.”

However, Arnold’s faith has endured and withstood the challenges he faced. He is now learning to balance his love for football with his growing faith and is finding ways to share his newfound positivity with his friends and family.   

Rural revolution

Rojas, a sports coach and Jesus follower, traded his city comforts for rural village life in Tanzania. Driven by a passion to share the gospel with least-reached communities, Rojas wanted to use his sports expertise and passion for agriculture to transform the lives of people and the community.

“God called me to serve Him in reaching youth and children, so in 2016, after receiving training in teaching young people, I decided to leave the city and come to the village,” he explained. “I want to see people's lives transformed, and I believe sports can be a powerful tool for that.”

Once settled in the village, Rojas formed a football team, attracting locals who shared his enthusiasm for sports. Through football, volleyball and other games, Rojas teaches valuable life lessons like teamwork, hard work, obedience and sacrifice.

“Before I moved to the village, the playing field was not a safe place because young people used foul language and persuaded each other to do bad things, but I thank God for making me active – now the playing field has become a place to worship God!”

To sustain his work, Rojas cultivated a thriving horticulture project. His produce, sold at local markets, earns enough to enable him to continue his mission. Rojas also employs four people from the community to help with his crops. “I am thankful to God that He has blessed me with the villages around me,” he said. “The villagers are the first consumers of my crops, so they have been coming to buy produce in my farm at a lower price than in the market, and this helps me to have a good relationship with them.”

As a result of Rojas' ministry, young people are discovering positive outlets for their energy, while adults are finding inspiration in his dedication and perseverance in agriculture. As the community comes together to play, work and learn, the village is transforming. What was once one of the least-reached communities in Tanzania has become a vibrant community of Jesus followers.

Pray for those involved in sports ministries around the world, that their work will bring them into contact with many people who may otherwise never have had the opportunity to hear about Jesus. Thank God for the work done by coaches like Rhoda and Rojas. Pray for their continued strength and that they will continue to be blessed and be a blessing to the communities they serve.

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