JOHANNESBURG, South Africa —
While the world’s focus has been on 32 national teams competing for the
prestigious FIFA World Cup trophy, activities of high significance are taking
place behind the scenes.
Christian volunteers from
around the world have ventured to South Africa to work with local ministries
and churches, tapping into World Cup fever.
Hundreds of volunteers with
ministries such as the IMB’s International World Changers and Athletes in
Action arrived in South Africa to conduct soccer camps, holiday Bible clubs and
specialized sports ministries. The workers have traveled from the United
States, Canada, Brazil, France, Liberia and Ethiopia, among other nations.
In addition, churches
affiliated with Baptist conventions in North Carolina and Virginia joined South
African Baptist churches and International Mission Board missionaries to
strengthen and expand local ministries.
IMB missionaries themselves
organized evangelistic initiatives, match and film showings in church
facilities, and church planting efforts.
The fruit of their labor is
evident. In Cape Town alone, where North Carolina Baptist volunteers served
alongside IMB missionaries, local Baptist seminary students and a nearby
Baptist church, 287 youth and children in three Life Champs Day Camps professed
faith in Jesus Christ.
IMB missionary Bonnie
Doughtie, evangelism team strategy leader in Cape Town, said, “It’s been a huge
impact, and now our work is to disciple (the youth and children) and point them
in the direction they need to go.”
While volunteers and
missionaries see the World Cup as a platform and opportunity for sharing the gospel,
the message they share is that life not only goes on after the World Cup, but
that there is more to life than sports.
“Yes, sports can transform
your life, but what about life after sport?” Sylvester Harris asked eager young
South African athletes at a soccer clinic in Johannesburg. “Most professional
soccer players are finished at the age of 30. Remember, sports is temporary,”
said Harris, a member of an Athletes in Action team from Liberia.
His team leader, George
Blackstock, told Baptist Press, “Though sports teaches many good life skills
that are key to leading a successful life, many young men only see the glamour
and money that sports can bring. They don’t realize that they must prepare
themselves for life after sports.”
Providing a safe haven for
children on school holidays has been a key emphasis for those ministering
during the month-long World Cup tournament in South Africa, where children can
be at risk for crime, drugs and human trafficking.
During activities organized
by mission volunteers, local churches and missionaries, children learned about
the day-to-day dangers they face and how to stay clear of them.
“It’s important for the
church to have an image in the community of being a place where their children
will be safe,” said IMB missionary Jeff Holder, who serves in the coastal town
of George. “It’s a testimony in this community of a caring church.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Braddix is
a writer with the IMB, currently in South Africa as part of a media team
providing sports and ministry coverage during the World Cup tournament. To