One of my great fears in coming to Africa was that my children would not have the opportunities to develop as I had growing up in the USA. One thing, of many, that I have learned about God, though, is that He specializes in not just overcoming fears but more importantly in giving fullness and abundance to our lives.
Sports had been such a huge part of my development. The learning of perseverance through pain, teamwork, discipline, overcoming loss, winning with humility, and the courage to take the field or run the race were so instrumental in teaching me authentic manhood. How could we live in the bush of Togo, West Africa, raising our four sons and persist without sports, without the opportunity to teach the great lessons of life within the context of training and competing?
When our oldest son was seven, we had our first sport camp for our kids. It was pretty simple, just introducing them to football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. More importantly, it was a building of faithful character through sport. Whereas my development in sport had not been with spiritual intention, it now seemed such a natural extension; to take the lessons of sport and apply them spiritually to life itself.
The good was obvious and I wanted to delve more deeply into it.
A couple of years later my initiatives to give opportunity to my sons to enjoy and grow through sports spilled over into our community. We had an unused soccer field near our house and after I received permission from local authorities, I cut out a baseball field. That year, titanium bats had been removed from high school baseball and friends in the US promptly had sent two teams worth of equipment to us in Togo. We bribed the local kids that for every month of baseball they gave me, I would give them two months of soccer. And, thus it began.
A short while later, we started Taekwondo for our sons and myself. This quickly became inclusive of our neighborhood friends. Bible study and prayer very naturally integrated into the sports and the impact of the training, competing, and studying affected our sons and all other participants deeply.
Little did I know what God had in store for us in our transition from Togo to Rwanda.
I Corinthians 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.