Sports as a universal language

The Moody Archers minister in Portugal

by Monica Friesen layout editor

Throughout their season, the Moody men’s basketball team has been using the universal language of sports to minister to teams in the Chicago area; this spring break, they translated that language into Portuguese when they headed to Portugal for two weeks of ministry.

Their first week was spent around the greater area of the capital city of Lisbon, where Tom and Vicky Arabis minister at the Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to spending time with the students at the seminary, team members taught PE at a local Christian school. While the school has many students who are Christians and missionary kids, a large part of the student body are not believers. A couple of the teammates shared their testimonies and also talked about Moody.

The second week of the trip was spent in northern Portugal. Their time in the town of Fafe was important because of the spiritual darkness of the area, according to David Arabis, a sophomore sports ministry major who went on the trip.

The area is mostly Roman Catholic with a small evangelical Christian presence, explained Arabis. Miguel Castro is a pastor in Fafe together with his wife, Dalia. Although they have been working in the town of Fafe for more than 20 years, growth in their church has been slow.

One of the highlights of the trip for the team was playing basketball with the middle school students in Fafe. After the team’s time there, four of the students became Christians. Growing in their faith will be difficult for these students, said Arabis, as their families will not allow them to attend an evangelical church. Their options for discipleship are limited — they can attend an optional class taught by Dalia Castro in Religion and Morality and they can go to English camps put on by English Camp Portugal in the summer. These camps teach English to kids, but more importantly, are a means for them to be discipled.

While the team members ministered directly to Portuguese nationals, Coach Daniel Dunn explained that their interactions also opened up doors to further the missionaries’ influence. He attributed this in part to the “universal language” of sports. Sports are only the vehicle though for the much greater message of the gospel.

“If we go [only] for the games, it’s too hollow, it’s too shallow,” Dunn said. “We were trying to prepare people to make a decision for Christ someday, and so we were there to plant and to water.”

Dunn explained that the purpose of a trip like this is to “help the missionaries advance the cause of Christ [and] help the local believers advance Jesus Christ and His righteousness.”

Alec Lewis, junior sports ministry major, described the team’s time in Portugal as a specific extension of the ministry the team is already doing at home. “The basketball team is very focused on using sports as ministry to whoever we’re playing — the fans, the coaches, the referees.”

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