Spreading God’s Love Through Soccer: Ambassadors Football Club Rich Mears
The summer can be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation. But it can also turn into a time of comparison. A simple question of “What are you doing for summer vacation?” can become a game of “one-up.” Whether it is traveling to the latest hot spot, indulging in how many days we get off, or what new outfits we are going to be packing, our human nature can become comparative and competitive and can often become self-focused. A simple remedy to the self-focused vacation is to serve. This can be done as an individual, with a small group of friends, with your local church or as a family. From cooking to sports, it can even incorporate the things that we enjoy doing or are passionate about. We interviewed Rich Mears two years ago on his soccer ministry in Haiti.
Rich came from an affluent childhood and had the opportunity to travel growing up. However, when he was 11 years old, his world came crashing down when his father was murdered. Rich had everything that he wanted from a material standpoint, but God used that tragedy to bring him to Himself. He accepted Christ when his friend invited him to church. Throughout his childhood and high school years, sports were a release for Rich. He would play soccer by kicking a ball against anything he could find, sometimes even accidentally breaking windows. Today, Rich and his wife can be found in Haiti with Ambassadors Football Club, where they use soccer as an evangelistic platform to share the Gospel.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20
Rich reflects with us on how they started doing missionary work.
“My wife and I went into full-time missions in 1997. We went to Quebec to learn French for a year and a half. We landed in Haiti in March of 2000 with our three children and we were working with the national church in community development. I love soccer so during that time I played with the kids in the neighborhood. I founded a Haitian ministry, called Lemuel Soccer Club, that had a soccer team and they wanted to train the team to do evangelism. That’s how I started doing soccer ministry. I got hooked up with Ambassadors Football through Jon Boggs [who runs the organization’s Global Projects] when he visited Haiti.”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Serving with an outreach organization for a week is a great way to get a taste of what full-time missions work can look like. However, it is a good idea to ask the people that you serve with what being a full-time missionary looks like on a daily basis. This will give you an idea of what serving looks like year-round including the trials and hardships.
Rich shares with us on a trial they experienced as a family that helped shape their vision for ministry.
“From 2003-2006 there was a lot of violence and kidnapping in Haiti that we didn’t want to expose ourselves or our children to [so] during that time, I went to two trainings with Ambassadors Football and got a M.A. degree in Organizational Leadership. We came back to Haiti in 2006 and I developed a plan we’ve been executing ever since to start local evangelist soccer teams in Christian schools.
Being in ministry for 15 years or so, I’ve seen a lot of people crash and burn. I have a strong desire to finish well. I may not be able to accomplish everything that I would like to accomplish in Haiti. When I came here most of the schools didn’t have soccer teams or sports teams in general. One of my dreams is to [create] sports in the Christian schools in Haiti. I also would like to found an interscholastic sports league in Haiti. There aren’t any local sports leagues or the NCAA. There aren’t sports leagues that organize tournaments. From a social standpoint, I’d like to be remembered for spreading the Gospel.”
Whether it is one day or three months, take time this summer to serve. It can be with your local church, an international missions organization, or using your gifts and passions to do an outreach. The possibilities are endless! We pray that as you invest your time, that God would use you to impact others.
Don’t get caught up in the “one-up” game! When the conversation about what you are doing this summer comes up, use it as an opportunity to share about your faith and how you are serving others. You can even invite your friends, co-workers, classmates to join you.
Be others-focused instead of self-focused. God wants to use you to reach others for Him. Take time to pray and ask Him how He wants to use you. Be willing to go or do whatever He asks you to do. Acts 1:8, gives a good little breakdown. Jerusalem was where they lived, so doing an outreach in your community. Judea was the next town over, so maybe a city or trip to another state. Samaria was considered their enemy, God can call you to share the Gospel with people you might not naturally want to spend time with or have had issues with in the past. The ends of the earth can be an international mission trip.
Don’t let trials or setbacks stop you! Talk to other missionaries who have experienced similar things and ask them what they did. Remember, that the enemy does not want to see other people come to Christ and he will do whatever it takes to stop that including causing conflict on teams and tragedy. Pray against spiritual warfare and for God’s perspective on the situation too.
To read our entire interview with Rich click here.
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