When one thinks of a place to share the gospel, the beaches of Spain may not be an obvious choice. However, that’s where the Lord directed one of the summer’s Sports Ambassadors (SA) teams. Kari (an OC MK) and Mark, two members of the mission team, share their highlights and how God met them and others on the beaches of Barcelona.
Question: First, tell a bit about the structure of the trip. What did you do? What did your days look like?
Kari: Each day, we would spend the mornings with the Sports Ambassador team. In the afternoon, we would meet up with the local team in Spain and spend time praying together. After we ate some lunch, we’d set up about 3-4 nets around 4 p.m., when the sun and sand were cooler. Then we’d just begin to play and wait for God to bring people to the courts. We would play both casual and competitive games and before those people left, we would have conversations with them and then share a SA bracelet with them as a gift, and thus be able to share the gospel with them. We would quickly wrap things up and book it to the train around 9 or 10 p.m.
What was your personal highlight?
Kari: My personal highlight was simply being able to play volleyball, laugh with people from all over the world, and share to them my love for Jesus. I had some incredible conversations that were both encouraging and challenging. It was so awesome to realize during some conversations that this person has never really heard a true explanation of the gospel and that the reason we stood together talking was all because God desired them to hear His truth and orchestrated the whole thing for His glory.
Mark: Can I say the whole trip? I do not know if that counts as an answer, but I remember having the ball in my hand that first day on the beach and just praying that the Holy Spirit would wash over the beach and that His presence would be felt. While I was praying I was just thanking God that I could be doing this for His kingdom and glory. It was honestly the coolest, most fun, and most effective mission trip I have been on in my entire life.
How did the Lord meet you on this trip? Where did you see his presence?
Kari: The Lord really did a work in my own heart on what it means to be a new creation and how I ought to grow in love and compassion for the lost. The beaches of Barcelona are extremely worldly. It is easy to look around and become judgmental toward the others around you. But the Lord was showing me that I must have a heart of compassion when I see the lost, just as He did. I am no better than the people I met and saw in Spain. I am only the way I am because of the work that Christ did on the cross, and that same message and love can transform the empty and searching hearts I saw on the beach.
Mark: I saw the Lord’s presence in the group that we had and also in the people He would bring to us on the beach. In our group, because each person had their own gifts, talents, and abilities to offer, I saw how each person brought a different aspect of Gods character on the trip. As a whole, we were able to build each other up in love as the body of Christ as it says in Ephesians 4:16. I also just saw the people God brought and saw His hand moving and working in even just bringing people to us. We didn’t have to ever invite people to play, they just asked to join and sometimes stayed the whole time with us even though we were complete strangers.
Share one or two stories from the trip. A good moment or a time where you saw God show up. Or a good connection with someone.
Kari: On one of our last nights of playing, we ended up playing four on four with some guys from around the area. They spoke very good English and I had a conversation with one about God’s existence. The reason this story stands out to me is not that he converted on the spot, but more so that he was one of the few that I spoke to that felt free enough to voice his own experiences and beliefs, and really wrestle with the message he was hearing. I have been praying a lot for him, and especially that God would show him his need for Him. It was a friendly, yet challenging conversation that made my heart just yearn for His eyes to be opened.
Mark: I remember talking to a man during one of the days we were playing. It was the first time I really felt the Lord speak so clearly and easily through me. It was the first time I felt a boldness and a confidence in the message of the gospel regardless of how he reacted to it. Afterward, he said to me the message I said was really inspiring and that I should keep telling people this message. It was a pivotal moment for me in sharing the gospel with unashamed boldness to someone on the trip.
Why would you recommend an SA trip to someone in the future?
Kari: I would recommend an Sports Ambassadors trip to anyone who has a love for sports and a love for Jesus. In these trips my eyes have been opened to the simple need of God’s people to be seeking out opportunities to engage with others in very natural ways, and to look for conversations where gospel seeds can be planted. These trips not only are eye-opening in to what the Lord is doing around the world, but it connects you with brothers and sisters from different countries who love the Lord and have a desire to serve Him.
Mark: I would recommend an SA trip to someone because it teaches you to take something ordinary and fun in life (sports) and use it as a tool to share the gospel with others. We as believers are to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1) in all we do and that includes our jobs, social lives, church lives, and hobbies including sports. SA trips do that with sports and help to catch a vision for what an everyday life in the life of a Christian can look like. For me God showed me what He could do when I went to the beach willing and open to sharing his good news with people. That can happen in the work place, out with friends, and all areas of life as well. SA trips help to give you that mission and kingdom mindset in all of life.
Is there a way people can pray for the people of Spain or the people you shared with?
Kari: Yes! People can be praying that God would continue to speak and challenge those in whose hearts the seeds were planted. You can also pray that the team in Spain would continue to be encouraged in the Lord and that there would be a revival among the hardened hearts in Spain.
Mark: Pray for the people of Spain to be open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray the Christians there would be bold in sharing their faith and that their lives would shine forth with the hope and love of Jesus.
One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. One Challenge uses sports as a vehicle to create opportunities for sharing the gospel, planting churches, helping churches engage their communities, and developing disciple-making networks. Contact the OC Sports Ambassadors at SA@oci.org or go their special Sports Ambassadors website.