Here are a couple of accounts of sports ministry which appeared in our Changing London magazine last year.
Body and Soul Building
Missionary Tim Fielder, based at St Mary’s Bermondsey, runs a personal training ministry with a twist: workouts are followed by a Bible study.
Though this ministry has run for two years now, we’ve recently relocated to our own dedicated venue. In our first four weeks in our new gym, twenty-eight young men attended – praise God.
We run ten sessions a week, and encourage the guys, who are mainly between the ages of 17-20, to come at least three times a week. It’s an effective format because the boys want to work out every day. So it means every week they’re getting eight hours with us and three to five Bible studies.
We’re working on building a culture where our guys know they don’t have the right to criticise what they’re not prepared to do themselves. So we’ve produced a handbook with 72 studies – five workouts and five Bibles studies per week for 14 weeks – to enable them to lead sessions on their own. The studies are based around identity and designed for unchurched young men. We also recently ran a ‘Preachathon’ – like a fight club for preaching. Each guy there had to preach on a verse to the others – no time limits. It lasted over four hours. It was epic. We hope to start doing this monthly.
We’re teaching music to those integrated into our church, and they’re now blessing St Mary’s Bermondsey by playing on guitar, bass and drums on Sundays. We also ran a ‘Worship Academy’ where the guys taught church members to play instruments.
Since Body and Soul Fitness began, five guys have professed faith in Jesus. We’re discipling them, getting them serving in church and forming them into a team to help lead gym sessions for the new guys. Last Sunday, one of the new boys attended our church. We’re praying for more to do the same.
The workout/Bible study format means that in one hour we’ve gone from first meeting someone to entering into deep discussion around the Bible. We’d like to do more sessions and more one–to–one work... we’re praying for more volunteers! Over the last year, these young men have been hit with all sorts of difficult things. Your prayers for them and for us would be much appreciated. Follow us on Instagram!
Tim tells Friday’s story:
I first met Friday two years ago, when he was 17. A few years beforehand, Friday’s parents divorced. Soon after, and just into his teens, he developed cancer. The prognosis wasn’t good. He felt a deep sense of isolation and battled with low moods. The Sikh faith he was raised in was giving him no sense of fulfilment. Due to his illness, he fell out of school. He thought he would die. He felt useless – of no value. By God’s grace, he started recovering, and began volunteering at a local Christian youth centre. However, on the inside he felt lost, and longed for relationships that might bring the comfort he hoped. His continual anxiety, low self-esteem and stress weren’t helped by the many difficulties at home.
One day, while walking around his area, he spotted people going to the gym sessions I’d just started in the youth centre where he was volunteering. After a chat, he decided to come along to try to gain weight and develop his body. The gym became a place of refuge and he stuck to the training. He also stayed for the after-session Bible study I ran with my teammate, missionary Mark Fyffe. Thanks to God’s miraculous saving power, Friday is now following Jesus, attending our church regularly and has just joined our Pioneer training programme to learn to do urban mission!
The LCM Pioneer training programme is designed to help those raised in least-reached communities to pioneer new ministries to share the gospel with those same communities.
Please pray for him to be strengthened in his young faith and for God to use him powerfully in his community to share Jesus.
Summer Football Ministry on the Isle of Dogs
‘Right! I’m in goal. No blasting!’ calls out Gareth Haddow of Ambassadors Football. Today, St John’s Park on the Isle of Dogs has the kind of carefree joy that marks the first week of the summer holidays. As temperatures go over 30°C, London buses leave sticky tracks in the melting tarmac. Kids clamber over the playground while parents chat over a cool drink.
The Café Forever team, our ministry in the Isle of Dogs sells slush puppies, sweets and cold drinks from the caretaker’s hut every day in the summer. We also run football camp, craft activities, camping and day trips as part of its Summer in the Park programme.
Our partners, Ambassadors Football, run the football for children aged 5 to 16 years. It’s high energy, informal and tightly under the control of Gareth and his team of three volunteers from Northern Ireland. In one of the drink breaks, a volunteer answers snap questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? Why did you come over here? What’s Jesus done in your life? And then it’s back to the football pitch.
‘Here it’s all about building up relationships,’ Gareth says. ‘You just go with whatever is there and see what you can do. Personally, I like that. We’re working with a lot of Muslim children. I don’t think sitting them down to do Bible studies would work.’
So far this week’s been a bit special,’ Gareth says. ‘I’m really amazed how easy it is to engage with the children. Having Marlene and the team at London City Mission committed to this area for so long, putting in so much work building real trust with the families – it’s paying off. Not as quickly as we’d probably like, but you can see from today, what they’re doing is really good.’