Bringing sports ministry to some of the world's highest mountains
We may have been shivering 12,800 feet above sea level in the little mountain town of Ayaviri, but the warm welcome we received from our Andean brothers and sisters in Christ was unlike any other.
By Lindsay Segura, Sports Friends Peru Director,
We may have been shivering 12,800 feet above sea level in the little mountain town of Ayaviri, but the warm welcome we received from our Andean brothers and sisters in Christ was unlike any other. We were surrounded by a sea of toothless smiles, outstretched hands to shake, and hermanas (“sisters”) shufﬂing around in their five layers of skirts. The Puno region of the Andes is cold, so everyone wears layers all year round. Skirts and leggings are considered the traditional dress for women. We soaked it all in, realizing immediately how much we were about to learn from this group of people.
We are here with Sports Friends, a ministry of SIM now in 15 countries, which has a vision to see local, church-centered sports ministries transforming the lives of youth and young people in the community. Today’s youth face huge struggles, but would this be the reality in remote, traditional Andean villages such as Ayaviri?
The response from the church leaders was overwhelming. “We’re losing the youth in our town,” they said. “This would be perfect! When can we start?” And, “I’m a church planter and this would be a great tool. It’ll be really important to use sports in a positive way and use them differently than the world does.” Their desire to adopt new tools to share the gospel and make disciples, speciﬁcally among the youth, was tremendous. We clearly heard their passion for God and desire for God’s Kingdom to expand.
Sports Friends does not just enter a community and begin to do sports programs. Rather, we intentionally work in and through local churches present in the community, equipping them to make disciples of youth, their families and communities for the long-term. Two years ago, SIM Peru signed a partnership with one of the biggest denominations here, the Evangelical Church of Peru (in Spanish, the IEP). Ever since, we’ve been sharing the vision of sports ministry with denominational church leaders. This is what brought us to Puno.
One morning as I sat inside the dim Sunday School room, attempting to escape the chilly morning air, Pastor Juan approached me with excitement and a heart for partnership. He proceeded to tell me of the huge need they have for outreach and service in his region of Puno, and the incredible way God has provided people and resources along the way to help them thrive in a region that lacks so much.
Pastor Juan also shared his desire to see growth in the local church and for God to bring more people to Himself. As we prayed, God brought to my mind all the faces and stories we had encountered in those couple of days in Puno—stories of hope and expectancy that God is working; faces always smiling; loving people desiring to see their neighbors and towns come to know Christ personally.
God is moving in his Church in the Andes Mountains. As often happens, we went with a speciﬁc purpose and idea, but God amazed us with additional blessings and lessons.