Over Spring Break a team of 11 people spent nine days in East Asia playing basketball at city parks, gyms and college campuses as a way to build relationships and have conversations that bridge to the Gospel.
Despite different heart languages, countries of origin and cultural differences, a basketball brings a world of commonality. The team would prayer walk each morning around the courts and campuses where they would spend their afternoon. Then, after several hours of playing pickup games, team members would often invite any new friends they made to dinner where more intimate connections are made.
Basketball courts weren’t the only place where the Gospel was shared. Team members spoke truth into lives of their new friends on the subway, at restaurants, at Starbucks and even at a DVD store.
“We met Tony, a DVD store owner, in 2016. We had a chance to talk about the Gospel because I was interested in buying the movie War Room,” said Jason Williamson. “Tony mentioned that he had been thinking a lot about the Bible and he even had one in the store.”
Williamson reconnected with the store owner on this year’s trip.
“It was so good to see him again. Tony said that others have come to his store and gave him some tracts and books. It is so obvious that God is trying to get through to Tony. He struggles with worldly things and what others will think of him if he becomes a Christian.”
Tony’s story is not uncommon. The team members met several others who struggle to overcome cultural pressures around religion, especially Christianity. Many in the mega-city where the team worked are focused on money, success and education. Reading the Bible, spending time in prayer or simply considering God are hardly priorities. Those are things that many believe are for the Westerner only. The team quickly saw how rampant the lostness ran.
“Seeing high rise after high rise really gave me a better grasp of the volume of people. I didn’t realize that the people in this city hadn’t heard of Jesus,” said Holli Hankins. “I did not realize how ‘in the dark’ they were concerning Jesus. I assumed they knew of him but rejected him. I have always desired Jesus’ return, but seeing these people and knowing they are destined for hell breaks my heart and I’m glad for His delay.”
The team had a chance to share the Gospel with 20 people and one person made a decision to follow Jesus. Chandler Davis, family ministry intern at the Mill, had the privilege of meeting a man whose English name was ‘Mamba.’ He chose this name as a nod to his favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant, known as the ‘Black Mamba.’ Davis did not have any Gospel conversations on the first couple days of the trip so while prayer walking he petitioned the Lord to work in a big way.
“God I know that you are here in this trip,” Davis prayed. “I know that even if these people and this country refuses to follow you, that you are still here. You are a God in total control. God, right now I am asking for Your help. I ask that you give me an opportunity to get my feet on the ground. God please put a softball pitch opportunity in front of my face. Give me something to work with. Amen.”
God quickly answered Davis’ prayer.
Less than 15 minutes later, he was introduced to Mamba and noticed that Mamba was wearing a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet. Davis asked him about the bracelet, but Mamba actually didn’t know much about it. This was the softball pitch he was looking for to share the Gospel. And Davis knocked it out of the park. Over the course of their conversation Mamba was shocked to learn that Davis loved him because God loved him. Mamba soon understood the Gospel and responded to it by making the decision to repent and believe. Mamba was only in town for two days, so Davis has been continuing their discussions over text messaging.
Of the 11 people on the team, three were basketball trip veterans, four were international mission trip rookies, two were women and there were two parent/child pairs. Despite coming from different backgrounds and levels of ministry experience, the team left united in prayer for the people in East Asia, a better understanding of lostness and the burden for the unreached.