Dear friends and family,
It has been a few months, but we are still excited to share how God is working through the Tans as they serve in Taichung! We got to meet with Alex and Kristi Tan, missionaries who use sports to connect with their local community and build relationships that allow them to gradually share the Gospel.
The Tans use sports (primarily basketball, since Alex has a background in pro basketball) as a way to partner with churches to host summer sports camps as well as community outreach events. The purpose of these sports camps and outreach events is not just to have fun, but to offer another way to go beyond the four walls of the church to reach out to the local community in a way that builds relationships.
The Tans train and partner with local churches in the area to host sports camps and tournaments that welcome in the surrounding community, as well as train in conferences for Christian sports leaders throughout SE Asia. It can be difficult to invite someone to come directly to a church service or fellowship group at times, so having a common sport to play can be a great way to open up the door to having conversations about faith later on. Through playing sports together consistently, especially when preparing to compete as a a team, there is an opportunity to incorporate good sportsmanship values into the team culture: things such as encouraging comments, integrity, and even discipleship.
Because their ministry is more project and events based, it can be extremely hectic during certain times of the year, such as the summer or the Lunar New Year. Though there were no sports camps happening during our visit, we were able to see and learn a bit more about the planning and preparation process. We got to meet a youth pastor that the Tans will be partnering with this summer, to host a sports camp at the local school gymnasium nearby. One of the main motivations behind hosting this sports camp is to not just build a relationship with the prospective sports camp attendees, but also to establish and build a good relationship with the local school and surrounding community, to be a beacon of God’s love through sports.
In the past, the Tans have been invited to help plan large community outreach events for things such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Taipei 2017 Universiade, involving arts and crafts, kids games, and cultural demonstrations. They were able to recruit and organize volunteers from local churches, parachurch organizations, and other areas to help out. Through this, were able to have opportunities to share God’s love and the Gospel to those that they met and served, while engaging with the community.
Looking forward, the Tans are hoping to train up more Christian sports leaders/coaches within these local churches and around South East Asia, who can intertwine Christian discipleship values into the sports culture, even leading a Bible study and prayer to go alongside each practice. They want to develop a training module that would equip leaders all throughout Asia to be able to intentionally plant seeds of the Gospel within sports interactions. The big goal is to be able to develop a large network of churches across Taiwan and Southeast Asia that are all participating in some sort of sports ministry, so that it would make it easier for newcomers to get plugged into the community. The hope is that this network would encourage other churches to want to join in and collaborate as well.
While we were visiting, we were able to sit in on a basketball practice that Alex coaches and get to know a bit more about their ministry. During the practice, it was evident how passionate Alex was about the ministry, and how the team respected him. We also got to visit Kristi's English class, where the kids were in the process of learning the Christmas story for an upcoming holiday performance. The kids had a lot of energy which made it loud at times, but Kristi still patiently taught them, and you could see how excited the students were to come to class.
We also got to visit the local church that Alex and Kristi attend, as well as meet other people in their community: those who they have collaborated with in the past for sports ministry, students who they regularly interact with, and friends who similarly moved to Taiwan because God had called them. We got to meet a mom of four boys, who felt convicted to start a pregnancy support center in Taiwan alongside her friend a few years ago. We were able to hear her testimony and see how God worked in her life in a particular way that convicted her to have a heart for Taiwanese women who need support during pregnancy. We hope to be able to share her testimony and story with you all soon in a video!
Overall, we were blessed to be able to visit Taichung, not just for it's good food and culture (sun cakes are a Taichung specialty and the first boba milk tea shop originated in Taichung!), but to see how God is truly working through the Tans and others in the Taichung Christian community. There's something really special and encouraging to be able to see how the Tans so willingly use their skills and talents to creatively serve God and share the Gospel in ways that reach beyond the four walls of the church. God truly is a global God, that is actively at work in the hearts of people around the world.
Please keep the Tans in your prayers!
- Pray that more local churches in Taiwan will be interested in developing a sports ministry that can reach out to the local Taiwanese community. Pray that the sports ministry can be a welcoming place for people to come to know Christ.
- Pray for more coworkers or interns to join the Tans in their ministry! Developing a network across Southeast Asia is a huge feat to accomplish on their own, so please pray that others will be convicted to take part!
- Pray for yourself! Pray that God will help you to see how you can use your own God-given gifts to creatively share the Gospel with others.
- Pray for the upcoming short term missions team (CECSD) coming to join them! Pray that the team will be able to bless those that they teach English and sports to.