Fellowship of Christian Athletes Reaching Coaches and Athletes with the Gospel Around the World
FCA International Camps Bringing Message of Jesus and Love of Sports to 40+ Countries Across the Globe
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Second in a two-part series on Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ International Camps happening around the world.)
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Many here in the U.S. are familiar with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) presence in their communities. But around the world, FCA is also making an impact globally in more than 40 countries through its popular Camps ministry.
This summer in the U.S. and internationally, upwards of 800 FCA Camps will reach about 115,000 coaches and athletes, who will work on their athletic skills and team building while strengthening their faith in Christ. Last summer, new attendance records were set as 113,000 coaches and athletes converged at 780 total Camp events in 45 states and in 41 countries, where 9,417 coaches and athletes made first-time commitments to Christ and 10,997 recommitted their lives to Christ.
Africa is just one of the continents on which FCA has a growing presence. FCA International had been steadily expanding throughout Africa since 2013, with active ministries in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, but it took several years for the FCA Camp concept to take root. Last summer, six African leaders visited FCA’s Support Center in Kansas City to put the wheels in motion. At the center of the planning was 20-year-old Yatta Samura, a sports ministry veteran who had recently been named FCA Director in Sierra Leone.
Samura had seen firsthand the devastation caused by massive mudslides near Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in August 2017. More than a thousand people died and another 3,000 were left homeless. After seeing sad and discouraged children in a village where he was delivering food—especially one 16-year-old girl who was alone and crying—Samura couldn’t shake the image of the countless children in his country whose lives had been turned upside-down. The new FCA leader knew could help make a difference.
“I was so inspired as he drew up his Camp plan,” said Dan Britton, Executive Director, International Ministry. “His vision was so clear. It was so big. You could just feel that it was going to happen. When I heard Yatta’s vision and how he was going to take his time to get the right people together and do his own training, I knew he realized this wasn’t just an event. He saw this as a significant ministry strategy for his country. He was going to make sure all of the pieces were put together before trying to accomplish it. I knew something significant was going to happen just because of Yatta’s intentionality.”
For inspiration and knowledge, Samura attended an FCA Leadership Camp in Jackson, Mississippi, where he met FCA Multi-Area Director Kiel Higginbotham, who encouraged Samura to “watch us run this Camp from a bird’s-eye view, and I’ll tell you why we do each of these things.” Samura soaked up everything he could.
“I wanted to see a Camp in action,” Samara said. “Kiel showed me everything I needed to know about Sports Camps. I came back with a vision to start doing Camps in my home country.”
Sierra Leone’s first FCA Camp featured competitive sports like soccer, volleyball, and track and field, along with several team-building activities and ministry time for the campers to hear the gospel. The Camp was a smashing success, with many more who wanted to attend but were limited by space and resources. But Samura made sure he found room for those kids he met in Freetown affected by the mudslides.
“I deliberately decided to get some of those children into the Camp,” Samura said. “I just wanted to give them encouragement, love and acceptance.”
Of the 183 campers in attendance, the 16-year-old girl was one of the friendliest and most popular. And more importantly, she made a life-changing decision during the three-day event.
“She was one of the 23 campers who gave their lives to Christ,” Samura said. “Yes, she and the others made friends and learned to play sports, but most importantly they were impacted by the gospel.”
Now, the goal is to make future FCA Camps in Africa even bigger and better so those on the “waiting list” can share in the experience and life change as well.
Moving forward, Britton is convinced the work being done in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Kenya will catch fire throughout the entire continent.
“Once one African country has success and sees how it can work, then those leaders can train the other leaders,” he said. “Instead of the ideas coming from the U.S., it’s a peer-to-peer mentoring opportunity. A lot of our leaders in Africa are helping other leaders start their Camps. They’re each making an investment to encourage them and show them that it can work. The hardest Camp to do is the first Camp. You think no one is going to show up. You do all this hard work and worry that it won’t reach the level of success you hoped for. But when you see the kids show up, it’s no longer a question of how many coaches and athletes are going to show up, but a question of if there are enough resources and enough volunteers to facilitate enough Camps.”
Read more about this and other FCA Camps in West Africa here.
A continent to the north in Europe, a similar Camp experience made an impact on German football players who learned much more than X’s and O’s from a group of FCA ambassadors.
For eight days earlier this month, FCA led an international trip surrounding the game of American football in Germany. Several Alabama high school football coaches and former University of Alabama football players made up the group of 22, who worked with under-19 and under-16 club football teams in Germany, as well the Munich Cowboys and Reutlingen Eagles professional teams.
“To have a chance to be involved in something like FCA and have the opportunity to coach football in the mission field overseas, it was a dream trip,” said Chickasaw High School head football coach Jason Rowell in a story on AL.com.
Added said Dennis Hayford, director of FCA in southern Alabama, “Our No. 1 goal was to teach them the game of football. While doing that, we also wanted to look for the opportunity to share about life with them, and we had some chances to do that. It was really a special time.”
Most of the German coaches and players work or attend school during the day, so FCA practice sessions were in the evenings, which gave the Alabama team time to sight-see during the day. At night, they put their coaching experience to work.
“I told the people over there that I was bringing with me the best high school coaches in the world, and I did,” Hayford said. “Our state has produced six of the last 10 national college football champs, and our high school coaches are the ones who helped teach many of the kids who play at Auburn and Alabama. Not only are they great teachers, but they also have a servant’s heart.”
Read more about the Alabama team’s trip to Germany here in AL.com.
Visit the 2018 FCA Camps site and watch the “Strong” theme video here. FCA also offers a special website dedicated to this summer’s Camps season highlighting the theme of “Strong.” Those who want to be a part of FCA Camps can find Camps by sport, day or location.
To find FCA Camps in specific areas or to inquire about volunteering at an FCA Camp, visit www.fcacamps.org. Read more about Fellowship of Christian Athletes here, visit FCA’s website at www.fca.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcafans or its Twitter feed @fcanews.