Volleyball Carries the Gospel Past Persecution and Church Burnings

Mark Beebe and Jennifer Abegg

In Nigeria, insurgents are burning churches and persecuting Christians. Yet Christian athletes are proclaiming the gospel and helping lead people to Christ there.

This past summer, Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru, sent a team to Nigeria for 2 weeks to play volleyball.

Because there were only 3 players (an American and 2 Canadians), they joined with 5 Nigerian players and a coach to make a complete team. The Nigerians all participate in AIA there, plus 3 play on the Nigerian national team.

After games, the AIA team explained to the crowd how to have a relationship with Jesus, once to more than 800 people. Because of the high status athletes have, Nigerians listened to what they said. Many accepted Christ.

Nigerian universities have even contacted AIA for help with their volleyball strategies. They met with the director of sports at Ahmadu Bello University, who asked AIA to come back again to play their teams and speak. "He even gave us ideas on how to more effectively share with the students," said team member Paul Davis.

"The door is open to share the gospel now, but I wonder how long such a door would be opened," says Smart Olufemi, who directs AIA in Nigeria. "We need to move in now and present the message of love and deliverance while there is still hope."

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