Jessica Alyea | Hungary
Near the end of 2016, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) leader Mark Parker (USA) was going through the usual applications to find interns who would serve with him in Europe the following summer. After receiving several applications from interested collegiate athletes from different parts of the USA, he noticed a pattern. No less than eight of the prospective interns were currently playing, or were connected to, college softball.
Mark had previously led outreaches in Hungary and quickly contacted Terry Lingenhoel, an American OMer who leads a Hungarian baseball and softball club in the town of Érd. Did Terry have any opportunities for these softball players to help with sports ministry? Through no deliberate design, a camp for young Hungarian women to learn about softball from some of the best available instructors – American college coaches and players – came to be.
The fact that the instructors were also Christians with a passion for the gospel would lead to 10 Hungarian players learning much more than fielding and hitting mechanics.
“My hope was to share God’s love and build relationships,” said FCAer Alysha Stanton. “And it was better than I hoped. I fell in love with the girls.”
Along with OMers Patrick and Jessica Alyea (USA) who respectively coach and play on the Érd softball team, the FCAers led stations of softball drills and taught proper techniques for hitting, playing infield and outfield and pitching. But most crucial was the hour each day set aside for the FCAers to share a testimony, talk about a passion that related to both sports and the Bible and then divide into two discussion groups. One group was designed to create a safe space to ask deeper spiritual questions, while the other group was for more lighthearted, relationship-building conversations.
At the end of the discussion time on the second day of camp, Hungarian player Éva* pulled one of the FCA leaders, Chandler, aside. Éva had been to a Christian English camp the week before and thought she might be feeling the call of God upon her life. It could not be a coincidence, she concluded, that these softball instructors were also Christians. She wanted to give her life to the Lord. Chandler helped Éva pray to receive Christ and before the camp ended, gave her a sports-themed Bible.
Another player, Nori*, expressed a desire to try praying for the first time in her life. In a conversation with Patrick and Jessica, she shared that she felt pretty silly trying to talk to someone she could not see, and also felt bad about asking God for things. Patrick and Jessica had a chance to share the words of Jesus found in Matthew 7:9-11 regarding God’s desire to bless His children: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (NIV) By the end of the week, Nori was praying on her own with new knowledge about God. A few weeks after the camp ended she made the decision to become a follower of Jesus.
Nori is now meeting each week with Jessica for prayer and discipleship, while Éva is meeting with another Christian mentor.
Chandler, Alysha, and the other FCAers who originally did not plan on running a softball camp in Hungary, shared their joy in helping the players make steps of faith.
“Faith is a long-term process, but God works on people long before they ever follow Him,” Alysha reflected.
“It showed me that God is working on people’s hearts — we just have to be faithful,” Chandler added.
*Names changed for privacy.
Published: Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Credit: Jessica Alyea