Baptism on the ballfield
Jessica Alyea | Hungary
It’s been 15 years since OMer Terry Lingenhoel (USA) started a baseball club in Érd, Hungary. In those years, he’s seen hundreds of kids learn about baseball, and more importantly, about Jesus. 2017 brought a special time for the club: the opportunity to baptise two young players who came to faith through the ministry and the start of the club’s vision for the future.
Finding faith through baseball
Krisztián Tóth was nine when he swung a bat for the first time during a baseball demonstration at school. When the ball sailed out of the playground, an American teacher told him he needed to try the sport.
Krisz had no idea that joining the Érd baseball club would lead him on a journey of finding hope after the loss of his father to cancer; of coming to faith after years of hearing the gospel from his coaches; and, later, of joining OM with a vision to use baseball to share Christ with others in Hungary and in foreign lands.
“[Baseball] changed my life,” Krisz, now 20, says. “I became a coach and I became a leader for the club, and I’m just really grateful for God to put me in this position.”
Dávid Hollós, 16, also grew up in the club. Every summer, he would hear the stories of short-termers with OM and Fellowship of Christian Athletes who came to help run sports camps. Could there be something to these testimonies about Jesus he heard year after year? He decided there was. Now after giving his life to Christ, Dávid helps run the club’s winter youth ministries and summer camps, sharing his faith with players who are in the same shoes he was in a few years ago.
On 16 September 2017, around 60 people gathered at the baseball field. They weren’t there to cheer on one of the club’s nine teams; instead, they came to celebrate Krisz and Dávid’s baptisms, right there in a portable baptistry by the grass and dirt where they had encountered Jesus. After singing, a gospel message, and special prayers from fellow coaches and players, Krisztián and Dávid shared their testimonies with the crowd before being baptised by Terry.
The start of a baseball church
For years, Terry had the vision of starting a baseball ‘church’ for players and their families. The club already presented a perfect opportunity to reach out to secularised Hungarians who might be intimidated by a traditional church. If players and parents could gather in a familiar place with familiar baseball-minded people, the barriers to sharing about Christ could fall dramatically. Those who were curious about the faith of the club’s coaches and some players would find a natural place to learn more. And, those who were coming to faith through the club’s ministries would find a community of believers ready to take them in.
Terry envisioned the start of this baseball church to coincide with the club’s next dream of building an indoor training facility and clubhouse. He has been working for three years to raise money to build such a clubhouse. But after prayer and discussion, Terry and his sports ministry team decided to act upon the belief that God didn’t need a building to bring people to Himself.
The baptism event also served as the kick-off to the baseball church, now known as the Érd Baseball Bible Fellowship. Since September, the fellowship has continued to meet monthly to worship, pray, and discuss a Bible teaching with help from Krisztián, Dávid, and other OMers. Though the fellowship’s numbers have been few so far, the players and parents who do come are committed and opportunities for deep conversations are opening at each meeting.
With no building yet, the fellowship has been meeting in a local school or at Terry’s house, just like the club’s other growing ministries for young players – two separate weekly winter youth groups and an Alpha course group.
“We have a lot of opportunities with the winter youth meetings and the fellowship,” Terry says. “Having the clubhouse will make it much more natural for families to be part of our spiritual events. I think it will also allow us better opportunities to just sit and talk and share our faith.”
The OM sports ministry team continues to pray for the funds needed to build the clubhouse, but also trusts that God will work in the waiting and continue to use baseball as a tool to bring people to Christ.
Can you help our sports ministry by praying or giving? Visit erdbaseball.hu/donate/new-training-facility/ to learn more about the clubhouse project.
Published: Wednesday, 03 January 2018
Credit: Jessica Alyea