Cricket in...Ukraine?

OM International | Ukraine

Life and ministry in Ukraine can be tough. So it was a God-send when OM Ukraine Field Leader Wayne Zschech heard about a group of Indians playing cricket in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, about an hour’s drive away from his home in Kaharlyk. It was like being “born again… again!” Wayne excitedly recalls about being reunited with his child hood passion. The new beginning served a couple of functions. Firstly, smashing cricket balls during practice became a great stress reliever. Wayne explains, “Constantly dealing with corruption and bureaucracy in a country where nothing seems to get done can be extremely frustrating!”

Secondly, Wayne began to introduce Ukrainians to the exotic sport of cricket. Soon the dream became to make Kaharlyk, a small town of less than 15,000 residents, the cricket capital of Ukraine.

Wayne approached the mayor to see if there was an open space he could make into a cricket field for young people and was met with no response. Undaunted, he continued to pray and believe, knowing that sports can be a powerful catalytic ministry in sharing Kingdom values, and introducing people to Jesus.

Some years later, as the town started to expand and new areas were being prepared to build houses, the same mayor contacted Wayne: would he still be interested in a sports field? Absolutely! Wayne replied. And so it began…

As of the beginning of 2018, the field is Ukraine’s only dedicated cricket field. Grassy and well-kept, with an Astroturf pitch, there is already a toilet block and plans for a clubhouse to be built one day. 

Strategically, at the church where Wayne is the pastor, there are fully enclosed batting cages, accommodations for visiting teams and even a bowling machine.

Last year, a couple tournaments were held on the field and used the church for accomodation. Wayne smiles recalling one Sunday morning, “Church members were hurrying into the building trying not to be late for the morning service and upon entering, got a huge shock. Firstly, they were hit by a thick aroma of curry and spices in the air that still hadn’t dissipated from the night before! And secondly, it was a big surprise, unexpectantly coming face-to-face with 49 cricket-mad Indian students living in our church building! For the Indian University students, the word is certainly getting around that this is the place to play cricket. Some of them travel up to 800 km in order to play on the field.”

Wayne’s enthusiasm is infectious. He chuckles, “God certainly has a sense of humour! The door for ministry is wide open to use our gifts. In my case, God is using my love for cricket to create relationships and influence people who have never heard the gospel or ever met a sold-out follower of Christ.”

Although cricket is an unknown sport amongst Ukrainians, Wayne is praying for a cricket missionary to come and work with the local to create Ukraine’s first youth and junior cricket team.

Cricket may well offer the possibility of meeting Ukraine’s next generation’s needs not only physically but spiritually – and that can only be a positive development.

Published: Thursday, 10 May 2018
Credit: OM International
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