During the days of 21 and 22 September, my FCA colleague, Jim Roquemore and I delivered sports ministry and sports chaplaincy training to our friends in Havana, Cuba. Like many in Latin America, they had primarily experienced sports evangelism as the predominant form of ministry in sport. Having visited Cuba in 2009 and 2010, I had some background on their approach and thought they were in a position to see sports ministry from a broader perspective and with an approach beyond evangelism.
We began by discussing the McCown Sports in Ministry Map, followed by the 360 Sports Matrix. I was very encouraged by how quickly they grasped the concepts and made immediate application to their service of sportspeople in their nation. It was most helpful that the room of around thirty sports ministry leaders was populated by people from most every category on the map’s horizontal scale – spectators, novices, recreational participants, players, elite players, and one high profile sportsperson. In their large and small group discussions, they processed the material quickly and were greatly encouraged.
On day two, we delivered the Introduction and the Relationships of a Sports Chaplain, from the material at www.globalsportschaplaincy.org. These materials had been converted into Spanish and were very well received. They and I believe that sports chaplaincy can be of tremendous value to the sporting community in Cuba, not only in Havana, but across the island of 11 million people.
These loving, passionate, and disciplined leaders feel cut off from the world of sports ministry due to the US embargo and their nation’s lack of infrastructure. In many ways, it’s like Cuba is stuck in the 1960s in terms of infrastructure and technology. We delivered some simple tools for them to use, including copies of Corazon de un Campeon (Heart of a Champion in Spanish), and the FCA INVICTO Bible (in Spanish) from this summer’s camps.
We finished the trip with a visit to a Havana based mission organization to meet with their leadership to discuss options for the shipping of ministry materials and sports equipment to further our Cuban teammates’ ministries in Baseball, Football (soccer), Volleyball, and other sports.
While travel to and from Cuba is rather clumsy from the USA, it is better than it was five years ago. I believe it will be increasingly easy and more frequent for Jim and his colleagues in the coming years.
I told our Cuban friends that their nation is better positioned for the rapid growth of ministry in sport than any other on the planet. That is largely due to the centrality of sport to Cuban culture. A huge mural is painted on the wall of Havana’s best and largest sports arena. It says, “El Deporte Derecho del Pueblo.” “Sport is the right of the People.” This statement in indicative of how important sport is to this nation and it points to the tremendous opportunity the Church and the sports ministry community has in this nation. May we be faithful to serve our Cuban brothers and sisters as they effectively serve Christ Jesus in the world of sport.