In the city of Berwyn, Ill., God is using the game of basketball in a mighty way.
Almost three years ago a youth group member from Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Berwyn, asked if he and his friends could play basketball in the gym the church had built a year earlier. Soon, through word of mouth, several men in the community joined together to play basketball too.
“It was not a program that we put together,” said Kay Rops, director of youth and community care for Ebenezer CRC. “It was definitely a program that God put together.”
Akeem gave his testimony and read poems during Ebenezer’s outreach service.
Ebenezer now offers two three-hour sessions each Wednesday and one on Friday for men in the community high school age and older. About 40 men come each Wednesday, with 22 returning on Friday for a time of Bible study and then more basketball.
“These groups are getting guys to come in and play basketball and giving them a safe place to do that,” Rops said, “but also introducing them to Jesus.”
Rops is assisted by two members of Elmhurst (Ill.) CRC, George Bosman and Bob Keizer, who coach and mentor the men through prayer, spending time in God’s Word, and teaching them a different value system than what they may be used to outside of the gym. The focus, Rops said, is on building healthy relationships and sharing the love of Jesus.
On Sept. 18, the two churches held an outreach service for the men of the basketball program. More than 20 of them attended, along with others, and around 25 people—both from the basketball and Ebenezer’s own youth programs—committed their lives to Christ.
“To have all of these youth come forward,” said Rops, “especially these guys from basketball whom we would never know if it weren’t for the game—that, to me, is a blessing. That God can use basketball to bring kids into a place of worship, where the majority of them say they hadn’t been in years, and make a commitment to Christ . . . is incredible.”