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Martial Arts Ministry Supports Youth in Their Faith

Diego Flores (center, facing) leads The Way, a ministry for youth to learn about martial arts and the Bible.
Contributed photo

Diego Flores, who has been worshipping at Ebenezer CRC in Berwyn, Ill., since 2000 and was commissioned as a pastor there in 2022, recently promoted his latest class of students from The Way, a martial arts Bible study. He ran the first program in 2004 after a young person in the church learned Flores was a former martial artist. Since then, Flores has taught over 75 students martial arts, while also mentoring them in their faith. 

Flores had left martial arts behind when he became a Christian, but that young person’s interest 19 years ago led him to pray about going back to it. Flores said he felt God was creating an opportunity. Flores told the youth that if he found four more students, he would begin a class and part of the training would include a Bible study. 

The student found more people who were interested and Flores launched The Way. He named the ministry after the term used to refer to Christians in Acts 9:2 – “...found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women.” 

Each class begins with about an hour of martial arts, then moves into half an hour of Bible study, which Flores creates. After eight months to a year, students are promoted to their next martial arts belt. He said they must answer questions and do a verbal exam based on their Bible study to be promoted. 

Most of the students who attend the class are from the community, and Flores said he’s had students from fifth grade to twelfth grade participate. 

Students progress through six levels, starting with white belts who learn basic self-defense moves and ending with black belts who have the skills to handle two attackers with the techniques they have mastered through the years. Students in lower levels study sections of Scripture; red belts read through the whole Old Testament, and black belts read through the whole New Testament with Flores. A student who completes the program as a black belt will have read through the whole Bible. The Way meets once a week in a gymnasium at Ebenezer church, and red- and black-belt students also attend worship services as part of the program.  

“It's been very good for building the kids up in discipline and respect and taking care of their bodies but, above all, taking care of their spiritual walk with God,” said Flores. “My prayer for all of them is that eventually they become devoted followers of Jesus.”

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