Brian here again for part 2 of sharing about spreading Jesus’ love through sports at Grace International School. This time we go into more detail about how the school at large, we as a staff in the Athletic Department and as individuals spread the Gospel of Christ throughout Asia.
There are currently 558 students enrolled at Grace International School (GIS) (362 in secondary and 196 in elementary) plus another 89 students in the ESD program (which is a homeschooling program offered and run through Grace). About 90% of these students are children of missionaries and the remaining 10% are local Thai kids – many of which are Buddhist. The Athletic Department interacts in some way with nearly every student and many of the homeschool kids as well. Our sports programs instill and encourage faith, learning, and character development in each student athlete.
Sports have always been a huge part of my life and my walk with God. During college, as my faith in Christ grew and my athletic ability improved, God began opening doors for ministry through my athletic endeavors. God has done incredible things in and through me as I follow his leading in athletic pursuits. The more I give praise to God for the abilities he has blessed me with and the more I honor Him through my efforts, the more I see eternal fruits of my labor. In working with the students at Grace, it is my desire to reach out and connect with them wherever they are in life and love on them as I try to reflect Jesus in my everyday life. Despite being missionary kids, the non-Thai students are all at different levels in their faith, from not believing in God at all, to knowing and believing in God but not putting Him at the center of their lives, to loving Him and wanting to spend their whole life serving Him. Connecting with the kids through their interest in sports allows me to encourage them and constantly point them back to Christ as I strive to glorify and honor Him through everything I do. As I get to know the students better I am able to develop deeper, stronger, long-lasting relationships with them as I offer the guidance and wisdom God has given me. There are a few students who I’ve connected more with in the last semester and am able to mentor and be a resource as trust and friendship builds.
Beyond the impact we have on the kids who attend GIS, the school also reaches out in many ways to the lost all over Chiang Mai and even Asia as a whole. Most of the GIS staff are Christians, but some of the locally hired Thai staff, such as the kitchen staff, the security guards, and some of the grounds crews are not saved. The ways we minister to them are numerous, but one is simply to be their friends as we make sure they know they are valued and appreciated. They don’t speak much English so my conversations with them are limited right now, but I practice my best Thai with them and try to always say hi and smile. I try to teach them English and they teach me Thai. One day when I was chatting with one of the guards, I found out he loves cowboys (the old west gun shooting kind) and was very excited when I told him I am from Texas!
The Athletic Department engages people near and far. For example, we are in a local athletic conference made up of all the international schools in Chiang Mai. We play against them in each sport and have conference championships at the end of each sports season. We are also part of growing conference of Christian international schools all over Asia. There are currently 6 schools involved – including one in Guam that was just added last month. During our October break each school hosts a tournament (we host boys soccer) and all the teams travel to compete. Grace provides housing, food, team shirts, local transportation, and a host of activities for the guest teams. The other Christian international schools do the same for us when we travel to their city.
We also play many games against local Thai schools. Our school is known for boys soccer throughout Asia because the team traveled and won every major tournament in Asia last fall. We are not only known for our skill but also for player character and sportsmanship. Schools have shared that they love playing against us because our students are so respectful, don’t cheat or play dirty, and are friendly and courteous to the other players, refs and coaches. When we host regular season games we try to ref as many of the games as we can using Grace people, but for tournaments we usually have to hire local Thai refs. Then we pay special attention to be sure they are taken really good care of throughout the tournament – meals included!
One of our Athletic Department staff is a local who coaches, refs, organizes games and tournaments, and also has a ministry with some Buddhist kids from a nearby village where he formed a soccer team. Every Friday evening he coaches them or plans a game for them to play against other schools. And then he leads a Bible study with them and provides dinner in our office.
GIS also has a ministry where our sports leaders (juniors and seniors taking a sports leadership class) go on outreaches to remote villages and refugee camps to put on sports camps for the locals.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
Quick snippets and need-to-knows.
- You’re invited to our pseudo baby shower! …okay, it might be a stretch to even call it a pseudo shower and we totally realize it’s not nearly as neat without the gathering together part, but we have put together a baby registry for those desiring to gift in this way. And we’ve figured out a way to save you the international shipping expense – a fellow Chiang Mai friend will be visiting the States in the coming months and has offered an entire suitcase to return with gifts sent to her from our registry. So kind, right? But this means we’ll be shutting down the registry in early July to allow plenty of time for shipping and packing before she heads back. There are more details on the registry: http://tinyurl.com/BabyElliott.
Join us in inviting God into these needs and asks, and celebrating His blessings.
- Exciting news! While we’ve not yet found a car to buy, we have had two wonderful families offer us their vehicles on borrow – one while the family is in the States for the summer and the other for the indefinite future as it’s a second vehicle for them. Praise!
- Please be praying for unity in the community of believers here. And that we’re able to discern the need for, humbly lead and achieve reconciliation when needed.
- Prayer for relationships Brian established during a recent race. He had some good convos, and it turns out we’ll see a handful of them again at another race in mid June.
And have you prayer requests of your own? Please do send them our way so we can join you.