3:00 P.M. EST June 14, 2010
Children in Lekki, Nigeria, play an exhibition soccer match in 2006.
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery
When South Africa tied Mexico in a 1-1 draw during the opening World
Cup game, some young spectators watched at big-screen viewings
sponsored by churches and faith-based organizations.
The events were part of an effort led by an informal network called TUG – The Ultimate Goal – to “score” with soccer-mad youth.
United Methodists are using the network to distribute daily
devotional guides and other resources from The Upper Room during the
month-long event, taking place in Africa for the first time.
The United Methodist Church cannot stand on the sidelines, said
Roland Rink, managing director of Africa Upper Room Ministries since
“The majority of soccer fans are going to be younger people. We’re going to be out there where they are,” he said.
The Ultimate Goal members are offering World Cup coverage,
accompanied by youth programs, in a variety of locations around South
Africa. In the Durban area, for example, Westville Baptist Church is
showing all 64 games live and sponsoring a holiday camp and sports
program at a Durban school.
In the Western Cape, Monte Christo Ministries in Paarl is running a
mini-World Cup, with 32 kids and 32 teen soccer teams competing over a
30-day period. Stellenbosch High School offered a June 10-15 football
camp for youngsters from around South Africa, hosted by Brazilian
Opportunity for ministry
Sarah Wilke, Upper Room’s publisher, called the World Cup
distribution a “perfect opportunity” to reach new readers and celebrate
the 75th anniversary of the ministry.
A jet flyover marks the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Photo by www.shine2010.co.za
The devotional guide — which reaches 2.6 million readers in 40
languages — will be distributed along with “Prayers for Encouragement,”
a special edition written especially for persons living with serious
diseases, said Dale Rust Waymack, director of Upper Room International
Ministries for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship,
“The newest language edition, in German, was produced with the World
Cup audience in mind, especially since we no longer have a German
language translation of The Upper Room daily devotional guide,” Waymack
said. “The German edition of ‘Prayers for Encouragement’ will
live on long after the games have concluded.”
For the World Cup, Upper Room resources also are being distributed
in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. Upper Room editors from
Greece, Korea, Japan, Holland and Italy are sending their own language
editions to South Africa to reach visiting soccer fans.
Rink reported further demand for copies in local languages such as IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Setswana, Sesotho and Afrikaans.
The publication of “Prayers for Encouragement,” which specifically
touches on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, was funded through the
United Methodist Committee on Relief with a grant from the United
Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Such an offering of hope is important in
South Africa, which has 5.7 million citizens who are HIV-positive.
South African churches and other faith-based organizations already
have shared several thousand copies of the May/June issue of Devozine,
the Upper Room’s youth publication, which features an article about
Kaka, the internationally recognized Brazilian soccer player.
Since its debut in Africa in 2002, the Upper Room print run has
jumped from 6,000 copies to more than 178,000 copies last year. The
ministry also records short daily devotionals in several languages for
use by Christian radio stations.
Rink believes Africans are hungry for good quality Christian
resources. “We feel called to help each African spend time with God,”
he said. “Behind spirituality is the daily ‘discipline’ – keeping that
appointment with God every day.”
So, as Bafana Bafana, as the South African team is known, prepares
for its match against Uruguay on June 16, Rink and the The Ultimate
Goal network will offer the God of all nations to the fans of all
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
York. Steve Horswill-Johnston and Erik Alsgaard contributed to this
report on behalf of the Board of Discipleship.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.