Reaching the People He loves

29 Mar 2021


It was a familiar command from our coach at a summer pre-season basketball training session in Perth, January 2006.

Twenty or so of us guys aged between 18 and 30 were on Court 3—the one without air conditioning—and it was a dry Sunday afternoon of about 36 degrees. It was my rookie season, but I knew what “baseline” meant, and my stomach churned.

I felt so much like giving up, walking over and falling into one of the chairs on the sidelines, but somehow I didn’t. Everyone was able to go all-out for another 30 seconds before getting our rest. But how is this experience connected to reaching the world for Jesus? For me, in at least three ways.

At the moment, our family—my wife Anne and our four children—live in Vratsa, Bulgaria. We left Australia in 2019 to join the Pioneers team here, led by Daniel, who was also on the baseline with me back in 2006.

Being teammates together and going to the same church flourished into a great friendship. Dan and Katie, who have two girls, came to Bulgaria 11 years ago, and we committed in 2014 to joining them in their work of teaching and training Bulgarians to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, eagerly awaiting His return.

The second connection: once we arrived in Vratsa, I needed a way to make friends, get better at the language, and find opportunities to read the Bible with people. In God’s plan, we unknowingly rented an apartment that was 50m from the main basketball hang-out in the city!

I started going down most days to play 3-on-3, then I trained with the high-schoolers, and now I play for Vratsa on weekends in the capital, Sofia. Importantly, I now know about 40 guys, while Anne and our kids have met some of their wives and children too.

Playing basketball has definitely made it easier to meet people and speak some Bulgarian—and Jesus has already given us some great opportunities to share the gospel.

Lastly, I remember standing on the baseline in 2006 vividly because I felt like I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t. If I had been on my own, I couldn’t have; but the other guys sort of dragged me along.

Reaching out to people who don’t know Jesus as the Lord can seem too hard at times. What to say? When to say it? But don’t forget that Jesus is like your teammate, dragging you to do what you think—you know—you can’t do.

But even better, He works in you and for you to reach the people He loves. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.’ (John 15:4)

-By Fletcher, a Pioneers worker serving in Europe.

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