The Gospel Through Soccer | Jamie Dato
Pictured: American player sharing his testimony after one of our exhibition games during the summer of 2019. This was the first year we brought a team over to compete against local teams and then share a message from God’s word.
My name is Jamie Dato and I went to the Passion Center for the first time in 2010. I have been on several trips since, the most recent being in 2019.
During my first trip to Malawi in the summer of 2010, I was introduced to the Passion Cup, the annual summer event that takes place during one of the mission trips to Malawi. I love sports, soccer in particular, so this weekend tournament was exciting for me. The Passion Cup features four local area semifinalist soccer (futbol) teams and two to four area netball teams (female sport combining aspects of basketball and ultimate frisbee). These teams play for a championship which includes a trophy, prize money, and new uniforms and equipment. All participating teams are able to go home with something as the mission teams bring bags of items from the States.
The best thing about the Passion Cup weekend is the number of people who hear a message of hope from the Bible that includes a gospel presentation. The games draw crowds of several hundred to thousands of people. The Passion Center sets up a sound system which is used for music and commentary during the game while also allowing us to speak to the crowd after the game. An easy way to reach a crowd of people in Malawi, Africa is to pair it with a soccer game. People love to watch soccer so the Passion Cup is a great tool for sharing from God’s word.
The Passion Sports Network (PSN) sprouted from the Passion Cup. This is the Passion Center’s sports outreach program that operates year-round, using soccer and netball to reach people for Christ. The PSN will hold small events, sponsor leagues, or run training sessions all with the goal of sharing the gospel and growing people in Christ!
Whenever I am able to go to Malawi, I will bring sports equipment for the Passion Cup weekend and the PSN to use throughout the year. Nate, another soccer coach from our church, and I have been able to use our network of coaches to collect tons of soccer shoes, soccer balls, training equipment, and many sets of uniforms. The Passion Center uses these items to bless the local community and teams at the various events they host. It is always a blessing to see the true joy and legitimate thankfulness when we give teams new uniforms or training equipment, items that would normally be impossible or extremely hard to come by on their own.
Last summer, we expanded the PSN outreach as we took a soccer team of US high school and college players to compete against local Malawi teams as well as put on clinics. At each event, one of the players was able to share his testimony or speak on a meaningful verse which culminated with the sharing of the gospel. We also gave the teams equipment for their training purposes.
It’s always amazing to see how God can use something like soccer as a tool to reach people who might not have normally been reached and I am thankful that God has included me in His plan!