The International Sports Federation (ISF), an Atlanta based ministry, was founded in 1993 by Cheryl Wolfinger, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes staff member.
ISF focuses on using sport to outreach to the world the message of Christ. While almost 95% of the world’s population lives outside the United States, having a Sport Ministry seems to be the most effective way to preach the gospel worldwide. Like mathematics, sport is a universal language bringing people around the world together.
“You don’t have to speak the language to play, and most of the time there is a translator. God opens doors for conversation. It’s an incredible tool,” Beth, a graduate of Southwestern Seminary, commented. “I never dreamed God could use [my] passion of sports to reach other people, It’s a non-threatening way to build relationships. You get to laugh and play together,” she added.
With the 2004 Olympic Games going on, Athens is currently the center of world attention for sport competitions. ISF has targeted its Sport Ministry right at the center of this city.
According to Ken Walker, thirty-one ISF volunteers are in Athens, Greece, to conduct clinics in volleyball, basketball and baseball. By doing so, ISF missionaries and volunteers will actively be in touch with local Greek residents in friendly way, making their evangelical works easier.
ISF will also participate in prayer walks as well as passing out water bottles and distributing the Bibles, the traditional ways of preaching the Gospel.
The goal of the missionary team is to spend time and exchange phone numbers, and email addresses.
“Our number one goal is developing relationships with Greeks so when we leave, the [IMB] missionaries will have phone numbers, e-mail addresses or some way to reach them,” a missionary explained.
There have been speculations that evangelical work in Athens will be challenging because more than 98% of Greek population belong to the dominant Orthodox Church in Greece.
“They’re born Greek Orthodox and they die Greek Orthodox,” one spectator said. “It’s not about a personal relationship with Christ, it’s about culture. You’re going to have to develop a long-term relationship with people before they see the difference that Christ makes in your life,” she added.