Sports Ministries in Albania
Every day after school, a little boy waits at the gate for an hour for the ministry center to open. It’s the only place he knows to go at this time of day in his small Albanian village.
When the center finally opens, he runs into the small outdoor space and is soon joined by other children who have made their way to the center. They play volleyball, basketball, and four square. Some of the more serious-minded kids hang out on the front steps, playing chess.
In this village located about 30 miles from the capital city of Tirana, there are no parks or public areas for recreation. When kids want to play in a group, they often play in the street, which is not an ideal situation. Many children have parents who work at local factories or abroad for extended periods of time. These children are left to their own devices from the time they finish school until their parents return home in the evening.
“Rec programs at the center give them a means of engaging in something healthy and productive (aka keeping them out of trouble), while, at the same time, learning values like teamwork, sportsmanship, controling their temper, and refraining from using bad language when angry,” shared missionary Cydil Waggoner.
Unlike the United States, there are no organized sports at local public schools in Albania. However, thanks to the positive impact the ministry center has had on the kids who attend, the director of the school has reached out to ask for help in organizing competitive programs and teams. Cydil and her husband, Nathan, look forward to seeing this relationship develop. They especially want to ensure that whatever organized programs are developed will include opportunities for girls to participate as well as boys. (Very few opportunities for girls’ athletic participation exist in Albania, a poor, conservative country that is primarily Muslim.)
The current facility (a renovated village house) has limited outdoor space and is surrounded by homes, and the noise from outdoor sports has been a problem for some neighbors. Property has been purchased to construct a covered soccer field that is further away from homes.
“Our dream is to have a larger area for hosting after-school rec programs,” said Cydil. “Additionally, we have seen soccer facilities in our region that are profitable businesses. We hope that we can provide a revenue stream to underwrite ministry expenses by renting the facility out to leagues in the evening, while, at the same time, providing employment for some of our village friends.”
PRAY: Pray for Nathan and Cydil Waggoner as they minister to the children who come to the center. Pray that God will draw the children to Him.
GO: Want to serve in sports ministry? A volunteer or partner missionary is needed to develop regular programs, supervise the children for extended periods of time, and help respond to the local public school for assistance with organizing an athletic team. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
SHARE: View a speaker outline for Sports Ministry in Albania.