We were standing on the sidelines of one of the most picturesque football fields in the world, carved into the side of mountains in Asia. The kids are warming up, but one thing is missing: their coach.
Coach Ben started Christ FC Academy after attending a Sports Friends training course. Soon afterwards he was sentenced to six years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
His family, friends, church and teammates appealed for his release, but without success. He was placed in a cell, in poor conditions, with 200 inmates. And so he prayed. And prayed.
Discovering he was a qualified coach, the prison management agreed to his request to start a football team. Ten people signed up the first week. He was strict. He had to be. But the players warmed to his discipline combined with humility and genuine care for their lives.
His team became national champions in the prison league. In three months he read the Bible from cover to cover so that he could share the Gospel with his team. And so he began to carry out the sports ministry model he’d been trained to do with young people… but with prisoners instead. He prayed for them. He encouraged them. He loved them.
More than 50 prisoners have come to faith because of Coach Ben’s ministry. One of them gave him a drawing: it shows him pulling a line of struggling men up a rugged mountain towards a cross labelled ‘Jesus Christ’. A speech bubble from his mouth says, ‘fight, fight!’ Underneath, it simply says: ‘May you be our coach for ever.’
by Cat Edwards