Let's explore one more Brazilian approach to mission in the Arab world, also excerpted from chapter 4 (pp. 176-78) of Brazilian Evangelical Missions in the Arab World:
Sport has often been regarded as an international language that breaks down cultural barriers and promotes friendship, and Brazilians—with their excellence in basketball, volleyball, martial arts, and, of course, soccer (futebol)—speak this language quite well. Arabs also seem to welcome Brazilian transcultural workers—athletic or not—because Ronaldo, Ronaldino, and Roberto Carlos (Brazilian soccer stars) are household names in the Arab world.Brazilian workers serving among Arabs are making the most of this strategic connection and have proven to be innovative in using sports in ministry.
. . . in one Arab context, a team of Brazilian workers has put on a series of soccer camps in some very conservative and restricted villages, including those inhabited by refugees. One worker reported that with a soccer ball and jersey, they have accessed places where doctors and teachers have never been allowed to enter. After receiving permission to work with the children from tribal leaders, the men have worked with the boys, and their wives have coached the girls. As this group also integrates moral teaching from a biblical foundation in their coaching, each practice ends with some group reflection on what was learned during the experience.Apparently, the soccer camps have provided a welcome diversion from the difficulties of daily living for these children and their parents also seem to appreciate the constructive physical activity that their children are receiving.The fact that Arabs like Brazilians and know their soccer players has probably allowed this team of workers access into an otherwise restricted area where Westerners are not welcomed.
In short, Brazilian missionaries are effectively using sports as a means to overcome barriers of mistrust, to build relationships, and to communicate Christian teaching. One worker concluded, “I think that sports ministry in the Arab world is very important and should continue to be used,” while another added, “I love using sports—something I really enjoy—for ministry.”
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