Four athletes find hope on track and field

Written by Rayo Adegoke

Against the backdrop of a community filled with gang violence in El Salvador, four young men who have chosen to set their hearts on more profitable things. Walter, Gilberto, Yosmar, and Juan are four of over 1,000 children and youth who are part of Compassion El Salvador sports clubs.

When these young men are playing sports, everything else around them doesn’t seem to matter. Their eyes are intent on following the ball, their bodies and breath are in unison and their hearts race as their feet connect with the field. In those moments, they experience the tremendous thrill of doing something that silences the harsh realities surrounding them.

Not only have sports like table tennis and soccer kept them away from the violence of their communities, but they have also transformed their lives. Compassion centre sports clubs have become an opportunity to spread the gospel to children living in poverty. So for these young men, their hope now goes beyond track and field. They have heard and accepted the good news of Jesus Christ and this is what continues to change their lives.

The training of endurance

Taking part in various sports has opened a world of possibilities to children living in remote communities. For many of them, sport is the vehicle that helps them navigate the realities of poverty as they continue to learn about their identity in Christ. Compassion establishes sports clubs in remote communities to create safe spaces for young people to develop their skills in resilience, teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, commitment, and competition. Skills that prove profitable not only in sports but to all of us as believers.

When mentoring his protégé, Timothy, about a believer’s commitment and endurance, Apostle Paul called believers good soldiers of Christ Jesus and used this comparison: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:4-5).

With all that is going on in our world today, perhaps we need this message more than ever. At a time when we can easily choose to engage in worldly struggles, Paul is calling us to a higher and more profitable way.

To remain diligent and committed only to the ways of Jesus Christ. To persevere and shine our light in the darkness. To endure hardships for the sake of Christ and when we are done, we will be given a victor’s crown in the end. Just like Jesus Christ. This is what Yosmar, Juan, Walter, Gilberto and other young boys and girls are learning at the Compassion sports clubs—perseverance produces character and character, hope.

Prepared for victory

When it was time for the 2021 Compassion El Salvador Olympics, Gilberto, Walter, Juan, and Yosmar were among the 550 outstanding athletes who participated. After winning national championship titles at the 2021 Compassion Olympics, the four boys were celebrated and honoured.

Juan, 14 years old, won the first-place medal in table tennis while 12-year-old Walter won second place. Yosmar’s team won first place in soccer and Gilberto won first place in the 400-meter relay.

The stories of these four young men are just a few examples of how Compassion’s church partners are discipling young people through avenues like sports clubs. The 1,125 children and youth that are part of these sport programs are hearing the word of God regularly.

Their faith is rising along with their hope that they will soar above the realities of poverty and have a better future. Walter, Gilberto, Yosmar, and Juan have inspired other children and youth to develop their skills, character and faith on the sports field. They have won in more ways than one.

You can help these children continue to enjoy safe tracks, fields, and pitches away from the violence of their communities and help them win the fight against poverty. Learn more through Compassion’s website.

Field reporting and photos by Alejandra Zuniga, Compassion El Salvador.