A Bethel ministry that often flies under the radar is the Bannerman Afterschool Soccer Program. It is an eight-week program for local elementary school children offered at the start of each school year that just wrapped up this past Wednesday. This year the ministry witnessed a startling answer to prayer.
The leaders of the program, Hans and Rita Vandenbrink, knew they faced a challenge. With insurance companies enforcing stricter rules for church-run programs, they had to require that each participant in the program present a parent-sign permission slip before they could play. They fully anticipated that numbers would be down this year until children could remember to get their slips signed.
But something unexpected happened. The assistant principal took it upon herself to actively promote the program. Rather than putting slips in some forgotten corner of the school, she brought slips to each classroom and asked that teachers tell students about the program and the permission slips. The result was that the first day, the ministry broke the attendance record with 27 children showing up to play soccer!
In the past several years the Vandenbrinks have relied more on prayer for the ministry, recruiting supportive people to pray regularly for the program. They attribute this year’s breakthrough to those prayers.
The passion that drives them is the desire to see the children impacted, not only physically and socially but also spiritually. Before kids play soccer each week, they gather to eat a snack and hear a Bible Story. Each session ends with children reciting a Bible verse from memory to win a prize. Over the years, several children who started in the soccer program eventually joined other Bethel ministries like Gems and Cadets.
Since most of the children who attend the program are from families who originated outside of Canada - in places such as Laos, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, and South America - we can say that the program is actually world missions outreach right in our church’s neighbourhood.
Hans and Rita started the Bannerman Afterschool Soccer program 8 years ago. This year, they were helped by Joanne Rozendaal and Daniel Groth.
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