Young Hearts that Have Hope

Another year given by God for the Hope Club is passing. There have been so many different events and blessings which we are thankful for and it is hard to describe each of them in a short report, but I will do my best.

The most memorable event, of course, was the baptism which took place on September 4. Two more boys joined God's team, the Church! There will be a big soccer team in heaven and it is such a happiness and joy for us! In moments like that you feel involved in a great God's work which is preaching the Gospel and it is so pleasant to see the fruits of God's work which He commissioned us. Pasha Ozarchuk (16) and Roma Tsymbal (22) made a covenant with the Lord on September 4, 2016, which is Birthday of the Hope Club! That very day in 2004, the first practice of our club took place. It is interesting that Roma was there as a very young 10-year-old boy.

We have had practices of 4 groups during the year. About 50-90 kids and young people aged from 6 to 17 went through our club every day. Our adult team has come to life again. Our practices have had the same routine with a Bible lesson. It means that God's Word is like a drop that gets into the hearts each time, which does its work, changes young lives, and saves from hell. The number of our coaches is increasing little by little. Now besides myself, Tom Merchant, and Oleksiy Lupenko, the Hope Club students help us on a regular basis. These are Dima Sosnovsky, Andriy Dzyura, Vanya Pavlov, and Roma Tsymbal. Dima Solon'ko and Pasha Ozarchuk are a big help for us as well. It is such a great pleasure to observe how the boys are growing in Christ and serve their neighbors. It is not only about the Hope. Other students of the Hope Club such as Vanya Huranets, Andriy Kazmiruk, Zhenya Palchevsky take an active part in different ministries of the Community of Good Shepherd Church in Rivne. They participate in short mission trips, help with different church needs, help older and weak/helpless people, Sunday School, counseling at the children outreach camps. One can boldly say that God has built a big group of very active and mature young people during the years of our team existence. They are the future of the church and the ministry!


 Bible lessons with the soccer players of the Hope

Young people hold lessons at the Sunday School at the Community of Good Shepherd

Two more joyful events took place in the fall. They were the weddings of Zhenya Palchevsky and Maryna Yanchuk (this girl came to church through the sport ministry) and of Andriy Ostash (Zdolbuniv Church Source of Life) and Olya Denysyuk (she is an active participant of our ministry, especially in the camps). New families were born, they are the young people who know and love God and it is always an important event for our church.

Our small group has had another year. The main members of the group are soccer players. We began to study the book of Acts, we pray a lot, share our own testimonies and experiences, have fellowship. After their wedding, a young family of the Palchevsky invite us to have the small group in their house. They are so hospitable. After the youth camp, new people joined us and I would like to mention three young basketball players from the Rivne Youth Sport School. They are very interested in the Word, attend church worships and youth meetings.

As usually, our soccer camps have been very rich and interesting this year. At first we did the camp in the village of Sergeyevka, Odesa region, where for the first time we brought the kids from four Christian clubs: Irpin, Mysnograd, Odesa, and Rivne. These teams were created thanks to your ministry, having taken our experience. It was especially pleasant to hear that they call the Hope club as their mother-team. All these clubs adopted a Bible lesson during the training sessions and this brings its fruit. It is noticeable in the boys' behavior, their attitude towards their rivals during a game. The camp where we had our own Euro Championship was the most successful. All the children were divided into different teams and mingled and this allowed them to approach each other and establish friendly relations between all the participants. At the end of the camp, we saw a big friendly family both on the soccer field and during their time on the sea beach. After the camp in Sergeyevka, there was a camp for the Hope leaders in the village of Zgorany. For the whole week near a beautiful lake, we studied and discussed what the Word of God says about the role of husband and wife in church, family, and society. It was a special time, God was speaking to our hearts a lot. The best part was that all ladies were released of the cooking duties. Only young men cooked and served.

This last summer we had trips-retreats at our building in Zalissya with our younger and older boys. The theme of these mini-camps was Filling the Heart which we studied every morning and every evening near our wonderful fireplace in a special cozy and home atmosphere. During the day we worked on the soccer field and on preparing the wood supply. Of course, we had our favorite soccer games.

One more event that I would like to share was meeting Alan Nickson, a Christian from Northern Ireland who came to Ukraine to teach soccer coaches from Christian clubs. Three times we have traveled to Sumy and Irpin where Alan was teaching Ukrainian Christian coaches how to be coaches and I was teaching Foundations of Christian Club. It was a blessed time because we had an opportunity to communicate with almost all Christian coaches from Ukraine who either start this ministry or develop the ministry of sharing the Gospel through soccer. It was very useful for many of them when we shared our own experience, mistakes, and blessings. The main thing I tried to stress is the importance of the Bible study during the training sessions. Our main priority is not soccer but people. A. Nickson visited us in Rivne in September. After he met our Hope club and saw what we are doing, Alan said that in his opinion we have the best model of a Christian soccer camp out of all he saw. Of course, it was pleasant to hear things like that, but we know that God has done all of this not because of our merits, but only by His mercy.

As for our "outside" ministry, it is done through our participation in different competitions of local and regional level. When we play with unbelieving players, the difference between them and us is obvious. Lately in the regional soccer they take us and know us as a Christian team and because of this fact there are different reactions. Some respect and support, but others hate and try to bother using different methods. But we are glad because it means everything is good with us. An interesting thing happened in Warsaw with a local team Izotop. At one moment our player used a hand, but a referee did not stop the game. In such cases we teach our young soccer players to recognize when they break the rule, raising one's hand. Vitya Sulzhyk did so, but the local coach did not see him raising his hand and began "pressing" a referee. It looked funny because it happened in the middle of the field and not in the punishing place and this referee's decision did not bring any special dividends for our team, but the coach insisted that there was a violation. Then he turned to our coach Oleksiy Lupenko and asked why our player did not raise his hand (!). Any player of any club never does so. Most of the players try to pretend that they did not play with a hand and our rivals were playing like that, but when in that coach's opinion we did not confess, it was taken as an extraordinary event! We take it as a compliment.

Praise God for His great Fatherly love and mercy to us!

Oleksandr Gonchar