This article was originally published in Edition (1) of Prayer Magazine, Autumn 2004.

COMMUNITY TRANSFORMATION ….. ONE PERSON AT A TIME

A Dynamic All-Community Outreach in Wales’ Rhondda Valleys

Imagine being asked “What would you be prepared to try for God if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Well, that’s exactly what happened one Friday morning early in July of 2002 to three men, close friends who had been involved in professional rugby for more than ten years.

When Phil Davies and brothers, Chris and Clive Jones committed their hearts to the Lord in the early 1990’s, their pastor, John Bullock, felt that their high-profile positions in Welsh rugby meant that they needed to set aside a regular period of prayer and fellowship and thus started a Friday morning prayer meeting where one of the key recurring prayers was “Lord, send your revival to the Rhondda Valleys”.

Ten years later, it was Ps John who fired the question.

For Phil, it was a decisive moment: a moment where his experience destiny converged. He said “I knew it was a God moment. When it was my turn to speak, I had a sense that it wasn’t just me speaking. In twenty minutes or so, I unloaded the operational outworking of what a few days later came to be known as Sporting Marvels”.

Phil added, “Sporting Marvels was birthed in what was effectively a long-running prayer meeting, and I believe it’s an answer to prayer itself. Carl Brettle, another member of our group, had co-ordinated the One Million Hours of Prayer for Wales campaign in 2000, and so successful was the initiative, that it actually turned into 10 million hours!

We believe that Sporting Marvels and the prayer vision that was subsequently birthed, are in part at least, the answer to some of those prayers”.

Situated in the heartland of what used to be the South Wales coalfield, Rhondda is certainly a place in great need. On its own, the fact that Rhondda has the lowest percentage (less than .9 of 1%) of population regularly attending church in the UK and possibly in Europe, makes the Rhondda Valleys a mission field.

But the secular mix of drug abuse, suicide, teenage pregnancies, car crime, one-parent families, drug related criminality, acute health problems, a poverty culture and mind-set and an over-reliance on the benefits culture, all combine to make up a complex cocktail of social problems and need.

In an effort to come against these problems, Sporting Marvels aims to put a positive Christian role model in front of every child every day until Jesus returns. “Only God can solve the problems of the Rhondda and we are in this for the long term”, Phil told The Prayer Magazine. “This is not a one year or five year project”, he added, “The aim is to build a vehicle of great influence that helps make the church, Christianity and Jesus, relevant to the 84,000 who live in Rhondda, helping facilitate as it does so, the total community transformation of the Rhondda Valleys. I guess we see ourselves as a seed planting machine”.

The multi-denominational project works in three main theatres of operation – one, with the Year 6 pupils in the primary schools, two, in the comprehensive schools throughout the age range, and three, in the churches. And in all three, the stance is an uncompromising one. “There is nothing covert about Sporting Marvels”, Phil said. “We are an evangelical, Christian sports project with a secular message that sport is good, and a Christian message that Jesus is Lord”.

Ps John Bullock who like Phil, Chris and Clive, is a trustee of Sporting Marvels, said, “With sports as the means of engagement, the project strategically places Christian role models into Rhondda’s thirty seven primary schools (visiting once a week), the six comprehensive schools where two workers, one male, female, become permanent members of the school staff (called community development officers), and into our partner churches to whom the project seconds a full-time youth development officer”.

“The gift of two people to the comprehensive school means that more sport is played and delivered and everything is focussed on building relationship. The youngsters are pointed at the local churches as an outlet for them to enjoy their new or enhanced interest in sport because the churches, as a result of the YDO appointment, will be running sports teams who will compete in the Rhondda Church League.

And who are the Christian role models Sporting Marvels is appointing?

Phil said, “You can’t take on cultural mind-sets with people who are part of, and products, of that mind-set. As a result, initially at least, the Sporting Marvels workers will be imported from overseas. They are all highly personable, sports-qualified, mission minded, evangelical Christians called to serve on the mission field of Rhondda. Their remit is to engage and interact, building relationships of such intensity that real change becomes a real possibility.

It’s beginning to happen! And if you think that something going on in the Rhondda Valleys doesn’t affect you, you’d be mistaken.

A key part of what the likes of Phil Davies and Ps John Bullock are about, is creating a blueprint, a blueprint that can be replicated in other parts of the world. Maybe even in your own town and community.

Let The Prayer Magazine urge you to remember Sporting Marvels in your prayers.

Call it prophetic if you like, but something tells us that you’re going to be hearing a lot more about this innovative project!

Testimony

When South African Christiaan Welman stepped off the plane at Heathrow Airport early in Sept 2003, it marked the operational beginning point for Sporting Marvels.

Project director, Phil Davies, said “When the vision was birthed, it came with a Sept 2003 start date. Within a couple of days during mid-July, God brought it all together – opportunity, finance and the person – and miraculously made a way for this to happen”.

Ever since that time, and with God providing every need, Christiaan has been based full-time at Tonypandy Community College where he has been joined this term by American Kate Ritta, his female Sporting Marvels counterpart. There’s also a pair of South African Sporting Marvels workers over at Ferndale Community School where Danielle le Roux has been in post since Easter, and Elroy Duckitt arrived on the 1stOctober.

A successful appeal against a visa application means that Ugo Anagor will become the first of the project’ church-based workers. When he arrives in early November, he will become the Youth Development Officer at Providence Church in the Rhondda village of Ystrad and will kick-off both the churches part and the primary schools part of Sporting Marvels.

Phil said, “Imagine the stir it causes when Rhondda and its children come face-to-face with the Sporting Marvels workers. This is a society that since the early 1960’s has had to put up with the cultural asset-stripping of its top talent.

Our most talented people grow up hearing the mantra, ‘if you want to get on, you have to leave’, go off to university and don’t return. A simplified truism that manifests from this, is that good things don’t come to Rhondda, they leave.

And then the kids see our guys, and the challenge for hearts and minds and for the transformation of our community begins in earnest!”

And with “Jesus is Lord” emblazoned on the cars they drive, no-one is left in any doubt as to what Sporting Marvels and their workers are all about and what it is they stand for”.


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