March 6, 2008

3 Weeks in Africa: ICTA Christian Pro Tennis Team

Posted in Africa Tennis, anastasia kharchenko, Athletes in Action Tennis, Benin City Tennis, christian tennis, Christian Tennis Academy, Christian Tennis Mission Trips, Christian Tennis Outreach, Christian Tennis Player, Christian Tennis Ukraine, Faith, ICTA Tennis Ministry, ICTA Women's Christian Pro Tennis Team, International Christian Tennis Association, Love, melody snelen, Nigeria Tennis, rachel snelen, scott paschal, Teamwork, Tennis Ministry, Tennis Missionary, WTA Tennis tagged , , , , , , at 9:48 pm by Scott Paschal

dscf4301.jpgTrying to find the right words to explain the impact the Nigerian people have had on my life will be difficult.

(pic of me with Nigerians God sent to guide and protect us)

To witness the love of Christ unconditionally flowing from people living in 3rd world poverty has rocked me to my core.

The people I met and spent time with didn’t keep calling Jesus “awesome” and “indescribable” when speaking of Him like I so often hear in America. They worshiped Him in trembling and fear and total trust.

I was blown away by the power of their faith and trust in God under such extreme, harsh conditions. Starving kids, little electricity, few police, sparse sanitation….

nigeria-trip1-221.jpgIn Benin City, Nigeria, I personally battled with two thoughts on a constant basis… “I want to leave right now.” and “I never want to leave.”

(pic of me on trash heap inside Nigerian National Tennis Center)

While unbelievable poverty took my breath away, their love of Jesus under such conditions breathed it back in.

My spoiled rotten, pathetically American, Christian viewpoint was quickly confronted by the reality of the Gospel being lived through the Nigerians God placed in my path.

Daily I struggled to not vomit as I openly was exposed by a patient God to my own disgusting, obviously trendy American view of worship of Him.

dscf4177.jpg

(pic of Rachel and Melody Snelen, and Anastasia Kharchenko, with highly select youth attending tournament)

I am truly horrified at my inner lack of true knowledge of what it means to love Jesus with all my heart, and I am grateful for the Nigerians in Benin City who live to serve Christ in trembling and fear.

My eyes have been opened to the fact that my life and my ministry have simply been spiritually dead, though it never felt that way until I was confronted with Jesus speaking through His African followers directly to the lies I had bought into and made a lifestyle, lies that many American Christians call their own.nigeria-trip1-217.jpg

To say I am ashamed is a gross understatement.

(pic of Benin primary school)

Please don’t feel badly for me or try to console me. That’s not what I want or need.

I’m just being open with God’s work in me these last 3 weeks and I hope someone, somewhere can learn from my mistakes.

What I can say is that I hope and pray every American can have the God-blessed opportunity to spend a day, a week, a month, or a lifetime in Benin City, Nigeria. You might come alive in ways you may never have known possible. God’s glory will truly be revealed to you as it was to me.

dscf4494.jpgHonestly, in the beginning of scheduling our ICTA Women’s Pro Tennis Team tours for 2008, I didn’t really want to go to Nigeria.

(pic of Anastasia Kharchenko hitting a swinging volley winner.)

It was too far away, too expensive, too dangerous, too different.

But, after prayer, I knew God was calling our ICTA Women’s Pro Tennis Team to go to Benin City, and he opened all doors to make it happen.

My role in the trip originally was to go for just 4-5 days to help the girls arrive safely. God had other plans for my time.

Upon arriving in Benin, after a 29 hour journey, it was obvious to see the love the people have of Jesus. Benin is a Christian stronghold, the last in Nigeria. It is also the country’s capital.

Two thing first overwhelmed me about Benin… the love they have of Jesus, and the unbelievable poverty.

During the first week, God led Nigerians to us to form a team. One by one Nigerians with special skills felt called to offer help. I curiously watched these people be placed in our path. As I know how God works, I knew He had something planned!

Let me first give a quick background of Nigeria and it’s capital, Benin. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and the 11th largest in the world. It is the world’s 8th largest exporter of crude oil.

dscf4251.jpg

(pic of Rachel Snelen reading the Bible to Nigerian youth)

Why such poverty then? The Nigerian government is ridiculously corrupt.

Nihu Ribado, the chairman of the EFCC, alleges past Nigerian leaders have stolen over 550 billion dollars of revenue since independence from England was established about 40 years ago.

To really appreciate this amount, realize it is 6 times the amount it cost to rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan after World War II, with dollars adjusted for today’s inflation.

Basically, Benin should be one of the richest cities in the world… like Dubai.

Unfortunately, radical Islam has rooted itself in northern Nigeria. The Niger Delta region has 12 year old kids with machine guns claiming they’re sent by God to kill infidels, which is anyone non-Muslim.. The potential oil money from gaining control of Nigeria is huge. The money could wage an unbelievable Holy War.

dscf4436.jpgWhile coaching Anastasia during the two ITF Pro Tournaments and leading the missions team, I noticed something very troubling happening in Benin, particularly with the kids.

(Anastasia Kharchenko running forehand during match in which she qualified for a WTA ranking)

Radical Islam was seeking to gain a foothold in Benin using youth sports.

At first I doubted myself as to what I was seeing. I stayed quiet and kept my eyes open.

But God clearly opened my eyes further. Since I spread the Gospel of Jesus through sports, I recognized radical Islam using sports to further their agenda.

God then used Ana to show me a newspaper article, which tied everything together and gave me proof, the serious proof I needed.

I spoke with a trusted friend from Benin. He told me I am in great danger. He knew the power of my accusations, information, and logical argument, when combined with the proof I had gathered, would cause a surge of anger from Muslims in power and place me in harm’s way.

To make a long story short, the largest church in Africa has been alerted to my findings. They had know Islam has been attempting to infiltrate Benin, but did not know youth sports was a vehicle.

Islam wants the oil money and more radical teenage holy warriors. They are attempting to gain the allegiance of youth through daily gaining their trust through sports. It is a technique which has been used for centuries, and one that I use as well to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As such it was easy for me to see, much like it is easy for one tennis player to recognize another by the way they dress, speak, act, etc.

My last week in Benin was spent developing a plan in cooperation with Nigerian Christian youth sports leaders and pastors. I gave many TV interviews speaking about Jesus, formed a strong team to expose Islam through media, educated one of Nigeria’s foremost sports development experts, and helped plan an informative booklet.

Hopefully, it’ll help.

dscf4605.jpgOn another note, during this entire journey of deepening our faith and commitment to Jesus, our ICTA Women’s Pro Tennis Team team competed in two ITF pro tournaments.

(Anastasia Kharchenko holding her trophy for winning both ITF pro circuit tournaments held in Benin)

Rachel and Melody Snelen, Anastasia Kharchenko, and the rest of the ICTA Women’s Pro Tennis Team held an amazing outreach in Benin. More about this will be written in our developing blog dedicated to Nigeria.

For now, thank you for your prayers and support of the International Christian Tennis Association.

I’d like to leave you with an email which was sent to me by the dad of one of my longtime students, Newbie. I did not have email access to read it until two nights ago when I returned home. The timing of when he sent it as compared by the amazing events unfolding in Benin gave me goose bumps and chills.

Thank you all for your prayers. Because of your faithfulness, an Islamic plan to militate youth has began to be thwarted. I think you’d all agree it would be much better for Benin youth to have tennis rackets in their hands instead of machine guns.

The danger we experienced was real, but God’s hand and provision was everywhere.

God bless, Scott Paschal

————————-

Hey Scotty:

A funny thing happened to me this morning. I was doing my workout and God spoke to me and said, “Pray for Scotty, right now.” It was about 9 am. I got down on my knees and prayed that God would be with you and cover you with the blood of Jesus to keep you from all harm.

I prayed too that God will pour out His love on you; fill your heart with all the love that is in His, because He loves you and delights in you. I felt too, that you were under attack, and that God wanted me to share these verses with you:

The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.
The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations….
Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.

For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Psalm 33:10-11 and 18-21.

He also gave me these verses from Acts for you: Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought, But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found to fight against God. Acts 5:38-39

For the past few days, you have been on my mind and in my prayers. God seems to be telling me that He loves you so much He wants to pour His love and peace into your heart until your heart is so full of God’s love that it just pours over into the lives of all those you touch.

God sees your heart, Scotty, and He know you love Him and want to serve Him. He is blessing you right now. He loves you more than anyone and you are more precious to Him than anything on earth. You are His son, and He loves you just as He does Jesus, your older brother.

He’s asking me to share this one more verse with you: Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. Luke 15:31.

I don’t know what this is all about, Scotty, but I do want you to know you are not alone, that you are loved and respected, and that I stand with you in all that you do.

In the Father’s love. Ken

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4 Comments »

  1. Coach J said,

    I was praying so much for you guys. I knew He was doing something incredible. The article has brightened my whole week. I look forward to hearing more about the impact the Lord has had in Nigeria thorugh your team. Through our humility He speaks through us and His word does not return void…it accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent. Thanks again for being willing!

    CJ

  2. plugginaway4him said,

    coach j,

    much like a picture can’t begin to describe the beauty of the grand canyon, writing a blog entry has in no way even began to begin to describe the work god allowed us to do.

    i’m still trying to come to grips with the outreach.

    people i’ve spoken with really can’t understand what it was like for us to have people literally hunting us down to possibly end our lives. yet, though we knew we were in danger, we also knew god’s hand was protecting an guiding.

    to be in the fire, yet completely untouched by the flames.

    i wish you were in benin city with us.

    God bless, scotty

  3. Stephie Osabuohien said,

    I would like to know where were you playing tennis at in Benin Negeria. I would like to bring my 3 daughters over to Benin City to visit some family members and to play tennis.

  4. hi steph,

    we were at the national sports complex.

    God bless, scotty


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