April 17, 2008

Goat Intestine Soup

Posted in anastasia kharchenko, Athletes in Action Tennis, Benin City Tennis, christian tennis, Christian Tennis Outreach, ICTA, ICTA Tennis, ICTA Women's Christian Pro Tennis Team, International Christian Tennis Association, melody snelen, scott paschal, Teamwork, Tennis Athletes in Action, Tennis Ministry tagged , , , , , , at 7:04 pm by Scott Paschal

ICTA Founder, Scott PaschalWho knew God had planned for me to meet, tear down walls, and build bridges with two people in ministry that I hadn’t particularly gotten along with very well before! I’ll explain…

The end of last week and early this week ICTA Women’s Pro Team Outreach journied 210 miles south on I95 to the Ballenisles/USTA $25K Women’s Pro Circuit Event being held at the Ballenisles Country Club, home of Serena Williams.

Our mission team was already pretty tired from having been on the road for most of the last couple of months traveling to as far away as Africa, to locations in the USA such as Birmingham, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi.

As such, we had basically canceled the Palm Beach Outreach so everyone could rest, go to church, and recharge their batteries. Traveling constantly isn’t easy. It’s hard for anyone.

That said, on Saturday… the day of check-in for the tournament… I felt God overwhelming my thoughts and urging me to go to Palm Beach Gardens. I’ve been in ministry for a while, and I know when God does this we needed to go, even if I have no idea of His plans.

I asked Melody Snelen and Anastasia Kharchenko, two of my longtime students and team members of the ICTA Women’s Pro Tennis Team, if they would go with me. They agreed, quickly packed their suitcases, loaded the van with outreach supplies (bibles, Christian books, ICTA T-Shirts, etc.), and we were soon on our way. Sign-in was between 3pm and 6pm, we had to hurry as the time was nearly 2pm!

Along the way I felt God leading me to make a renewed connection in person with a ministry we hadn’t visited with in a while. From following His lead, God quickly provided over $6500 worth of Christian books and Bibles and CDs at a substantially discounted price to go with what we had already packed for distribution during the outreach.

We loaded the van with the new outreach supplies and on we went, arriving in time for sign-in with just 6 minutes to spare….

Though Ana was entered in the event, that wasn’t why we went. I told her she didn’t even need to play.

Ana’s body was still recovering from her match with former WTA #14, Elina Bovina, who is currently ranked in the 300s during her comeback from a foot injury.

Their marathon match in Alabama went to a tie break in the 3rd set with Elina taking the victory. Both girls were completely physically and emotionally exhausted from their encounter.

Elina pulled out of her upcoming tournaments, and Ana’s entire body was sore for the next 4 days to the point she couldn’t even train.

As we were not in Palm Beach Gardens for my players’ tennis, why did God want us there? I had no idea, but I did know something was going to happen.

After sign-in, Mel and Ana practiced for about an hour. And we gave another player and her coach/husband a book and a Bible…. Pretty routine stuff, so far.

After practice, we sat outside at the club and looked around at how amazingly perfect the facility looked, and we talked about it in comparison to poverty stricken Benin City, Nigeria where we had recently spent a few weeks.

I remembered one situation in Nigeria when we had basically ran out of the food we had brought from Florida. The hotel had a restaurant, think 3rd world here, which Mel and Ana visited to look at the menu. They discovered the soup of the day was made of goat intestines….

Both girls were pretty grossed out! You expect to hear about chicken or beef or potato soup, but not really about the intestines of a goat!

After laughing for a while, we left the club, ate dinner at a Chinese buffet, and checked into our housing.

On Day 2 in Florida the rains came! The day for tennis was basically washed out. But, the opportunity was prime for ministry outreach! Ana grabbed some books (Captured by Grace by David Jeremiah) and Bibles (a Bible magazine called Refuel) and began distributing them to anyone who wanted one… or two… or three….

Soon after, I was approached by a guy who thanked me for the gifts. Our tennis missionaries had given ICTA Outreach gifts to him and the entire group he was with. I quickly recognized him as someone I didn’t really much like, but, honestly, didn’t really know.

As we talked I felt God urging me to build bridges, that it was time to move forward and I needed to let the past go, and that God had much work to be completed and my idiotic ego was standing in the way. I soon offered well over 100 books and Bibles to him. He graciously accepted… and walls began crumbling down.

The next day he and a friend, whom I also recognized as someone I didn’t particularly like due to past experiences, from his group watched Ana’s second match of the day when she played Sheika Uberoi. After the match I invited them to meet with me. They eagerly agreed and we sat and talked. Again, walls came tumbling down as Jesus came into full view.

I enjoyed my time meeting with Ryan Fitzwilliams and Lindsay Sullivan. I enjoyed God helping me see them for who they are in Him.

Ryan coaches at a Catholic school, has an outreach to the pro tennis tour (mainly the men), and has a growing sports ministry called Match Point Ministries. Lindsay is nurturing the newly forming tennis aspect of Athletes in Action.

As we talked together, I felt God showing me that this was the reason He needed me in Palm Beach Gardens.

The entire visit was a big band-aid covering and healing old wounds. I shared the history of the International Christian Tennis Association (even from way back in the late 70s/early 80s when it was someone elses’ big dream!). I explained how I began in ministry and why I feel so strongly about championing different causes. And we talked about the future of International Christian Tennis Association…

We talked about mistakes made in the past, both mine and others. We discussed the need to not have competitiveness towards each other in ministry. And God allowed us each to begin, again.

I enjoyed being able to spend time with both Lindsay and Ryan. I’m glad God was able to use Ana to reach them as she was giving away ICTA Outreach gifts, and that through the faithful missionary dedication she showed… a God appointed meeting happened.

After we visited, Ryan and I loaded up his Toyota with ICTA Outreach supplies, and shook hands. I felt like God’s work had been accomplished and had a total peace that Ana, Mel, and I could now begin driving back to Palm Coast.

Sometimes in ministry, people can become possessive and competitive. I believe it is one of Satan’s tools to slow the Great Commission. I am as guilty of it as anyone. Especially when I first started. Now, I realize the importance of understanding that competition between ministries is a first sign of immaturity and insecurity in the ministry leader’s personal walk with Jesus.

Possibly all pastors/ministers go through it. I know I did. By nature, I am ridiculously competitive and like to kick butt in everything I do! But, now I focus my energy on kicking satanic tail… and part of winning against Satan means swallowing pride, apologizing, forgiving, and working together….

The main point of ministry in tennis… of seeing tennis as a harvest field for Christ… is to reach and disciple the lost. Millions of people from religions and cultures worldwide have no interest in Christianity, yet love tennis. Tennis is our common bond.

The field of work for ICTA and AIA and Match Point is intense. Tennis is without question the most difficult ministry field in all of sports.

As such, when someone in tennis is reached or is genuinely seeking Christ, they need to see a unified voice for Christ from caring ministries. They need and deserve to see all of us truly interested in putting self below Jesus to shine as one light in places God has assigned us to harvest and shepherd.

Through this divinely appointed meeting, I believe Lindsay, Ryan, and I have just had our serve cranked up by Coach Jesus, and are ready to look for Satan’s short returns we can smack into the open court for winners.

My heartbeat is for people worldwide to see Christ being reflected by the willingness our three ministries show to grow in unity; to support, lift up, and stand by each other as one body… and to pray for and offer grace to peers who continue to struggle with unforgiveness and competitiveness and jealousy….

Last Saturday night at Ballenisles Country Club after practice, as Ana, Mel, and I were thinking back to International Christian Tennis Association’s 3 week mission trip to Africa, I remembered how I laughed when Ana and Mel first told me the hotel restaurant in Nigeria was serving Goat Intestine Soup. They were grossed out, and it was funny to watch their expressions! I was pretty grossed out, too.

And now as I type I realize that as we sat on court after practice Saturday evening in Palm Beach Gardens and talked, I had absolutely no idea of God’s plans for the trip. We weren’t even planning to be there! Yet, God knew His plans. He is in control.

And He clearly showed He needs a unified voice for Him in tennis!

As my players and I left the tournament and drove north on I95, I felt a complete peace about the purpose and success of this last minute God breathed, God ordained ICTA outreach… I also smiled…

I felt God telling me that when pro tennis players and tennis fans, Christian or not, from countries worldwide think of Him they need to see a unified body of people who truly love Him reflecting everything that He is, that we should all be “serving” our best stuff that He has coached us in…

…and that we shouldn’t be “serving” Goat Intestine Soup!

God bless,

Scott Pachal

International Christian Tennis Association

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