November 22, 2013

Spain: Hope Through Hoops

From unreached to outreach workers, new believers in the Canary Islands serve in the same basketball ministry where they first heard about Jesus.

  • Servant Hearts

    Amasay and Laura eagerly joined the Push the Rock team during the summer camps, serving every day of the event.

  • Love of the Game

    Amasay’s loves of basketball drew him to the camps four years ago. Now he shares his passion for basketball and his passion for Jesus with the young campers.

  • A Big Draw

    The Push the Rock camps began with just a handful of campers at one gym. Now summer camps are held in four locations on the island, run by local volunteers and others from Spain, nearby cities and Guatire Venezuela.

  • Good Sports

    Basketball gives coaches and camp volunteers a platform to talk about their faith in a non-threatening way with children and their families. Mentoring and discipling the campers is just as important as playing the game.

Proudly wearing their green and white t-shirts that say “Push the Rock,” Amasay and his wife Laura stand on a basketball court in Santa Ursula, a small town on the Canary Island of Tenerife. Just four years earlier, Amasay stood on this same court wearing a different jersey, eager to play basketball with his local team against a group of U.S. university students, but not interested in their talk about Jesus.

Now playing for a Push the Rock team, Amasay prays out-loud at the camp’s closing ceremony while friends from his former basketball team watch quietly nearby.

Amasay and Laura’s journey to faith started in June 2009, when the Fountain of Peace and Hope Christian Church in Santa Ursula invited Push the Rock, an international sports ministry, to lead a summer basketball camp.

“Europeans love sports, and this is a great place to do basketball outreach,” says TEAM missionary Dave Belch, who served in Venezuela for 30 years with his wife Lois before they moved to Tenerife in 2009 to help plant a new evangelical church.

Popular with tourists, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, just off the African coast of Morocco. Primarily Roman Catholic by culture, its people are a blend of indigenous, Spanish and Latin American influences, owing to the island being a key stop on colonial trade routes between Spain and South America.

Summer basketball camps have been an integral part of growing the Tenerife church. What started as a small event led by the U.S.-based Push the Rock has grown quickly over the years. With increased participation by believers from Venezuela and the Santa Ursula church, Push the Rock continues to have an impact on the growth of the gospel.

“Persistence, being present, and letting people know that we care for them has just opened up a lot of doors,” says Belch, who happily reports that his church now has 70 to 80 regular attenders. “God is bringing people along.”

Amasay is one of those people. He had been coming to play basketball against the Push the Rock team for a few years. During the camp in June 2012, his live-in girlfriend Laura showed up to watch. She was intrigued by the message of Christ the team was sharing at the camp and during the evening games. On the sideline, Laura met a church member named Lourdes, who invited Laura to church. Laura and her daughter began attending church activities, and Lourdes and Laura started a discipleship study together. Lourdes noticed that Laura wrote on her study guide, “July 19, 2012, I was born again.”

Amasay accompanied Laura and her daughter to church worship services and activities. But the more she studied the Bible, the more she felt convicted that living with Amasay in an unmarried relationship was not God’s best plan for her. That didn’t sit well with Amasay.

“Amasay saw that this could potentially separate him from his girlfriend and wasn’t happy about it,” Belch says. “He considered himself to be intelligent, self-sufficient, and honorable. But then, as he puts it later, he realized he was hanging on to a dirty glass of water, until he realized that Jesus offered him a crystalline clear glass of water. God worked in his heart, and the decision he made in January 2013 to follow Jesus has deepened.”

Amasay and Laura were married in February 2013, exchanging vows and declaring their allegiance to Christ in front of about 100 friends, 80 of whom were unbelievers. They were baptized in May and are now raising their children to follow Christ. And according to Belch, the couple is passionate about sharing their faith with their unsaved family and friends.

Amasay has come full circle. He recently approached Belch and asked to be a part of the 2013 summer basketball outreach — not as a player for his local team, but as part of the ministry team.

“He and Laura joined us every day for the entire two-week event, and they were instrumental in bringing people to the Lord during camp,” Belch says. “After the basketball camps concluded, many of the Santa Ursula campers joined a day camp with Amasay and Laura for two more months.”

-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos provided by Dave Belch and Steve Albrecht