Full-time under 30: I never thought my love for soccer would become my mission field
Titus Wong, Singapore Youth For Christ // July 31, 2020, 9:31 pm
All images courtesy of Titus Wong.
One of the life goals that I set in secondary school was to be involved in sports when I grew up.
Since young, I was athletic, though scrawny, always sacrificing my break times to run around playing catching, hopscotch and various other games.
After the 2010 World Cup, I found a sport I enjoyed, football. It has since become a passion of mine.
I joined the football team in junior college, and despite not having prior football coaching or training, I became part of the first team by Year 1. By Year 2, I had made it to leadership. I felt like I was on the “right” track.
But one of the tensions I lived with was not knowing how my love for sports would ever translate into serving God. Having grown up in a Christian family that attended a small independent church, I had many opportunities to serve – but this was largely separated from the rest of my life.
Serving God was a “church” thing, whereas sports was a “me” thing.
Believe me, I tried to live as a “Christian in sports”, trying to be clean in my speech and actions on the field, but beyond that, I couldn’t shake off the thought that I was compartmentalising my life.
Upon completing junior college, I had a break before National Service. It was at this time that I was introduced to Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC).
Naturally, I joined the Sports and Adventure Ministry in a programme called Project Serve, which is a full-time ministry opportunity for young people who have a short break before their next phase of life, in poly, university or National Service.
It was during this time that I was exposed to football coaching and using my God-given passion for sports to further His Kingdom. That’s when I started recognising that my passion and talents were a part of the way God has uniquely created me, and I was to honour God with what He has given me.
As said by a quote attributed to Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
I remained as a volunteer with SYFC after completing Project Serve, and even joined as a part-time staff while completing my university degree.
Instead, it took me leaving the country (and the ministry) for six months. I was away on a student exchange programme, and this time away allowed me the space to consider carefully what I was getting myself into if I decided to go full-time with them upon graduation.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
There were many considerations, but one thing that stood out to me was the impact I had on the lives of those I did ministry with.
At that point, I was influencing the youths in the ministry but it felt like head knowledge; I had not really understood what it meant, until the time we spent apart.
The kids I coached, 15-year-old boys, were the ones who created a chat group to say goodbye to me when I went away. Close to the time I was returning, they initiated contact with me, saying they missed me and hoped to see me back soon.
It might seem a simple innocuous gesture from them, but it was then I realised the impact I had over the lives of these impressionable young people as a coach, but more importantly, as an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
And after years of not knowing how the dots connected, I could see how, through this role, I was able to honour God who created me with these talents and passions that I had, and to use them for His glory. It really was the best use of my talents.
When I decided to go full-time with SYFC after graduation, it took my parents some time to understand that this was now my full-time job and no longer a stint on the side, though they are Christians too. I remember how my mum asked me out of concern if I needed referrals for job interviews six months into my work!
But I have to say for inexpressive Asian parents, they have developed a high level of support for the ministry, even supporting some of the other staff financially.
In the seven years I’ve now spent at SYFC, I’ve faced countless setbacks: cancelling events due to low attendance, having days when I just don’t feel like I have the capacity to meet and coach my youths… But the highs are what keeps me going strong.
Bringing the gospel to thousands of young people through various big events, the relationships forged over tough coaching sessions and even the simple “yes” from a non-Christian to do Bible study together. I have seen the hand of God working in and through my life first-hand to reach His young people.
A verse I have chosen to live by in ministry is found in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23.
“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
For Paul, this meant how he lived among the people. For me, this meant expanding my interests and my area of influence to love and impact more young lives with the gospel.
Starting with football, expanding into ultimate frisbee, sport climbing, slacklining, dance, organising events and now even gaming, I’m thankful that being young has allowed me to pursue these different passions and activities.
So be unafraid to pursue your varying interests, but pursue them rightly, not just going through the motions, and excellently, for in doing so lies our worship to God.
Titus serves in the E.D.G.E. Ministry (Evolving and Digital Generation Evangelism) within Singapore Youth for Christ. The aim for E.D.G.E. is to find ways and means to reach the evolving and digital youths of today and tomorrow with the gospel.
THINK + TALK
- What are some of your gifts and talents?
- How have you used them to glorify God?
- Have you ever wondered how these gifts fit into God’s call on your life?