Sports are a universal element in all cultures. Bringing people together, no matter their origin, background or economic status is the reason the International Sports Federation (ISF) exists, serving to bring life, hope and the love of Jesus to the world through the world of sports. ISF creates mission opportunities for people looking to share their faith with others through their gifts and talents, and sends teams around the globe to participate in sporting events, global gatherings and serve in humanitarian aid. For 29 years, more than 18,000 people have served 164 countries, and their sports missions have touched 550,000 lives.
ISF mobilizes people who have a heart for others and a thirst for adventure. Each year, the nonprofit receives requests from missionaries, churches, orphanage administrators, government officials and sports professionals who desire a team of volunteers to assist them. ISF is a connection between those needing volunteers and volunteers who desire to serve on the mission field through sports like baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf and more.
Serving on a sports mission project gives students and adults an opportunity to bring encouragement to those most in need, from facilitating vacation Bible school in orphanages to providing recreational opportunities at medical clinics and national level sports clinics. “I can’t thank ISF enough for taking a teenager from Arkansas out of the country for his very first time almost 11 years ago,” said volunteer Brett Bagwell. “My life was forever changed, and I’ve been on fire for serving Jesus and passionate about reaching his people ever since. I pray for another trip with ISF someday soon.”
Ian, a golf tournament participant at St. Andrews, Scotland, shares his experience: “This tournament was one of the most memorable and pleasurable golfing days of my life. Everything from the communication, last minute team adjustments for my brother’s stressful flat tire incident, welcome arrival, surprise goody bag, golf, electric golf carts, meal and friendship was all awesome and greatly appreciated. My big brother and I tend to disagree a lot about trivial things when we are together, but this golf event brought a lot more harmony and peace between us than normal. I hope my brother has received a seed of information from the event that will lead him to Christ in the near future.”
Cherokee resident Cheryl Wolfinger was a 27-year-old country kid from eastern Oklahoma when she was challenged to develop a new, global, sports-focused organization. Using her experience as a college and international-level basketball player, Cheryl served a domestic sports ministry before she accepted the challenge to launch ISF in 1993. “Serving a nonprofit for almost 30 years has been no easy task,” she said. “There have been many peaks and valleys, including a battle with stage 4 cancer in 2004.
“After claiming victory over cancer, I was happy to be alive. To build myself back up, I started walking, which led to hiking, backpacking and kayaking. For our 20th anniversary fundraiser, I thought it would be a great idea to lead a team of climbers up Mount Kilimanjaro! We hiked a total of 60 miles. It took six days to go to the top and two days to come back down. The 24 team members raised $10,000 each. I continued to challenge myself. To raise money in 2015 for even more adventures, I rode a bicycle 3,100 miles from San Diego, California, to St. Augustine, Florida. I believe using sports is one the best tools to build lasting relationships. Here at ISF, we give people the opportunity to invest in others and, over the years, I have discovered international travel makes us much better citizens.”
ISF headquarters are located at 4801 Wade Green Road, Acworth. To learn more, visit sportsmissions.com. Trips in 2024 include Greece, Malawi, Northern Ireland and the Paris Summer Olympics. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or call 770-424-5781.
– Susan Schulz is a Bible teacher and mentor who lives and plays on the Etowah River in Canton. Connect with her on social media or at susanbrowningschulz.com.