Hiroshima Carp

Sometimes you don’t know how God is going to use certain decisions or experiences. A little over a month ago, one Saturday, instead of taking Isaiah to his normal program for baseball here in San Pedro, I took him to Boca Chica and he played with Jesus (Willie’s son) in his program in downtown Boca Chica.

That day I was helping to organize the kids into teams with another dad whose kid was there. Him and I started talking and it turns out he coaches for the Hiroshima Carp, the only Japanese Academy in the Dominican, which also happens to be directly next to my house in San Pedro.

Him and I got to talking about what I did, and he asked if I would be interested in doing some chaplaincy with the players and coaches with the Carp. That next week I visited one of there practices, where via a translator (who is also a coach) I was able to talk with the manager of the team about the ministry. The manager only speaks Japanese, and the coach Spanish and Japonese. I also sat down and had coffee with the administrator of the academy, a very kind young Japanese man who speaks Spanish to talk about how to get involved in ministry at the academy.

Now for the past month I have been able to serve as the chaplain at the academy. Every Thursday morning I am there and pre-practice we are walking through Scripture towards the Gospel.

The reason I included languages and cultures in this post is twofold. First, the language of baseball can supersede literal language. Every person in the conversation can be united via the game, whereas in most other contexts those relationships would not take place. Second, Japan is a place largely opposed to the Gospel. Via the game of baseball people are being united on a small island in the Caribbean around a game, with the possibility of eternal ramifications across the globe.

The final exciting piece of the puzzle is Will Thompson. Will and I met in the Dominican a few years ago, and Will and his wife Kimberly serve with FCA in Tokyo. I was also able to reconnect with Will in Thailand in February. I look forward to the day when one of these young Dominican kids in the academy comes to a real encounter with the living God, goes to Japan to play, gets connected with Will and we see people in Japan coming to faith! Pray with me towards this end!

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The Story of a coach

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“Moreno” in the Blue LA hat with Victor Sanchez

The first time I met Alfredo Gotier Guerrero, or “Moreno” as he is lovingly called, he was sharing a devotional with his players before the start of practice. When I arrived he called me over and asked if I would like to jump in, and together we talked about the Gospel and the sacrifice of Christ. This was over a year ago now, and I have spent other times with Moreno and his players at his field behind the local friend chicken joint in downtown San Pedro de Macoris.

Over the past number of years Moreno, a 51 year old coach, has had his life impacted by Jesus Christ through the ministry of presence and discipleship of Victor Sanchez, one of our staff members in San Pedro. Moreno grew up in San Pedro, playing around the outskirts of the city in different brutally impoverished sugar cane villages called “Bateys”  before being selected nationally to play for the country when he was 16 years old. He never signed professionally and instead started coaching and training players in 1996 as a way to make a living. Over the course of his career he has had 23 of his players sign professional contracts, and one rising all the way to the Major League level, but that is not the important stuff, what Jesus has done in his life is what counts.

Victor started playing for Moreno years ago, when Moreno was chasing women and alcohol. Victor specifically remembers times that women would come to the field, in fits of anger, looking for Moreno while Moreno was hiding and having his players or other coaches tell the women that he was not at the field that day. But on the 22 of October 2009 at 11:45 am that changed. Moreno gave his life to Jesus, and nothing has been the same since.

Moreno recognized Victor’s calling spiritually before Victor. Even telling Victor on multiple occasions that God was going to use him in a mighty way. Now years later, Victor and Moreno’s relationship has transformed, from player and coach, to “hermanos en Cristo” with Victor now spending time in the Word with Moreno at the field where they used to train together.

Moreno credits his time with Victor and their discipling relationship with his change as a man and as a coach. Moreno shared with me this morning, that where he used to be a perverse and angry man, the Lord has changed his attitude and his character as he seeks intimacy with the King.

Now at this little field in San Pedro, every day before practice Moreno is leading his team in discipleship time and prayer, telling me that he is much more concerned that their names are written in the Book of Life than on a professional contract. As well, Victor and Moreno are making Jesus famous as they engage in Bible studies with other coaches, sharing with them the change that Jesus has made in their lives.

As I finished up my time with Moreno and Victor this morning, I looked over and next to the dugout, with rocks, Moreno has spelled out “Cristo Salva” (Christ Saves) as a reminder for his players every time they step on the field.

 

School is Starting!

Many of you have played a huge role on our homeschool journey so I wanted to update you on what our plans are for this year and where we are headed! First I wanted to remind you all that we are SO thankful for your contributions this last school year as many of you helped buy us books and shared so much wisdom about homeschooling!

We ‘started’ our first day of school this Monday, I say ‘started’ for two reason, one being I’m learning that this schooling journey doesn’t really have to stop over the summer (at this age anyway!). The other reason because Monday was terrible! My expectations were much to high and Isaiah was not much in the mood to sit for any reading or write in the least! So Tuesday morning before the kids were up I backed tracked and reevaluated my heart, my homeschool goals and our purpose.

This year our goals are:

  1. Scripture memorization
  2. Read good children’s literature
  3. Learn more bible stories
  4. Gain more confidence in counting and writing 1-100.
  5. Writing our letters and starting to read short stories.
  6. Play with other kids on a (almost) daily basis and learn more Spanish through play.

While I haven’t chosen a specific curriculum to work from this year, I have compiled a list of good books from Five in a Row, some of Sarah Clarkson’s recommended childrens books, K12 Classics for Young Readers (Volume A), and The Children’s Book of Virtue (which is a reread from last year but we love it!). We read one story from the Jesus Storybook Bible everyday as well as are working on memorizing a bible verse each week. I have thought about doing the ABC Scripture Memory cards too. Numbers are usually reviewed on the go, when I need him to count out things for me at the grocery store, share legos with his brother, play hide and seek, etc. I say we do this everyday, but sometimes we miss a day because we have a team or we are all to grumpy. Sometimes we pack up and just go to the beach or the park instead.

Each week I pick one story from our list of books, then each day of that week we reread it. We talk about a different subject each day like science, math, bible, art, or geography, etc (this idea is from Five in a Row). For example, this week we are doing The Legend of the Dipper,  from the Classics for Young Children. On Monday we learned about droughts around the globe, Tuesday we talked about humility from Philippians 2, and Wednesday we learned all about constellations. Today we will look at water conservation and set up some buckets to collect rainwater. Tomorrow I’ll have him draw his own dipper and we will take about the art form used in our story.

Being a bit dyslexic myself, I get so anxious about reading! I doubt my ability to teach and worry if i’m not doing enough/doing to much often. So far Isaiah has almost memorized all of his letters and sounds, but refuses to put them together into words. Instead of pushing him, which I was totally doing during the summer, we are working through this part 2 of Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool.

I WAY overcomplicated this whole idea before I started school last year.  I quickly realized that more then the right curriculum, a strict schedule, or hours of planned activities  I want our family to create a culture of learning, a desire to adventure (through stories and reading), a knowledge of the Word of God,  serving others around us, and provide rhythms to help cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ (daily Scripture reading and prayer). I also love that we can really do this anywhere and that this isn’t just for our Zay but Eli can be a part of it too!

From the Orioles to the sandlot and all levels in between!

Mulling over the past few weeks, it’s interesting to see the similarities and differences between doing ministry within the game of baseball. I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Rochester, NY with the Rochester Ridgemen, one of the Athletes in Action teams in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. During those two weeks I walked through scripture with the team, teaching on theology, Spiritual life, work of the Holy Spirit, life of Christ, etc. while trying to lead the guys through seeing spiritual life through the lens of the game. Articulating spiritual truths in a way that baseball players understand and connect with, illustrating the depths of Scripture with the game of baseball.

Now we are back in the DR. Wednesday spending a few hours in the Orioles academy, with 17-23 year old professional players, connecting the game of baseball with the power of the Gospel and this morning being spent on a sandlot field in Boca Chica with kids ranging from 4-12 trying once again to articulate spiritual truths by illustrating with the game of baseball. Sure, the language (Spanish and English) changes, the context changes (beautiful turf fields to trash filled cow pasture), but the game and the Gospel remain the same. There are still four bases and a mound and Jesus is still the redeemer of souls and the giver of life. The Gospel has power on the sandlot, the Orioles academy and in the NYCBL. Jesus is God in all, and can use a trivial game to bring Himself glory.

Stateside Adventures

Hello from Team Sawyer in Naples, FL. We left the Dominican on the 14th of June for an adventurous month of travel around the United States.

Our adventure started in Atlanta with Abbie and the boys traveling on one flight and me traveling separately on a flight that left 30 minutes later (to and from the same Airport). We arrived in Atlanta safely however all of our bags did not. Thankfully within a day the airline located our bag with my suit for a wedding and all of Abbie and my clothes!

We were able to celebrate the wedding of Thomas and Ashley Floyd outside of Atlanta and spend time with friends and family in the area. It as well was great to have a board meeting for FCA DR coincide with our time in the States as I was able to sit on the meeting in person and not on the phone like normal.

We were so blessed by those who housed us, fed us, allowed us to use vehicles, and treated our family to special things!

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At the Floyd Wedding

 

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Thanks to the Shaheen we were able to enjoy Suntrust Park, the new home of the Braves!
We are now in Naples, FL for the next week with my (Luke’s) family for some much needed down time. We are blessed by my grandfather owning a beach home that we are able to utilize. We just completed the 10 hour drive from Atlanta to Naples yesterday!

At the end of the month we will be traveling up to Rochester, NY to do two weeks of the discipleship program with the Rochester Ridgemen, the Athletes in Action team in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Updates to come!

FCA Houston and Man-Up

The last two weeks have been a blur in the Sawyer house. We were blessed to host 12 people from FCA Houston along with Eric Anderson who is the Regional International Coordinator for the area. This was a great opportunity for us to get some cross-pollination between our staff in the states and our staff overseas. We spent the week together, did ministry together, ate together, and played team building games together, with the goal of building relationships between our staff and the staff in our “Super Region” with FCA.

Arriving the next week we had “Man-Up and Go” a great organization that we started a partnership with this past year. Man-Up holds Biblical Masculinity conferences around the world. As an organization we have a similar heartbeat and it is great to be able to partner with them and train men on how to be men. We hosted this years conference in Santo Domingo at the Olympic Center and had around 25 coaches in the two-day event. We were blessed to see coaches rededicate themselves to loving their wives and children as well as see one coach come to faith for the first time. It is an honor to be able to walk with men through this journey!

A different kind of life.

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Its strange when you hit a point where you semi forget that you live overseas. The differences start to become new normals and you forget that this wasn’t what you grew up with your whole life. I have never been one to blog a lot about life here, but maybe the occasional post is good, so that if anyone is reading it they can get a little enjoyment out of the things that we get to experience.

Some things that have happened recently that are normal here; but have not always been normal:

  1. a man was walking his pig through our neighborhood, the neighbors rotweiller who roams the streets attacked said pig while it was on the leash.
  2. I watched a man on a motorcycle drive through downtown San Pedro at rush hour with a horse running behind him attached to a rope that was attached to his motorcycle.
  3. The phone company does not believe that I am me because on my passport it says Luke Andrew on one line, and Sawyer on the other. Thus my first and last names must be Luke Andrew which doest not match my drivers license which says Luke Sawyer….
  4. I can not pay my internet bill on the internet…

One thing that I will forever cherish about Dominican living is the things that I never dreamed I would ever experience are now things I take for granted and can’t really imagine life without them. It is amazing to look back on life while in the present and see the difference between the two. So glad I get to experience life in the Dominican (expect when I have to go to the phone company)!

 

What I love to do!

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Walking through Galatians together

This is what I love to do! Transitioning into my roll leading the ministry here in the Dominican Republic has been a difficult challenge for me over the course of the past six months. Often times my days are filled with administration, emailing, planning, strategizing, and overseeing, and often less filled with personal time, walking through life, discipleship, and Bible study with our guys.

This has been a real challenge for me as the reason we originally moved here was to focus almost entirely on that aspect. God has been teaching me a lot about looking for little moments, searching for the small victories, and stepping into what I feel gifted and called to do when I can, while taking advantage of the opportunities to learn in grow in areas I don’t necessarily enjoy.

My time with David has been one of those enjoyment categories, where I feel I get to step into my giftings 100% and focus that period of time in what I love. David and I have been studying through Galatians, in a study that was done with me by Bill Stothers (the man discipling me). Its a beautiful study on the Gospel, the idea of Christ + nothing, and the main message of the book of Galatians.

David and I have begun that study together, now a few weeks back, and it has been a beautiful time to walk through the Word with a man hungry for Truth! While at times I can feel overwhelmed with all that is going on, all the tasks that are before me, as I currently sit here and write while looking at my to-do list that is now eight things long for today (if I get 3 done its a win), I know that these moments become all the more special and I crave them on a weekly basis.

Pray for David and myself as we dig through the Word, pray our eyes would be opened continuously, our minds expanded, and our hearts united as we seek the Truth of the Gospel that never gets old!

3Dimensional Coaching.

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3Dimensional Coaching Workshop in Boca Chica

3Dimensional Coaching is a program that I believe could be foundational to the development of the next generation in the Dominican Republic. We have started to teach 3Dimensional Coaching over the course of the past few months and the reaction that we have been receiving from coaches and our staff has been amazing.

3D Coaching is a program designed by Jeff Duke at the University of Central Florida and has been passed to FCA as a prime building block in our coaching development program. The idea of 3D Coaching is that the majority of coaches focus on the fundamentals of sport, the x’s and o’s and they expect results by building athletes, however the reality is often times coaches miss the mental and spiritual components of the athlete. 3D Coaching seeks to train coaches on how to grasp the mental and spiritual component of sports, and speak life into their athletes. While 3Dimensional Coaching can be used on a secular level, the idea is that it is truly impossible to coach the heart or the spiritual component of an athlete if the Gospel is not the central focus. We seek to bring coaches to a place of recognizing their need for the Gospel and need for the Gospel to penetrate their hearts as well as the hearts of their athletes.

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2nd 3Dimensional Coaching workshop in San Pedro de Macoris

International Capacity Conference 2017

 

I just returned home from a week in Bangkok, Thailand connecting with FCA leaders from around the world in our annual International Capacity Conference.

This was a great experience for me to be able to sit in a room with sports ministry leaders from different parts of the world and share best practices, what is working around the world, and encourage each other as we seek to make Jesus famous through the platform of athletics.

It is amazing to see in just a few years how FCA has grown internationally, how the world is being impacted, and leaders from around the world are finding new and creative ways to impact the world for Jesus through sports!