Political unrest dragged the Karen people from their homes as their patty fields and barns were incinerated by the Burmese government.
Thailand native and sophomore exercise sports science major TJ Greeson once traveled to makeshift Karen villages nestled between the more than 8,000-foot peaks, which divided Burma and Thailand to share Christ through sports.
“These villages have schools set up for the children,” Greeson said. But often times, the parents were not so fortunate to make it to the refugee villages.
He continued, “Most of these children have seen their parents killed or imprisoned.”
In addition to hiking gear, Greeson toted his Bible and ball.
He was a senior in high school at the time in a sports leadership class, “which is learning how to be a Christian athlete,” he said.
Sports offered the Karen children a chance to connect with God and provided them a reprieve from the struggles they faced. Along the way, it taught them about one of the most important aspects of sports––attitude.
So, when creating a new ministry known as Called to Play, Greeson took to heart the belief that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.
“We bridge the gap between sports and Christ,” he said.
Greeson believes sports are a gift from God, meant for His glory.
“It’s all about attitude, godly attitudes, and how that can change their lives outside of sports,” he said.
Called to Play teaches biblical concepts to athletes like humility, respect for officials and positive, uplifting communication. The idea is that those attitudes benefit life’s other facets.
The ministry came to fruition over the summer, beginning with a conversation between Greeson and Junior Christian major Quinton Payton.
Philippians 3:14 surfaced as their guiding verse.
The New International Version says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Greeson said, “God has called us to do something with our lives.”
He believes the calling for those involved in this new ministry is to disciple children.
Right now, the group is comprised of about 15 to 20 students, but has hopes to grow.
“We are making a difference here and that’s exactly what UMHB wants from its students,” Payton said.
Called to Play held its first soccer camp March 29.
On Oct. 25, they will host a basketball in the Temple’s Canyon Creek area. “We like to get students in the range of 1st to 5th grades,” Payton said, “just because they are ready to soak in whatever we tell them and they look up to as role models.”
The ministry is in need of collegiate athletes, and is open to anyone who has a passion for sports and sharing their faith in God.
Those interested in joining the effort should contact Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Payton at email@example.com to find out more about upcoming events and how to get involved.