From an article by Emmanuel Church Oxford
Each week on a Thursday night 7-8pm at a local Leisure Centre, Emmanuel Church volunteers gather up to 25 teenagers from almost as many different countries to play football.
They partner with a local refugee charity - Refugee Resource. Refugee Resource aims to relieve distress, improve well-being and facilitate the integration of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants – mainly in Oxfordshire – by providing psychological, social and practical support.
Teens come and play football with others who are in similar situations. The aim is to create a space where all are welcome and included no matter how good their football is, how good their English is or if they are on their own.
Over the last year, they report that it has been amazing to see how those involved have developed their friendships on a Thursday night and through the week. Many of them have brought friends who have been welcomed by everyone else, and it has been amazing to see the acceptance and patience they have for each other.
While most of the hour goes by with shouts in many different languages, everyone appears to understand each other. Each week there is a lot of joy and laughter among the attendees. This has helped a lot in the last few months as new people have come along and have been integrated into the group incredibly well and quickly.
From an outreach perspective, it is very difficult to explicitly share their faith with the attendees due to the nature of the agreement they have with Refugee Resource. They are looking for opportunities to demonstrate God's love with the people that turn up each week.
So perhaps a few learning points:
1. The coalescing power of a game of football to attract people across cultures and language.
2. The restrictions imposed by partnership with a secular charity - such outreach should be done independently if possible.
3. The friendships that develop through such an initiative especially with young people
4. Opportunities for invitation to other events
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