Growing up, sports were a huge part of IMB worker Wes Blakely’s world. In high school he lettered in three sports. He continued to play at the collegiate level. After college, he was a volunteer coach.
Now, sports play just as big of a part in his ministry on the mission field.
Blakely has been coaching sports in a school and a few clubs in Central Asia where he serves. Through this, he’s seen a number of people become curious about the Christian faith and some even turn to Jesus.
But, Blakely couldn’t foresee the far reach of his ministry, in this Central Asian country where he lives with his wife and kids. Recently, he received the opportunity to influence thousands of coaches at all levels around the country.
Desiring better performances after the latest Olympics, government leaders heard that American athletes were living in the region. They figured this might be their solution.
The invitation was extended for Blakely and friends in the U.S. to bring their expertise in athletics and training. They’d be given influence over thousands of coaches. Whatever curriculum they developed would be passed on and others would follow it.
Blakely never hides the fact that he is a Christian and that his faith shapes what he teaches and how he coaches.
He shares that sports, coaching, athletics — all of it — should be seen from a biblical worldview. In sports, an athlete pursues excellence, has a competitive spirit, aims to win, but people are to be valued above all else. Most importantly, as with everything in life, it should all be used for God’s glory.
Training that will eventually reach thousands of coaches has already begun. The prayer is that this teaching influences coaches, who in turn influence athletes, who then influence society.
“We weren’t looking for this opportunity,” Blakely said. “We were praying for the Lord to use sports to influence people, but we had no idea that this door was going to be opened. We realized, ‘Okay, God you are way bigger than we realize, and you’re seeking to reach this whole society.’”
He had been praying for God to move among the people where he and his wife live and work. They planted their lives there, and Blakely has been praying for a harvest for nearly 20 years, the entire time he’s been serving in the area.
While Blakley has other big dreams, like seeing one church planted for every 1,000 people in a city where hundreds of thousands reside, he’s taken heart that this opportunity for gospel access has been opened, especially after so many years of waiting for a harvest. He will keep running the race before him.