For Diane Davis it all started with prayer, and then a conversation — and then confirmation that God was really at work.
“I was working at our food distribution with one of the young people at our church, and I didn’t know him well, so I was asking him questions,” said Davis, children’s director at Concord Church in Calera, which will officially change its name to Hope Mountain Church Sept. 12.
“I asked him what God was doing in his life.”
Davis learned two things. First — God had called him at a young age to be a missionary. Second — he loved soccer and wanted to use it to share the gospel.
That got Davis’ wheels turning.
The leadership team at Concord already was praying and thinking about ways they could use the summer to engage the community through outdoor activities. And from the moment Davis had that conversation, soccer was a recurring theme in her life. Men she talked to at church told her they coached soccer. More youth in the church mentioned they loved soccer.
It wasn’t long before the congregation decided to flesh out what clearly was God’s idea, and Davis started organizing a soccer “drills and skills” camp for July. Every Wednesday night that month, some 50 volunteers from the church across all age groups came together to put on the free camp.
Opportunity to connect
Pastor Deric Thomas said most of the church was involved, from serving on a prayer team to planning to organizing to buying supplies and equipment and, of course, coaching.
That included the young man who gave Davis the idea in the first place.
Each Wednesday night camp included drills, snacks and devotional and gospel presentations. The first night, 50 kids showed up, and as they invited friends, that number increased, Thomas said.
Davis noted that of all the children who attended, maybe only five already were connected to the church.
“What an opportunity to share with people,” she said.
As the kids played, volunteers including Juan and Juliana Felipe walked around and spent intentional time connecting with families. The fact that the Felipes were there was another clear sign of the hand of God on the whole situation, Thomas said.
“With the high level of Spanish-speakers in Shelby County, we had been praying for God to raise up leaders for a Spanish ministry,” he noted.
Then Brian Harper, an associate in the office of associational missions and church planting for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, reached out to Concord to see if a potential church planter from Texas could use their church’s pastorium until he and his wife discovered where God was calling them to plant.
That man was Juan Felipe.
“They were with us all summer,” Thomas said. “He was one of the coaches at our camp, and his wife was going around engaging the Spanish-speakers and inviting them to the Bible study they started at the taco stand in Calera.”
Concord now provides the Felipes with support, hoping the Bible study will grow into a church plant out of their congregation.
They’re also hoping the camp will help build relationships in the community.
Davis said after the four weeks of soccer camp, Concord hosted an awards night they used as “more of a remembrance of what God did for us during this time — making friends, providing good weather and a chance to share the gospel every week.”
Families from a variety of countries not only participated, but brought their own food to share.
“We felt like God-given connections were made,” Davis said.
She hopes many of the children will continue coming on Wednesday nights now that they’re connected — only now it will be for Awana, a program where they can learn more about Jesus on a weekly basis.
‘Continual disciple-making process’
Thomas noted many of the families at the camp already had been coming to the church’s drive-through food distribution for months. And since the soccer camp, they’ve had new families visit the church.
He said Concord prays all of it will be a continual disciple-making process.
And church members already are making plans for next year’s soccer camp.
“It was the birth of something that I think could become something even more special in the years to come,” Thomas said. “I think it was a fantastic thing for our church — the excitement for our people to see God do something to engage those who aren’t a part of our church and are in our community.”
Davis said she’d never seen God work in such a specific way as He did to bring the soccer camp and everything around it together.
“I’ve seen Him work over my years, but this was definitely God, and I give Him all the glory,” she said. “I know He is wanting this church to be a place where people can come and be loved and discipled and go out and reach other people. God is bringing it together — we are just His hands and feet.”