Updated: Apr 30, 2019
I vividly remember returning from a ministry trip to the USA on the 11th July 2002 and visiting the office we had setup in the office in the Rhondda, in the aftermath of the Million Hours of Prayer for Wales.
Phil Davies, Chris and Clive Jones, John Bullock and I usually had a Friday morning Prayer meeting, I'd been attending it at that point for around three years. The particular Friday concerned, I happened to be away and on my return Phil was so excited.
He relayed that John Bullock had posed a question the previous Friday - 'What would you try for God if you knew you couldn't fail ?' This set off an explosion of faith in Phil, who then started to unpack a vision to see a positive Christian role model put in front of every Child in the Rhondda, permanently. Phil had a background in marketing and PR, managing the communication for Treorchy, Cardiff and Newport Rugby clubs over the years.
As he shared with me the strategy that he'd envisioned, we rattled our brains as to the name, with Phil proclaiming 'Sporting Marvels'. We immediately bought the domain name and then started to setup the website.
The buzz it created in the office was amazing. We used the email list developed through the Million hours of Prayer to get people praying and we advertised for overseas Christian sports coaches through the new website. We also sought endorsement for the idea from many larger Christian ministries.
Within months the first workers arrived from South Africa, then Malawi and the USA.
We were offering essentially free Christian sports coaches to local Primary and Secondary schools - they loved it as for them it was and still is extra help in schools as well as providing children with a great moral compass along the way.
Years have gone by now and literally tens of thousands of children have gone through the Sporting Marvels system. The workers also input into the PSE (Pastoral) lessons of the school, which allows them to input into the spirituality of the childrens lives in line with the National Curriculum.
What's there now after seventeen years is quite an enterprise. Lawrie Davies is now the Managing Director, Phil being the founder and Executive Chairman. Lawrie has trained up through the ranks of Sporting Marvels to the exceptional leader he is today. The organisation has a young mentoring programme, and intern programme and the staff training process. There has been for some time a more local focus for Marvel workers as the overseas input has changes as the younger children grew up and became Marvels themselves.
A Church has been planted (Dream Centre Wales) and Rhondda Netball setup, which is already the largest female participation sport in Wales. There's an overseas missions work called Heart for Africa and a couple of small businesses helping to fund the vision.
It would have been hard to imagine all of this in the beginning, except that we had a prophetic word from Ariel Kim, as we were exploring the idea. Phil and I had visited Harold Caballeros Transformations conference in Guatemala. Ariel's prophesy suggested the Rhondda would be the example of what wholesale community transformation would look like, and the guys at Sporting Marvels have believed and have work toward that ever since.
Hundreds of children have made a profession of faith, and over £2 million has been raised to fund the project over that time. As I visit there now, I just get excited as the are not just sowing seed into the lives of thousands of children in these two South Wales valleys they are seeing the harvest of their efforts and prayers.
Vision most of the time takes Prayer, Passion, Patience and Persistence. Even when the rough times come, it's then that the belief in the vision is tested and strengthened. In their 17th year Sporting Marvels operates in virtually every primary and secondary school in the Rhondda, something that has taken a long time to build. Every child is given a Bible and things like summer camp can be booked up within days. I is simply an amazing example of how Christians can be and should be useful in society.
Take a look at www.sportingmarvels.com for more information.