A pocket-sized prayer book is making an impact in top-level sport in South Africa. In the Q&A interview below JP Flugel finds out more about this phenomenon from Bruce Nadin sports chaplain and author of the Call Up Competitors Prayer Book which has reached more than 6 000 athletes across sporting codes to date
First of all, what is Call Up?
The Call Up Competitors Prayer Book is a pocket-sized colour book designed to help sports people connect with God and experience His purpose for life and sports in the good times and the tough. It meets pastoral needs, discipleship challenges, and has massive potential to introduce sports people to the hope-filled message and life-giving person of Jesus Christ.
The book contains prayers for a variety of moments familiar to competitors including:
• before and after competition
• before and after training
• for times of challenge including injury, dealing with criticism, loss of form and more
• for relationships with teammates and coaches
It also contains scan codes with links to other Gospel-related content for sports people.
What was the inspiration for the book?
The genesis of the idea was sown over three years ago. I was chaplain at Ajax Cape Town Football Club and had invited former Bafana Bafana international and German Bundersliga winger Delron Buckley to come and share his story with the players. At the end one of the players who had shared a dressing room with him at Maritzburg United asked him why he used to take a small book with him to the bathroom after the warmup. He replied by saying how a pastor had once given him this little pocket prayer book. He would take it with him everywhere and find a quiet place before games to open the book which helped him to pray. I noticed that the energy changed in the room. I sensed that many of the players were thinking: “I would like a book like that.”
Later that day Delron showed me the book. The content was great, but not sport specific. It got me thinking: what about producing a pocket book that was written specifically for high performance athletes, that was Gospel-centered, helped athletes to connect with God, and that focused on God’s purpose for life and sport?
So how did the concept grow from this initial moment of inspiration?
Over the next year or so I wrote prayers in response to real-life situations that individual sports people were facing. The feedback was tremendously positive. A year later we contacted numerous sports people from various sporting codes to get their input on what prayer themes they thought should be prioritised and covered in a book of this nature. Athlete involvement was essential in the process, and I believe a huge reason behind its success.
So what are the main aims of the book?
Firstly, it’s a pastoral tool. At Sports Chaplaincy South Africa we exist to provide excellent pastoral care to people of all faiths and none. The prayers in this book provide Gospel encouragement, strength and hope for sports people seeking God amid the many ups and downs that life and sport throw up.
Second, it’s a discipleship tool. Prayer is a part of the cultural landscape of South African sport. Many teams pray together before and after games. Many spiritualities and worldviews inform this life of prayer. Not all of these are beneficial. The aim of this book is to disciple sports people by providing them with a vocabulary of prayer that is Christ centered and focuses on God’s purpose, not our ours!
Finally, its an evangelistic tool. Imagine a sports person who is following Jesus using this book before training and games. Imagine the conversations that it leads too. They are not on their phone but are quietly reading a small book. Imagine resourcing that sports person with copies of Call Up so that they can give away copies as a “tract”. Imagine the Gospel impact as these teammates or training partners are introduced through these prayers to the God who wants to be involved in their lives and sport. We have many testimonies of God doing precisely that, including one our of professional footballers who played in India and was able to share the book with teammates of other faiths including Hindus!
So what are sports people saying about the book?
Here are comments from two elite sports people — and you can read more on the web page https://www.callupsport.org.za/stories/
“This book is a gift to sports people like me because I know that my faith and my sport can’t be separated.’ — Brandon Petersen, South African International and PSL Soccer Player
“Being away from home and competing on the International stage can be lonely. Call Up contains prayers that help you to address God and remind you that He is with you always.” — Rikenette Steenkamp, South African 100m Hurdles Record Holder
What are the future plans for the Call Up book?
We will definitely need to work on a new print edition with fresh content, as our initial print run of 8 000 will run dry by the end of this year. Ultimately, we at Sport Chaplaincy South Africa have the vision to produce a variety of Gospel-centered resources for sports people across Africa.
In addition, a partner ministry is presently in the final stages of a French version which will be used in France and French-speaking Africa. The scope to reach hundreds of thousands of sports people across Africa and the world through this concept cannot be underestimated. We are trusting God for big things!
This all sounds very exciting! So how can people get involved and support the Call Up vision?
The project is non commercial. We crowd funded the first edition so that we could give the book to athletes and sports communities. The project relies totally on donations. If people want to support financially, they can go to our website at www.callupsport.org.za. Just click on the donate button and they will find the details there.