In January 2020, planning sessions revealed potential to expand this evangelistic partnership between BMM and churches in the Dominican Republic. But COVID-19 made ¡Playball! an impossibility in both 2020 and 2021. When a ministry relying on volunteers must cancel two years in a row, recruitment gets challenging. If ¡Playball! were forced to cancel a third time, would the ministry survive?
The ministry’s host churches in the Dominican Republic say that ¡Playball! is part of who they are, and the inroads it’s given into their community have been unparalleled. Without hesitation, these churches jumped on board for 2022. Back in the US, 14 veteran ¡Playball! instructors and seven “rookies” took the same risk—and it paid off. From August 1–5, more than 750 Dominican boys ages 8–13 not only learned valuable baseball skills, but they and their Dominican coaches also heard the gospel clearly presented. Host churches have reported more than 210 professions of faith.
Like so many men, ¡Playball! Director Dave Ferguson (banner photo, front row, left) carries fond memories of childhood pick-up baseball games. He knows there’s a special place in the heart of a boy for the man who plays baseball with him. While many South American countries live and breathe soccer, baseball reigns supreme in the Dominican Republic. That’s why ¡Playball! is an ideal partnership ministry. Baptist Mid-Missions recruits US volunteers who work in conjunction with Dominican churches and leaders to provide baseball instruction and gospel presentations.
At each ¡Playball! site, boys rotate through six stations: infield, outfield, hitting, throwing, base running, and gospel station. Dave says, “A ¡Playball! guy loves the Lord, loves souls, and loves the game. That kind of man earns the boys’ ears to hear the gospel.” One of 2022’s gospel station leaders, Coach Beltre, exemplifies the fruit of ¡Playball! Eight years ago, he was one of many Dominican coaches who brought his team to ¡Playball! A coworker had kept telling him he should be going to church—and her church turned out to be his ¡Playball! host church. A few weeks after Coach Beltre started attending, he was saved, and he has grown steadily since then. This year, his host church wholeheartedly recommended Coach Beltre as its gospel station leader. It was a profound, full-circle moment for the ministry.
Another poignant moment was the remembrance of the first ¡Playball! coach to enter heaven: Dan Riley. From his first season volunteering in 2008, Dan was hooked. He was the kind of guy who served in virtually every ministry at his church, and he was an avid baseball and softball player. His wife, Sharon, observed, “Of all the ministries he’s been involved in, this was the best. It put all the pieces together—baseball with boys, sharing Christ, and evangelizing coaches.”
Dan was known as an “instructor’s instructor.” You could point to him and say, “This is how it’s done.” Dan greatly desired to be part of this year’s season, but last fall he developed untreatable stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Dan concluded that his earthly work was done, sharing with many: “I’m going to see Jesus.” In tribute to Dan, ¡Playball! instructors wore wristbands in his memory, and they challenged participants to make sure they’re ready to meet Jesus. A host church made a DVD about Dan’s life, and it got a standing ovation at ¡Playball!’s closing ceremony held for the boys, their coaches, and family members.
Also last fall, a man in one of the host churches entered heaven. Had he died 15 years ago, his eternal destination would have been far different. Through attending ¡Playball!, his son was saved. His daughter and wife later came to Christ, then he and his father—a family forever changed by the gospel. That is the amazing ripple effect of this ministry. With the number of people it has reached over the years, hundreds more will one day share in heaven how ¡Playball! introduced them to Jesus.
A Creation museum in Peru, a brand new podcast, and more. This year saw new ministries spring up that will better equip workers to advance the gospel worldwide.
Our God has a tender heart for the hurting people of this world. And so do you. That’s why you gave so generously in 2022 to World Relief.