Soccer field

The goal of the Church of New York football field is to share the gospel

By SCOTT BARKLEY, Baptist Press

SYRACUSE, NY (BP) – Church basements are known for many things. Serving as a converted fellowship hall. Storage for old Sunday school materials or puppets from the 1970s. Strictly prohibited for lockdowns.

Pastor Bhim Biswa saw a different kind of potential for the Nepalese church in Syracuse. He serves in a region with many immigrants from Africa and Asia who, like him, love football. He also lives in upstate New York, where the winters aren’t the most hospitable for sports.

Given these two points, his idea was easy to present. That is, to transform the basement of his church into one.

Now in its second year of operation, the indoor soccer field at the Syracuse Nepalese Church has gained a significant foothold in the community. About thirty high school students take advantage of the training offered as well as four-on-four matches. Other groups formed their own teams for the competition, including members of the local police and military.

“The basement was useless before,” said Biswa, who is from Bhutan and planted the church in 2009. “So when we started sharing our idea, God heard our prayers.”

This led to PAL FC – Play And Learn Football Club. Several local high school players use it as a way to practice, with participants coming from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

“Our goal is to share the gospel with these children. One group ‘graduated’ from the league and all 20 heard the gospel,” Biswa said.

Time is set aside for scripture reading and prayer, with players encouraged to speak. Another connection is made between the Bible passage and a lesson about character.

The league was originally supposed to start in 2020, but COVID delayed it until last year. The teams capped off the season with a tournament.

“This winter we want to do more with the younger group, for girls and boys,” said Biswa, 42. “We recently christened a player, and that’s a definite point of awareness.”

He talked about the possibility of holding a type of camp that will be open for 8 to 10 weeks in early 2023, with participants stopping after school. Plans are to clear another space for ping pong tables and a music area.

One problem is that there is a need for volunteers to run it.

“We would have hundreds of kids every week, no doubt. They are looking for something to do,” Biswa said.

He focused on making disciples who can then serve in ministry. Recently, the church added another Nepalese pastor as well as one more suited to English-speaking teenagers. Biswa is also focused on building a ministry called GO, for Gospel Outreach.

“I want to go global,” he said. “My desire is to get people out. In September, we will have a first in our church when more than 50 people will be trained to share the Gospel. It is my desire.

His drive to raise awareness and evangelism goes all the way to the final whistle, so to speak.

“I’m going to die one day, right? ” he said. “It could be cancer, an accident or old age. But I will die one day. Why shouldn’t I die for the gospel? I want to die sharing the Gospel.