USA (MNN) – For Orlando Perez, athletics are more than a pasttime or hobby. They changed his life; now, they’re an outlet for sharing his faith.
Perez, a guest speaker hosted by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA, is a gym teacher and part time staff member of Athletes InterVarsity in Philadelphia. He uses his story to help disciple and encourage students.
Finding a New Path
Growing up, Perez felt worthless. His family was big, but most members were poor role models. Many of his relatives were incarcerated or had been deported for drug activity. That was the path he assumed he would follow as well.
So it was a shock when his doctor told him drugs did not have to be his end.
Perez explains, “There was a point when I was at the doctor’s office and he said, ‘If you don’t change your lifestyle, you’re going to be dead before you’re thirty, and coming from where I came from, I thought that that was going to happen through either selling drugs and getting caught up in that game. But it was just being inactive and so that that actually helped change my mindset.”
Sports became a way for Perez to leave behind destructive health habits and stay away from drugs. Coaches and sports mentors invested in Perez and helped him gain confidence in himself. Their impact changed him. Now, Perez wants to do the same for kids he teaches.
Sports and Missions
Recently, Perez took students with Athletes InterVarsity to Northern Uganda on a missions trip. They were helping start sports camps for refugee kids. While he was there, he realized he didn’t know the language, so he reverted to a gym teacher’s bread and butter; he began to use his whistle to teach kids how to play new games.
Within a few minutes, kids were playing and laughing. In the midst of a refugee camp, kids forgot the horrors they had seen and enjoyed being active.
“If play has this power,” Perez told his team, “imagine what prayer has the power to do. And so in that refugee camp, I saw the Gospel and was able to share the Gospel through play.”
For Perez, that is what sports help accomplish. They are a road to reaching people who need hope.
Whether sports is your passion or you’re interested in something else, Perez encourages believers to imitate the kindness and truth telling qualities of Christ to those who are hurting.
“You know Satan does a good job of just speaking lies and so being that he is the father of lies, having people in our lives to speak truth [matters]. It doesn’t always have to be this prolific moment. It could just be, ‘Hey I see you. You’re doing a great job.’ Or ‘I see what you’re doing.’ And getting to know the person and getting to know where they’re coming from [is important].”
Header photo courtesy of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA