Ben Zobrist’s Baseball Tournament, a Lacrosse Program from a Committed Christian Athlete and Ukrainian Sports Bibles All Help Share Love and Hope of Christ
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—For more than six decades, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) has been driven by its vision and mission to see the world transformed by Jesus through the influence of coaches and athletes, and to lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Christ and His church.
This reach is also going global, with FCA now ministering in 73 countries around the world. Over the past several years, the doors of Ukraine have been opened further to the ministry of FCA, which has made impact there through both baseball and lacrosse.
First, Chicago Cubs World Series-winning outfielder and second baseman Ben Zobrist sponsored the fifth annual “Zorilla Cup” baseball tournament in Kiev earlier this month. Zobrist also recorded a special video for the Ukraine baseball coaches about the impact they have through baseball.
“Realize how special it is that you get to mold these young kids,” Zobrist told the Ukrainian coaches. “You get to help them grow as they play the game of baseball. What a blessing that is! Remember that it’s about growth and development, it’s not about wins and losses. Even at our level, we have to win and lose, but we really need to keep growing and learning. It’s about developing as a ballplayer but also developing as a person, and the character you’re helping these kids learn as they get older. Blessings to you and your teams!”
The Ukraine coaches were indeed moved by Zobrist’s words. One Ukrainian coach who was part of the baseball tournament shared, “I want my students to say the following words about me at the end of my life: ‘Thank you for a great impact on my life.’”
This spring’s “Zorilla Cup” tournament brought together 300 participants, eight teams, 16 coaches, six staff members and two churches with the goal to develop baseball and share the love of Christ in Ukraine. Through the sport of baseball, FCA representatives are able to meet new coaches, build relationships with existing coaches FCA has served for many years, and encourage both coaches and athletes.
Secondly, FCA recently had the privilege of telling the moving story of a Ukrainian man whose life was changed through his faith in Jesus, his love for lacrosse and with the help of FCA. Vova Demediuk has used lacrosse to share Christ through FCA in Ukraine, even while enduring immense personal pain. His story is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of FCA Magazine.
In the summer of 2013, Demediuk had a great job in Rivne, Ukraine, as an engineer at a nuclear power plant. He was also newly married to his wife, Sveta. Something, however, was missing. Demediuk had recently become a Christian, yet he knew God had something deeper in store for his life. While most would have been content with the status quo, he was not, and felt a burning desire to do more—and be more.
What brought about that change, ironically, was a burgeoning relationship with FCA and an unexpected love affair with a sport he barely knew existed—lacrosse. That sent him down a winding road that, at the end, revealed God’s redeeming nature.
It all began when Demediuk met FCA Ukraine director Andriy Kravtsov at an FCA Camp hosted at Kravtsov’s church. Demediuk’s relationship with the Lord had grown even stronger, and so had his desire to make a significant career change, which led to a pivotal moment with Kravtsov over coffee, when he exclaimed, “I want to be part of FCA! I want to start a lacrosse ministry!”
Why lacrosse? There were no lacrosse players in Ukraine that Demediuk knew of, but he saw the sport on YouTube and was hooked. He learned everything he could about the sport and looked for places to play, without much success. Eventually, he found someone to coach him so he could become a better player, and in turn, be able to coach others.
Demediuk’s dream grew, and by March 2014, he hosted the first lacrosse tournament in Ukraine. Three teams from Kiev participated, although none were able to field a full squad. Demediuk played for one team and served as a referee for other games. Most importantly, the event served as an evangelism opportunity.
“Our team could openly share the love of Christ,” Demediuk told FCA. “This tournament was a real breakthrough in Ukrainian lacrosse as a whole. Some teams were lacking in equipment, but thanks to Dan Britton [FCA Executive Director of International Ministry] and the whole FCA Lacrosse team, we could share our gloves, helmets and sticks with them. It was a historic moment for lacrosse in Ukraine.”
Demediuk’s love for lacrosse, however, was put on hold when his pregnant wife, Sveta, was diagnosed with leukemia. The Ukraine church community, as well as the FCA lacrosse community, rallied around Demediuk with financial contributions, love and prayers. Ultimately, the Vova and Sveta’s baby, Nicole, was born prematurely, and after a short time of remission, Sveta passed away.
“Vova is one of my heroes of the faith,” Britton said. “Even though he has been through so many trials, he has grown in his faith as a result and continues to shine for Jesus. Vova always has the joy of the Lord in his heart, and his big smile always gives you the assurance that God is in control of his life. His vision to spread lacrosse throughout Ukraine and impact coaches and athletes has given him a foundation of purpose and hope to overcome the trials.”
Continue reading Vova Demediuk’s story here.