So much goes on around International Christian Tennis Association headquarters in just a week. A picture collage I recently created and placed on my blog, www.christiantennisassociation.blogspot.com, represents a just small portion of the activities, but they do give an idea of the awesome time my students are having as they grow in their faith and in tennis! Every one of my students feels loved and cared about. They are all very happy and feel great about the positive growth occurring within. I am so glad to have the opportunity to be a part of their life story in this season of their lives.
When a student comes to train with me, my main discipleship focus is off the tennis court. These kids are not tennis academy students! They are disciples of Jesus Christ who happen to play tennis. Sure these kids hit for 4 to 5 hours a day!! Sure, the three WTA ranked players I coach hit crazy hard! Of course my guy's junior 15-17 team basically try to destroy the tennis ball every day twice a day!
And then there is 7am footwork training... mountain biking... flexibility... hours of ping pong working hand/eye coordination... balance training... massive core training... plyometrics... strength training in the hot Florida sun... and strong Florida tournaments on the weekend!!!
But, more important than the 5-7 hours a day, 5-6 days a week of world class tennis training is the hours and hours of they spend off court diving deeper into Christ! Bibles studies... Christian concerts... Christian leadership seminars... Sunday church... mission trips to famous professional tournaments... mission trips to their own junior tournaments where they compete... Christian videos... public speaking opportunities... Christian books studies... learning how to prepare a sermon... teamwork... accountability... transparency... and fellowship.
For those of you reading this in Eastern Europe, I know your life is difficult. I do read all of your emails. China, Iraq, Slovakia, Czech... I read all your emails and I know it is difficult for you. My prayer for you and for others worldwide is for you to know God is working to reach you. ICTA is being seen and our ministry is having influence over those in positions of power within the global tennis industry. People who have been afraid to speak of their faith in Jesus are becoming more bold! My recommendation to you reading this is to locate a Christian Bible and read it, then obey what you read. And when you play tennis in practice or in a tournament... SHINE for Him!
These Christian tennis missionaries serve as an example to you that God can use you to reach others! You are important and special. Let's take these pictures of my tennis missionary students & friends from the top left first row and go right...
Rachel and Melody Snelen with a friend in Atlanta who works in the Christian music industry.... Melody with a former 2003 ICTA academy student now competing on the pro tour, and a college girl the ICTA pro team helped lead to Christ...Melody Snelen and Emma with a Church youth group they spoke to Wednesday evening... 3 members of the Women's Pro Tennis Team with Breck Henderson, my friend of 8 years, and a Jewish girl who recently accepted Christ through God working through the pro team and two special tennis missionaries in Israel...... Mel playing pro tennis.
Second row... my special Ukrainian unofficially adopted daughter, Anastasia Kharchenko, and me... Shantel Tavita ready for Church... 13 year old Adam whose Dad is my friend and whose family have been my neighbors for the last 3+ years... pros and juniors I coach hanging out at my kitchen table... Newbs and Ana riding mountain bikes.
Third row... Mark from Mexico, who I have coached for a year, with Ana (almost 1 year) and Newb (3 years)... me and Ana by my Jeep after practice... Mark forehand... my boy's 11-14 tennis team... Shantel with WTA player friend.
Fourth row... Rachel Snelen and Melody Snelen with their 94 year old grandmother... Ana and Mel giving Bearby a bath in my front yard... Rach donating my Chevy Suburban to a pastor in Texas who will take it to Mexico and give it to a pastor without a car... amazing Emma working on a scrapbook... David from Australia smiling during practice.
Bottom row... Anastasia doing bookkeeping for me... Ana forehand... David and Newbs... Rachel Snelen forehand... Ana and Newbs.
I am so thankful for the many blessings God has given me. Just look at these terrific people! I am honored to call them my friends. Life truly is so short and I have come to cherish every moment I have with the students God has placed in my life. I've coached for over half of my life! I've coached kids who now have kids! Jordan, Justin, Toby, Elaine... they are all in their mid-20s now! Wow... and ouch.
A couple of quick notes... my books are coming along nicely. My main book is a fiction based on spiritual armor that I think teens will really relate to on many levels. My other book will become ICTA's gift book. This one is packed full of tennis related stories of faith and hope. Today, I finished a chapter totally dedicated to Ruth! I think junior and pro tennis girls will love that chapter.
Also, ICTA is welcoming a new ICTA Women's Pro Tennis Team member beginning July 27! A neat gal who wanted to come train and intern with me 1.5 years ago, but was warned not to by her non-Christian parents, is finally on her way! This special soon to be 26 year old kid will be so great to have around. She has felt driven to come here in spite of the oppression and God has finally opened the doors. God is so good!
And finally, to the anonymous "Christian" person who sent me hate email claiming I'm not qualified to minister, have a ridiculous ministry, am not worthy to share the Gospel, and many other things I can't write here... thanks for your opinion... and you're right! I am not worthy... I'm an idiot. I am absolutely not worthy to share anything God has created and I'm the first to say I'm worth less than pig poo without Jesus in my life... I'm just an idiot!!
But, my anonymous blogger friend, I'm God's idiot.
And when He called me into ministry, I'm pretty sure He didn't ask your opinion first! He called, I followed, He has blessed my life, Satan has attacked, God blesses more for my faithfulness... and there you go.
My life is such a blessed life. God has given so many special and wonderful opportunities to me to serve Him. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else doing anything else!
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PS. A huge happy birthday goes out to Rachel Snelen and Melody Snelen who are WTA ranked Christian professional tennis players and train with ICTA.