By Ashley Perham
Baptist & Reflector intern
NASHVILLE — As a boy, Jon Visser had dreamed of playing professional baseball.
He got his opportunity in the early 2000s in the Texas-Louisiana League, now called the Central League. But while he was traveling through Texas, God gave him a different dream.
“While I was traveling around on the busses, I was thinking, ‘How can I serve God with my talents and how can I best do it?’ and that’s where Elevation Sports kind of (started),” said Visser, a member of First Baptist Church, Fairview.
Elevation Sports is Visser’s ministry that shares the gospel with children through sports events.
The ministry, which started in 2016, has taken a mission trip to Belize. It held a stateside camp at Donelson Christian Academy earlier this summer in conjunction with Shiloh Baptist Church, Nashville.
Elevation Sports was able to bring soccer to a Belize prison, orphanage and school.
The ministry had one lead for the trip, the possibility of working at a school, but God “exploded it” throughout the week, Visser said.
“(God) gave us an ‘in’ with the prison and got us in there. We were on the radio and it broadcasted within a five-mile radius. We were able to get over the radio with 5,000 prisoners,” Visser said.
Chuck Workman, a volunteer with Elevation Sports and pastor of Shiloh Baptist, Nashville, partners with Visser to make sure the program remains a ministry.
Workman met Visser through the Week of Champions sports camp he directed in South Carolina. At one time, it was the largest free sports camp in the country.
“The highlight with Elevation Sports is just Jon’s heart,” said Workman. “Jon’s heart is all about sharing the love of Jesus Christ and sharing the gospel,” he said.
This year’s Nashville camp offered four sports for free: baseball, basketball, football and soccer. Visser brought in former professional athletes to run the camps and share their testimonies: Rodney Monroe from the Atlanta Hawks, Chase Headley from the Yankees and Padres and Tim Busen from the United States International Soccer League. Two children were saved as a result of Rodney Monroe’s testimony.
“With the four sports that this camp was offering, it was just a really great first year bringing it in the states,” Visser said. “I feel like domestically we’ve got to do as much as we can as well as overseas.”
Visser said that sports provides a great way to share the gospel because it is an easy way for kids to get together and get excited about something.
“It’s sort of a natural draw for a family in a community, and if they’re going to go to all these sporting events and spend all this time, why not make that a vehicle for sharing the gospel?” he asked.
Workman said sometimes kids do not even come to the camps for the sports: “They just come because their parent needs partnering with taking care of a child,” he said. “We can be those brothers and sisters in Christ to give them a baseball glove and throw a ball for the first time.”
Visser has plans for more ministry opportunities with Elevation Sports, including an opportunity for dads and kids he wants to begin soon that would enable dads and kids to get acquainted with the gospel.
Visser said that many athletes have the testimony of making it to the pinnacle of success and realizing that it is not fulfilling.
“A lot of these athletes, I think, are going to have a similar testimony,” said Visser. “It’s just fantastic because, especially in the U.S., we’re so interested in worldly success and how can I make it in life.” The more important question is, “how can you be filled with the Spirit?”
Workman pointed out that while sports camps and clinics can be found every weekend, Elevation Sports strives to be different by sharing Jesus with kids.
“We’re called to be set apart,” he said. “If we can do that at these sports camps, at the same time allow these kids to have fun and walk away loving Jesus, that’s awesome.” B&R