“Way More than Soccer”

Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA), the relief and development arm of The Alliance, has launched a ministry in Indonesia that is transforming lives. The following report is based on various sources, including correspondence with Buzz—the CAMA worker who founded the program—and a newsletter by CAMA President Mike Sohm.

Soccer—or football, as it’s called in many countries—is the most popular game on the planet. According to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) most recent Big Count survey, 265 million players across the globe are actively involved in the world’s sport.

Unlike other athletic games, soccer can be played anywhere, with minimal and fairly inexpensive equipment. Also, it is truly a team sport—each player counts, and anyone can score.

Tapping into the game’s popularity, Alliance workers have been using soccer ministries to extend the reach of the gospel on nearly every continent, including countries as diverse as Burkina Faso, Mongolia, Paraguay, and Senegal.

Life Skills, Leadership

In Sentani, on the island of Papua in Indonesia, CAMA worker Buzz and his two sons launched the Papua United Football Club. “The vision for this ministry grew out of my kids and their friends playing soccer together,” Buzz said. “That became the first Papua United team, and we hope to add five more in the next five years.”

Youth find love and acceptance through Papua United Football Club. Photo courtesy of Buzz

In 2011, when CAMA hosted a soccer clinic in Sentani, Buzz met coaches who wanted to use soccer to impact children’s lives through mentoring relationships but lacked adequate resources and training. From this event, coaches were recruited to work with the club. Today, several of them train more than 200 youth between ages 10 and 18. The objective is twofold: to teach life skills to young people that will change their lives and to cultivate leaders of integrity.

“[The club seeks to] train and develop young men and women who will transform their families, their communities, and the island of Papua,” said Mike Sohm recently. “In short, Papua United’s goal is discipleship to a Christlike life.”

A Soccer Family

Family breakdown, social ills, tribalism, and the AIDS crisis present the club with significant challenges. Players who join its teams often come from dysfunctional backgrounds where love, security, knowledge, and skills are not always prioritized. “What I love about Papua United is that it gives kids a soccer family,” said Buzz. “They have a safe place where they are loved.”

One such player is Israel*, who has struggled with feelings of abandonment. Once, in a fit of rage, his father shot him in the leg with an arrow. Israel’s mother lives in another city, and they rarely see each other.

Israel has played on a Papua United team for several years and coaches a junior team. “We act as his parents,” said Buzz.

Pet* is another individual whose life changed dramatically through the club’s positive influence. Once a thief and a drunkard, Pet was in a motorcycle accident while in a drunken stupor, and someone died. God used the tragedy to draw Pet back to Him, and he now helps young boys stay out of trouble by coaching a United junior boys’ team in Sentani.

“Some may say we work with a rag-tag bunch,” Buzz noted. “I agree they were like that once, but the Lord does not leave them that way. He has lifted them up and forgiven them—and is forming them into leaders.

Summer Tour

Beginning on June 17, Papua United will be involved in a unique ministry opportunity. Along with 21 Toccoa Falls (Georgia) College students, 14 club members will tour six cities in Indonesia, playing exhibition games, hosting soccer clinics, teaching HIV/AIDS awareness, and presenting peace workshops to youth from different religious backgrounds. The group will minister creatively to see transformation in the lives of young men and women.

Prayer Needed

Pray that those on tour will be a blessing and that God will work in and through them. Also, pray for God’s provision for various needs of Papua United, including jerseys and soccer cleats.

“Papua United is about way more than a soccer game,” Buzz said. “It’s about kids coming together—to be loved, encouraged, and accepted.”

*Name changed

Learn More

The Papua United Football Club is supported by CAMA’s Work Special funds. To learn more about Papua United, or to donate to this project, click here.


Use the weekly Alliance Prayer Requests to join the Alliance family in interceding on behalf of Alliance people worldwide, including Buzz, who often serve in challenging circumstances that require Holy Spirit–inspired wisdom and creativity to communicate God’s love to those who don’t know Him.


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