“Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me” (Grace Like Rain by Todd Andrew)

SportsTodd Andrews restyled the classic hymn Amazing Grace and added the chorus above. It is a celebration of God’s grace pouring down on the life of redeemed sinners and bringing new life to thirsty hearts.

And so it rained. The kids huddled under umbrellas at the afternoon break on the first day of camp. But when the break was over they were back to the game while it continued to pour.

We just returned from 8 days in China. We partnered with Haidian Church to put on a soccer camp. We do these annually in Beaverton as an outreach to the community. They are first rate. With partners like the Beaverton School District, Tektronix, Adidas and Nike we serve mostly immigrant kids for whom such a camp would be cost prohibitive. Last year Pastor Peter Wu asked us if we would be willing to run such a camp at his church in Beijing and teach his volunteers how to run it. And so we did.

Sports are an international language — today as well as in ancient times. The Apostle Paul was a sports fan. He grew up in the city of Tarsus (Acts 22:3) and spent another 10 years there after his conversion (Acts 9:30; 11:35). Ancient Tarsus was a city with palaces, marketplaces, roads and bridges, baths, fountains and waterworks, a gymnasium, and a stadium. Paul’s allusions to races, boxing and games are evidence of a sports channel clicker from another era (1Corinthians 9:24-27). He used sports to illustrated values, training, perseverance and triumph. Sports have an amazing way of bringing disparate people together to focus on the same thing. How much more so the Kingdom of God ­— so it was fitting that we combined the two with our sister church in Beijing.

We have enjoyed an amazing relationship with Haidian Church over the years — one built on mutual trust and encouragement. This is the beauty of Jesus’ family… it is not based on bloodline, but on blood — the blood of Jesus Christ. By it he set us free from the sin and death and brought us into communion with God and one another. The New Testament is about this new family – the church – the followers of Jesus – from every nation, tongue and tribe. Its evidence is our love for one another, which crosses every cultural barrier that might have existed otherwise. It is the very love of God. Jesus said, “…by this all men will know you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)

Grace like rain poured down on us from every direction. It was as palpable as the afternoon deluge on the first day of camp. We felt the prayers of people back home. We felt the love of our brothers and sisters in China. We saw evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in divine appointment after divine appointment. We were carried along in a veritable capsule of the Holy Spirit the whole time we were there. And we enjoyed the kind of love that Jesus said would be unique to the body of believers.

I will close with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. As a prelude to an anticipated visit he wrote words that say much of what I would like to say to my Chinese friends…

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:8-15)