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PBJ – Basketball in Manila

We jump off the custom modified Jeepney – fitted with portable basketball hoop and head off over a scrap of wasteland.

We’re greeted by Hi-5s from kids and with warm handshakes from the adults.We wind our way between the alleyways of two and three stores shanty houses – some barely shoulder width wide. The air is cool and fragranced with the smell of pristinely washed and dripping clothes.

We’re out and about with Mark and Ruth McDowell, visiting one of the many areas they go to each week, sometimes as many as six a day. With them are six Fillipino coworkers who together form the Philippines Basketball for Jesus (PBJ) team.Basketballs and hand-held hoops in hand, they squeeze in to the house of a local believer to pray.

More weaving through alleys and over a bridge and the evening light is streaming into a basketball court. The children are back from school and the area is buzzing.

They gather the children round for a sports-team style prayerthen straight in to a well-drilled warmup. Then it’s on to a slam-dunk competition. Energetic gospel songs start up on a portable sound system and the teams pause to sing with actions. There’s a short Bible talk by Jayson –a young Filippino from the localteam, a memory verse and the PBJ gospel rap. Meanwhile Mark and Ruth chat to some of the adults and teenagers.

Then the big games start where some of the older kids show off some impressive ball-handling skills and stylish jump shots. The game counts down and the sound of a whistle coincides with the satisfying swoosh of a ball through the net – accompanied by lots of cheering and fist bumps.

The PBJ team say slow goodbyes and head to the next court in a neighbouring area and the next Bible club. It’s fast paced, energetic and engaging.

Sometimes it’s ‘BBB’ – Beer, Basketball and Bible chats with men who sit round drinking and placing bets on the adult games.

Sometimes they meet and play with teenagers, sometimes it’s younger children, explaining the gospel meaning behind the green (creation/life), black (sin), red (sacrifice), white (forgiveness), gold (heaven) coloured basketball.

Mark prays that just as the young people pass the ball in the game, they will be able to pass on the good news to others,who will in turn pass on the good news to yet more others.

This is how God has been using Mark and Ruth. How will he use you?

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