How Basketball Reached a Teenage Atheist
In Octavio’s experience, Jesus was just part of a cultural religion — not a Savior who changes your life. So it was no wonder when the 15-year-old boy decided to become an atheist.
Octavio had learned about evolution in school. It seemed impossible that the scientific theory and God could both be real. And no one he talked to had a convincing answer to his doubts.
He started looking into other religions, but they couldn’t answer his questions either.
At 15, Octavio decided God couldn’t be real. And he might have stayed that way if it weren’t for basketball.
A Place Where People Listen
A year after Octavio embraced atheism, he heard about a local basketball club, Transformados, in La Paz, Mexico. Transformados was run by TEAM missionaries and other volunteers with a heart for the Gospel.
“When we first met him, he had a lot of questions regarding the different religions,” TEAM missionary Pattie Eager says, “and he was really stuck on how Jesus could be God and God’s son.”
But the missionaries weren’t intimidated by Octavio’s doubts.
After six months of basketball club, the missionaries invited Octavio to a Christian sports camp where he could learn more about Jesus. That winter, they invited him to another one.
All the while, for two years, the missionaries kept answering Octavio’s questions.
What’s more, these missionaries really seemed to care about Octavio as a person. They encouraged him. They invited him to their homes. They genuinely listened.
A Skeptic’s Graduation Gift
After a discussion about Christ’s divinity, Pattie thought of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. The book was written for skeptics just like Octavio. When she told Octavio about it, he said he would be very interested in reading it.
When Octavio graduated from high school, the staff presented him with a Spanish copy of the book along with a Spanish Bible.
“He actually had tears of gratitude when we gave them to him,” Pattie says. “He said it really meant a lot.”
Gradually, Octavio’s atheistic resolve was breaking down. But he still couldn’t get past the idea of Jesus being God.
And time for the missionaries to convince him was running out. At the end of the summer, Octavio was leaving for college.
A Coaching Job to Answer His Doubts
Despite Octavio’s doubts, the Transformados staff invited him to be a student coach for basketball camp that summer.
As Octavio learned to motivate and encourage his team, the staff continued pouring into Octavio. They had him join staff devotions and prayer time. They invited him to eat lunch with them after morning sessions.
One day, as Pattie translated a Gospel presentation, she spotted Octavio nodding his head in agreement.
I think he believes, Pattie thought.
Pattie couldn’t get Octavio alone that day, but she told her teammates so they could find an opportunity. Time was of the essence. Octavio was leaving for school in just two weeks!
His Secret Salvation
The next week, a teammate, Anthony, invited Octavio to his house. And Octavio explained everything.
Octavio had received Jesus, but he didn’t want to tell anyone until he knew it was real. He wanted to test it — and God had answered.
Since becoming a Christian, Octavio felt happier and at peace. He felt different.
He said the missionaries’ answers had been helpful. But what really made the difference was the missionaries’ love — love for each other and love for Octavio.
The staff made Octavio feel like part of a family. They had a peace like nothing Octavio had ever seen. And by the end of the summer, Octavio knew he wanted that transformation for himself.
Octavio is just one of many kids who have found Jesus through camp and sports ministries. And with your help, that number can grow! Please pray for camp ministries this year — and consider serving yourself. Find your camp role on our opportunities page today!
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