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Keeping it onside, church converts basement into soccer field

Bhim Biswa, foreground, felt that a love for soccer in local youth would could help introduce them to the Gospel.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BP) – Church basements are known for many things. Serving as a converted fellowship hall. Storage for old Sunday School materials or 1970s-era puppets. Strictly off limits for lock-ins.

Pastor Bhim Biswa observed a different kind of potential for Syracuse Nepali Church. He served in an area with many immigrants from Africa and Asia who, like himself, loved soccer. He also lived in upstate New York, where winters aren’t the most hospitable for the sport.

Considering those two points, his idea was easy to pitch. That is, turning his church’s basement into one.

Ryan Coxwell, a local pastor, leads a devotional during a training session with soccer players at Syracuse Nepali Church.

Now in its second year of operation, the Syracuse Nepali Church’s indoor soccer field has gained a considerable foothold in the community. Around 30 high school boys are taking advantage of the training offered as well as four-on-four games. Other groups have formed their own teams for competition, including members of the local police and military.

“The basement was useless before,” said Biswa, who is from Bhutan and planted the church in 2009. “So, when we started sharing about our idea, God heard our prayers.”

That has led to the PAL FC – Play And Learn Football Club. Several local high school players use it as a way to train, with participants coming from a variety of ethnic as well as religious backgrounds.

“Our goal is to share the Gospel with these kids. One group has ‘graduated’ from the league and all 20 of them heard the Gospel,” Biswa said.

A time is reserved for Scripture reading and prayer, with players encouraged to talk. A further connection is made between the Bible passage and a lesson regarding character.

The league was originally set to start in 2020, but COVID delayed it until last year. Teams capped the season with a tournament.

“This winter we want to do more with the younger group, for both girls and boys,” said Biswa, 42. “We recently baptized a player, and it is a definite point of outreach.”

Members of the Syracuse Police Department play against Syracuse Nepali Church.

He talked about the possibility of holding a type of camp that will be open for 8 to 10 weeks early in 2023, with participants stopping by after school. Plans are to clear out other space for ping pong tables and a music area.

One issue is that there is a need for volunteers to lead it.

“We would have hundreds of kids every week, no doubt. They are looking for something to do,” Biswa said.

He has been focused on making disciples who can then serve in ministry. Recently, the church added another Nepali pastor as well as another more geared to English-speaking teenagers. Biswa is also focused on building a ministry called GO, for Gospel Outreach.

“I want to go for global outreach,” he said. “My desire is to encourage people to go out. This September, we will have a first in our church as more than 50 people will be training how to share the Gospel. That’s my desire.”

His drive for outreach and evangelism goes to the final whistle, so to speak.

“I’m dying one day, right?” he said. “It may be cancer, maybe an accident or maybe old age. But I’m dying one day. Why shouldn’t I die for the Gospel? I want to die sharing the Gospel.”