Australian Peter Bradbury was, up until last week, among the thousands who had gone to Germany for the World Cup. But unlike those who had gone as soccer spectators, he was in Germany for another purpose altogether.

Bradbury, who spent close to three weeks in Germany, is among 25 Australians who travelled there as part of a Fusion team with the aim of linking up with local churches to run a series of the organisation’s signatory “open crowd” festivals as a way of reaching out in communities all around the country.

Soccer ball

PICTURE: Rene Mansi www.urbancow.net INDEX PAGE PICTURE: Julie Elliot (www.sxc.hu)


“No matter where we are, people have a hunger inside for connection and for purpose and for community. We know where that hunger comes from and it’s just a matter of really finding a way for people to give it expression, if you like..." says Peter Bradbury, one of the Fusion team members working at the World Cup. "There’s that sense of connection and community that many people just don’t feel these days.”

“What amazes me is the way that (the open crowd festivals) can hit a common chord in every culture,” he says.

“No matter where we are, people have a hunger inside for connection and for purpose and for community. We know where that hunger comes from and it’s just a matter of really finding a way for people to give it expression, if you like...There’s that sense of connection and community that many people just don’t feel these days.”

Bradbury is a former telecommunications technician who now is a full-time field support worker with Fusion and is based at the organisation’s national headquarters in Poatina, Tasmania. He was in one of three teams of Fusion staff and volunteers who went to different German cities to conduct the festivals.

Most of those who attended the festivals - which attracted anything from between 50 to a few thousand people depending on where they were being held - were local residents and while Bradbury says he only speaks a few words of German, the group had a number of bilingual people among them who could translate for them.

Over his three weeks there, Bradbury spent time in three German cities - Strassburg, Leipzig and Iserlohn - while other teams went to places like Hamburg, Hannover and Stuttgart.

He says the partnership with local churches was amazing and recalls members of an English-speaking church in Leipzig in particular being “amazed at how quickly they connected with people in the community (via the open crowd festivals) that they probably had no direct connection with before and how open they were to just engaging”.

Bradbury, who had previously been involved with his wife Heather at open crowd festival outreaches at the Athens Olympics in 2004, says partnership with local churches is crucial to ensuring the outreach continues beyond the open crowd festivals themselves.

“Very clearly we believe it’s not so much what you achieve in the time, it’s what you set in motion...” he says. “For us, (these) open crowd festivals is part of a process of mission - we’re not pretending it’s ever going to provide everything that’s needed, but it’s a very good way of providing initial contact and interest in the community and meeting a real need in bringing people together which then paves the way for future programs and connections.”

Fusion, which is now establishing a permanent office in Berlin, was running the open crowd festivals under the broad umbrella of Kickoff 2006, a network of Christians in Germany facilitating the involvement of local churches, denominations, and national and international ministries and communities in outreach during the World Cup.

Among other organisations involved in Kickoff is Athletes in Action which has several staff members serving as chaplains in Germany as well as staff “on the ground” who are forming partnerships with local churches and conducting clinics and camps.

The organisation has also produced an outreach DVD that they say “uses the platform of football and the heightened awareness of the sport worldwide due to the World Cup to share the stories of great football stars”.

The Prize DVD

NON-THREATENING OUTREACH: The 'Prize: Quest for the Ultimate Goal' includes football footage and testimonies from players.


“These players are people that the soccer community admire and respect," says Shawn Keith of Athletes in Action. "They are truly superstars in a variety of ways, and what they have to say carries a lot of weight. To see them not only have success in their sport, but failures as well, shows that they are human and not perfect. This goes for both on and off the field, as well as in the spiritual sense. They understand that they are sinners, but through a relationship with Christ, they can have that forgiveness that we all need.”

The Prize: Quest for the Ultimate Goal, which can be purchased for a small fee, contains football footage and testimonies from players like Brazil’s Edmilson, Lucio and Ze Roberto, Korea’s Lee Young Pyo, the Ivory Coast’s Cyrille Domoraud and US player Tim Howard from Manchester United.

“It’s a great way to introduce someone to the person of Christ...” says the AIA’s Shawn Keith. “This is truly a global outreach tool and that is why is was created.”

Keith says the World Cup is a “great time” for Christians to reach out to football fans around the world.

“Many people may not listen to you or I share their faith, but when their (misplaced) idols and gods, football stars, share their faith and what a relationship with Christ has done in their lives, it takes on a whole new meaning,” he says.

“These players are people that the soccer community admire and respect. They are truly superstars in a variety of ways, and what they have to say carries a lot of weight. To see them not only have success in their sport, but failures as well, shows that they are human and not perfect. This goes for both on and off the field, as well as in the spiritual sense. They understand that they are sinners, but through a relationship with Christ, they can have that forgiveness that we all need.”

“This is a great, non-threatening way to share Christ with others with a piece that they will enjoy because of their love for the game.”

Keith says that thousands of the copies of the DVD - which are available for a small fee (http://the-prize.org) - have already been distributed with one country ordering as many as 20,000. Several Australian ministries and churches are among those who have received copies.

The DVD is available in an English-language version and a 24 language version. In Germany, Athletes in Action has established a partnership with the people behind the distribution of The Jesus Film and Kickoff 2006 under which copies of the DVD distributed in Germany include The Jesus Film.

For Bradbury, meanwhile, one of the highlights of the trip came at the end of his stay in Germany when all the Fusion team members came back together for a three-day pilgrimage, tracing the footsteps of the likes of Martin Luther and Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, founder of the Moravian Church.

“It really was a very special way to finish the outreach...” he says. “For us there was something about not only doing the mission but just connecting with the meaning of it all and the legacy that the great pioneers, if you like, of old have left us. Germany has a lot to remember, positively. There’s not just shadows in the past.”

Bradbury says it's very interesting to view the sort of work Fusion is doing at the World Cup in the broader historical context.

“Someone has described the kind of thing that Fusion does as another positive wave of the reformation, if you like. We’ve had the priesthood of all believers, and with the charismatic movement, we’ve had the giftings of all believers, but this is (about) the ministry of all believers - that God’s called us all to reach out.”

~ www.fusion.org.au
~ http://the-prize.org/