An Unlikely Path to the Cross
By Jennifer Ball - International Bible Society (2000)
Driven by a childhood dream to excel in the one thing he loved best, Brent Fuqua reshaped his heart's one desire into a unique ministry to reaches thousands around the globe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Fuqua simply plays basketball - a sport he has cherished all of his life.
"Basketball is becoming one of the most visible and popular sports in the world," he explained recently. "Even in countries where it has not been played a lot, children and adults alike turn out by the hundreds to see ball-handling tricks and exhibition games."
Nearly five years ago, Fuqua resigned from a physical education teaching position to launch Hoops of Hope, a Christian basketball ministry. Since then, Hoops of Hope has visited schools, prisons and exhibition centers throughout the Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Trinidad, Tobago, Bahamas, Mexico, South Africa and the U.S.
Last year alone, Fuqua performed 86 ball-handling exhibitions for more than 16,000 people.
Why is basketball and sports in general effective means for sharing the Gospel? Fuqua's personal testimony provides a clue. As the only child of a widowed mother," Fuqua opened, "I needed something to pour myself into. I loved basketball more than anything and believed if I gave my all to it, I could earn a college scholarship. I just knew everything in life would fall into place then.
Things did not fall into place the way Fuqua envisioned. He did not make the college team, and he was heartbroken. But he kept playing basketball, believing it was all he had to hold onto. Shortly thereafter, Fuqua became involved in Athletes in Action (AIA), a global sports outreach. Through it, he came to understand how God uses things you wouldn't expect to draw people to Himself-even sports and disappointment.
"Through AIA, I saw people attending basketball games, clinics and exhibitions who would never enter the doors of a church. Moreover, I saw the potential for sharing the Gospel through a new lens. It was from this experience, the vision for Hoops of Hope was born."
Hoops of Hope, a ministry international in its scope, uses a four-fold approach to communicate the Gospel. They are:
• Ball-handling exhibitions at basketball clinics, school assemblies, prisons and senior centers. Fuqua and his team demonstrate a variety of tricks and juggling acts in the Harlem Globetrotter style. They also address topics including sexual purity, alcohol and drug use prevention and the message of hope found only in Jesus Christ.
• Basketball camps and clinics where game fundamentals are taught and expressed as a metaphor to Christian living.
• International basketball tours where amateur, college and high school players compete in exhibition games.
• Sports ministry seminars to train coaches and others how to develop sports outreach ministries.
Hoops of Hope also distributes Scripture because, as Fuqua explains, "Scripture forms the foundation from which we can minister. It validates the overall message and purpose for what we do." God's Word tells us it will not return void, so we believe it must be a part of the evangelism process as well as the follow-up discipleship provided through local churches.
Hoops of Hope distributes International Bible Society's Path to Victory [basketball version] New Testament because, according to Fuqua, it's effective in directing first-time Bible readers to specific Scripture verses featured in the testimonies of basketball athletes. "It does not come across with a 'Bible thumping' attitude," he said. "People are always eager to get a copy of it."
Fuqua enjoys the enthusiasm people have for the game he loves, especially the reaction from the thousands of children he encounters worldwide. Their amazement at his well-honed ball-handling skills and their energetic eagerness to learn the sport are aspects he uses to open a door for sharing biblical truths as they apply not only to basketball but also to life.
"Basketball is just a game, but God can use it to impact lives for eternity," Fuqua says now of the sport that at one time meant more to him than anything - even God.
"I urge people to never give up on their dreams. Even when all else seems impossible, keep goals in focus. Time is the great equalizer in life; dedication yields results. Most importantly, I remind people of all ages that no matter how much they love doing something don't make it a god. Seek first the one true God, and all things will be given to you in due time." That's one lesson of the Game Fuqua knows first hand.