Even when the FIFA 2010 World Cup isn't in town, soccer is the favorite sport for South Africa's children.
That's why one ministry has been using the sport to reach them with the transforming power of the Gospel.
More Than Just a Game
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in South Africa and in Orange Farms near Johannesburg, it is no different.
"I like soccer because one day I want to be a professional player," one boy said, while playing a game of soccer.
"Soccer is my favorite sport and it's 2010," another boy said.
But the game they've been playing has a different purpose -- one that has everything to do with the multi-colored soccer balls the boys have been kicking around. Each color has a meaning and all together they tell a story.
"Black is for sin that we have done, and it is important for us to remember that," the first boy said describing the colorful soccer ball in his hand. "Red is for the blood of Jesus that washes our sins. White is for the Holy Spirit and yellow is for new creation."
Not long ago the balls were donated to an organization in Orange Farms called Royal Kids, a ministry aimed at instilling biblical values in kids' lives through prayer, praise and Godly leadership.
"Prior to us giving out the balls there were around 200 to 250 boys, but you can come around at 4 p.m. and that place is chockablock with kids," Pastor Peter Sekhonyani said.
Before any township match begins the kids are required to explain the meaning of the colors to their friends.
"When he understands that, he is free to kick the ball. And that's what they do and they maintain that," Sekhonyani explained.
When the balls were donated, the number of kids attending Royal Kids doubled. Sekhonyani and his teams have been utilizing this new growth to tell more kids about Jesus.
"Before coming to Royal Kids I was stealing money and sugar," the second boy said. "But when I came to Royal Kids my life has changed better. I don't steal or fight anymore."
"Because of these balls 20 of my friends have come to Jesus," the first boy said.
"The evangelism is getting stronger and stronger among the kids that kick the soccer balls because of this," Sekhonyani said.
The Royal Kids ministry started at the Maranatha Revival church in Orange Farms. It now runs every afternoon and has grown to 18 Royal Kids centers in the region -- all doing the same thing, all experiencing the same growth.
"The register that we are receiving every Monday shows us that in the 18 centers, we have over 5,300 kids," Sekhonyani said. "That is the growth that we are receiving ever since the soccer balls came."
"And them coming into the church, them hearing again the Gospel, them being called when the alter call is made and stepping forward -- that has given us a great boost and confidence," he added.
Even before the teachers arrived in the afternoons, the kids themselves would start the meeting, leading in prayers, songs and testimonies of God's goodness in their lives.
"After two or three weeks we see the parents coming through as well because the kids are evangelizing their own homes," Sekhonyani said. "We are being taught how to pray. We are being taught how our sins are being forgiven. We are being taught how to lead a clean life, honoring parents. Parents are interested when they hear that. We are not only seeing kids coming in to the church, but we are also parents coming into the church's."
Salt and Light
Through Royal Kids, these children have chosen to live differently from many of their peers around them.
"In the past two months we have had riots in Orange Farms and none of the kids in the 18 centers took part in those because the kids themselves said 'We are smarter.' They understand that this is a gospel of Peace, a gospel of love, a gospel of honoring one another," Sekhonyani continued. "These are the things we are seeing coming out of the lives of the kids."
With a renewed interest in soccer - thanks to the World Cup and the donation of the balls - Sekhonyani said he intends to use its attraction for a greater purpose -- to see a new generation of young people transformed by the message of Jesus Christ.
"This gives any preacher now the platform to tell the kids what they want to be in life," he said. "How they can achieve that in life. Who's the person who can take them through that in life…What Gods told me six months ago what that it takes a generation to change a Nation. That is what we intent to do with Royal Kids. We are going at full pace to have Royal kids in every province where they can come together, where they can learn they same things they are learning in here, where we can take soccer beyond the World Cup…In the ultimate end it is to see that generation change the Nation."