Passing on the Sports Friends ‘mantle’


June will see a significant change in the leadership of Sports Friends Malawi.  Recent discussions have helped pave the way for a smooth transition as current  Director, Luke Voight  explains

Six years ago, in 2011, Luke and Becca Voight arrived in Malawi as Short-Term Associates to set up the Sports Friends Malawi work. In the early days, Sports Friends Malawi worked exclusively with the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC).

The Voights returned, briefly, to the USA and became long-term members of SIM. In the last few years they have started to expand the work of Sports Friends Malawi into other church groupings and denominations, as news of its approach to sports ministry has spread.

New Leader in June

Working with the Voights for all this time has been Pastor Fostance Mtolo who divides his time between Sports Friends Malawi and his role as pastor of the AEC at Soche on the outskirts of Blantyre. In June, when Luke and Becca return to new work in the USA, Fostance will take over as Team Leader of Sports Friends Malawi.

Luke, Berhanu and Fostance

“Always, when you take on a new position like this, there are challenges that need to be faced,” said Fostance.

“But, by God’s help, I am sure I can take on these challenges and make sure Sports Friends Malawi continues to develop in the future. One thing I am looking forward to is seeing how, with God’s help, we can develop sports ministry as an outreach to unreached people.”

Luke is equally confident about the future of Sports Friends Malawi under the guidance of its new leader.

Not cutting ties

“It has been a real pleasure working with Fostance over the past six years, and just seeing the way he has grown into the ministry and developed as a person,” he said.


The work of Sports Friends Malawi  is supported by SIM Malawi project

MW 96754 Sports Friends Malawi

“But we will not be cutting our ties with Sports Friends Malawi, even when we are back in the USA. We have invested six years into this work, and it has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure. It is part of us: Becca and I will be keeping a close eye on Fostance and the team, and we will always be at the end of an email or Skype call if he needs our counsel.”

Also keeping an eye on the work in Malawi will be Berhanu Kebede, Sports Friends Director East and Southern Africa. Based in Ethiopia, Berhanu was one of the founders of the Sports Friends work which is now worldwide.

“Sports Friends was set up in Ethiopia around 2001 when Bruce Davidson and Tripp Johnston came to my country on a mission visit from SIM International in Charlotte, South Carolina,” he said.

Girls being put through their paces at a netball camp in Blantyre

Youth with nothing to do

“We realised that generally in Africa, and particularly in Ethiopia, around 70 percent of young men have nothing to do: this meant they were getting into all kinds of trouble. There was a feeling that if we could develop some sort of sports ministry, using football, aimed at these young men we could start to turn their lives around and that was how Sports Friends started.

“The work in Malawi has developed very well under the guidance of Luke and Fostance and it has been encouraging to see how they have engaged girls with the development of netball coaches and teams. I share Luke’s optimism that the future for the work here is good and that Fostance will build on good foundations. We in the Ethiopia office will certainly be available to him for help and we will watch his work with great interest,” he said.

But the changes for Sports Friends are not just happening in Malawi. There is a new field about to open and this is where Luke and Becca come back into the picture.

“Becca and I feel really called by God to hand over this work in Malawi and to return to the USA,” said Luke.

Coaches training event in rural Malawi

“My dad has been ill for a while and my mum needs help in looking after him. That is one reason for us returning the USA. The other reason for our return is that we feel strongly that God is calling us to set up Sports Friends in the USA for the first time.

On the edge of society

“This may seem strange, as Sports Friends normally works with people who are on the edge of society or in very poor situations, not the usual picture you may have of the USA! But we will be working among displaced people and refugees from around the world who have found sanctuary in the USA and have settled in and around Sacramento in California.

“This is a really exciting venture for us, although not without its problems and critics, but we are hoping to be able to find accommodation for our family close to where the refugees are housed, so we can interact with them, share the Good News of Christ with them and work with them through sports ministry.

“We have a really good template for how to do this from our time here and we pray that, with God’s help and guidance, we can establish this work with these displaced people.”

With all the changes that are happening, prayer will be a vital part of the transition. Each of three men have specific prayer requests for the immediate future of the work across Africa, the new work in America and, of course, here in Malawi.

Berhanu’s prayer:

 for the African continent:

“Please pray for Africa. The Gospel looks like it is there but it is not, especially when you think of the southern part of Africa. We need to raise people up; the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”


Luke’s prayer:

for guidance in the new work he and Becca have been called to:

“Please pray that the Lord would give us a good time of transition as we seek His face first. That He would give us direction, because we feel completely inadequate for the task ahead, but that is where God shows His power strongly through us as we seek to be part of the ministry from afar and pray for people even to come here and to continue to support the work here in Malawi.”


Fostance’s prayer:

for servant-leadership as he takes on his new role:

“Please pray as we are in this time of transitioning that, as I am taking the mantle from Luke, as Elisha did from Elijah, that God will help me to be more like a servant-leader.”