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.
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.”