Graham West is a missionary in the International Department of Missionary Athletes International. Graham and his family have been with MAI for 20+ years. Graham had the unique experience of being apart of one of the first ever international tours to Bangaldesh for MAI. We asked him a few questions about the trip.

 

What motivated you to go the Bangladesh?  After going on one previous MAI tour and experiencing how God could use my gifts and abilities for Him, I was motivated to go on the next possible tour.  The Bangladesh tour was unique in the sense that we would be taking a high level team into a difficult ministry environment.  This also intrigued me.

Why did you choose Bangladesh? The Bangladesh tour was set up by Brian Davidson and Jon Ortlip in response to a request by some contacts that had ministry there. We also had 4 or 5 players on our tour that were missionary kids that grew up in Bangladesh. At the time of this tour, however, as a predominantly Muslim country, the Bangladesh government was kicking missionaries out of the country.  But they did not kick out the missionaries at a hospital compound we were based because it was the best hospital in the country.  We were allowed in the country because we were a "high level soccer team".

What was the purpose of the trip to Bangladesh? Because of the nature of the environment there, one of the purposes of the tour was to serve our partners by helping attract individuals to respond to a flyer that consisted of our roster/photo as well as a note inviting them to write for material allowing them to "know more about their Creator".  In order to gain access into the country our platform was initially provided by way of an invitation by the Bangladesh Football Federation to represent the US to play in the President's Cup, a tournament consisting primarily of a number of national teams from around the region.  Iran was also invited and when they found out we were coming as a US team, they threatened to boycott the tournament.  So, we withdrew from the Cup and, instead, set up matches with professional teams around the country. Not playing in this tournament ended up being a blessing because by playing these other teams we were able to reach much more of the country.   Over 6,000 people eventually responded to the flyer and were followed up by christian nationals.

Was it a one-time trip or did you return back? MAI team members returned a year or two after this trip and encouraged many of the believers that we had come in contact with. 

What was a memorable moment on the trip? The crowds there were enormous.  There were between 10,000 - 50,000 fans either in main stadiums against their national team (who had won the Presidents Cup while we were in the country and we eventually played) or other high level teams in venues off the beaten path.  An unbelievable moment was talking with a Christian lying in a hospital bed.  His feet were black and charred and his neck was wrapped up with bloody gauze.  He was persecuted for being a Christian by having his house set on fire.  When he ran out of his burning house, they cut his throat with a machete.  To see the sacrifice, dedication and perseverance of these Christians living in this country was overwhelming.   

What was your most rewarding part of the experience? Sensing the Holy Spirit leading, moving and working.  We had a clear sense of the sheer magnitude that the platform of sports was in sharing the Gospel.  The open door that sports created, was very evident and it was very exciting to be a part of what God was doing in this restricted country.  Sports can penetrate even the most difficult environments.

Learn more about Graham West and his story with MAI HERE

 

"The Seahorses come to Bangladesh in the spirit of friendship and international co-operation. It is the desire of the players that each of you may have a happy and a gorgeous life. In order for this to happen, you ... a right relationship with your Creator. If you would like to receive FREE literature telling you how can have this relationship, send your name and address to one of the addresses listed below:"