ko te manaaki i ngā kaihākinakina | caring for New Zealand's sports community
Photo of Japanese girl with All Blacks tattoo

Our other team at Rugby World Cup

Sports Chaplains at Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup may not have been all you hoped for, but for some there was a lot more to the tournament than just rugby. Sports Chaplains took part in an international effort to support the local church in reaching out to their communities during the Rugby World Cup.

The NZ team included Sports Chaplains Ian Pahina, Sue Morris, and Brendan Dickinson along with his wife Mel. They took part in rugby festival days, youth group events, rugby clinics, big-screen match viewing in churches, as well as an English language class.

They also visited Fan Zones where they mingled, shared their faith stories, and gave away magazines and Japanese rugby Bibles. Several media outlets interviewed them about what they were doing.

The team enjoyed sharing NZ culture, including the haka, poi and rakau. They also gave away Marmite, Pineapple Lumps, Jaffas, and Whittakers L&P and Hokey Pokey chocolate.

Photo of New Zealand stand at Rugby World Cup

A taste of Aotearoa in Japan.

Photo of New Zealand chaplains at Rugby World Cup doing hakaSports Chaplains at Rugby World Cup performed the haka.

Photo of Japanese boy with tattoos from RWC nationsNot sure who this guy was supporting.

Matt Gwynne

Meanwhile, New Zealander Matt Gwynne, currently living in France, was part of a team from France and England. In Hamamatsu they ran a karaoke afternoon, cultural evening, children’s English class, and hosted a showing of Japan v Samoa. At half time, Matt shared his faith story, which was his highlight from the trip:

‘just as we were finished the Pastor shared how my story had encouraged him and his son. He very openly and vulnerably shared about some of the challenges and struggles his family had been through over the past couple of years. This was such a profound and touching moment for me.’

Photo of Matt Gwynne, one of the chaplains at Rugby World Cup wearing French rugby jersey and beret, and eating sushi with chopsticks

Matt Gwynne

They also visited a school in Yokohama, along with a team from Fiji. At the school they met TV cameras, screaming students, and requests for autographs. They shared about rugby culture, ran a skills clinic, then played a game of flag rugby with some of the students.

One pastor commented, ‘These guys do things that no one can do in Japan. This is the breakthrough we are after – look at what God is opening for us.’ https://www.eternitynews.com.au/world/rugby-world-cup-opens-the-door-to-jesus-in-japan/?fbclid=IwAR1BmW09RiWiXIgiCksKHAEAFBM_62x7sf5rgzDuqluDpUA_ZQhrFACz_Zk

The Japan International Sports Partnership invited these teams to Japan. They are now planning similar events for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, working with 500 community groups. Their goal is for a million people to attend community festivals, then to be invited to connect with a local church.

Author Info

Rebecca Hawkins

Rebecca is the Communications and IT Manager for Sports Chaplaincy NZ. In her younger days she played cricket and football with great enthusiasm but very little skill. Now she spends a lot of time supporting her four sons in their sport. She especially loves scoring their cricket matches, which she insists on doing the old fashioned way, with pen and paper.

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