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A hockey ministry

   

October 8, 2002

Winnipeg, Man.—Jamie Ramer, sent to Tjörn, Sweden by Hockey Ministries International, is using his athletic gifts in an unusual way.

Mennonite Church Canada Witness sees value in the unique program of Hockey Ministries International, and helps Jamie and wife Lea Ann Ramer stay in touch with Canadian Mennonite supporters of the Ramer’s work.

"Being Canadian and a hockey player has definitely opened a lot of doors for me there," Ramer said of Sweden, where both traits carry a certain level of celebrity.

In Sweden, the Lutheran state church has discouraged sports as "unchristian." As a result there are now very few Christians in the sport scene. In this and other ways, Christianity has become marginalized in Swedish society, which is now essentially secular.

Playing for a Division 2 hockey club, Ramer says he is there "to be a witness to the other players." He's shared about his life and faith with his team mates, and also met with eighteen other teams in the last two years.

"They're very open to listening and respecting what I say" about his Christian faith, said Ramer. However, "it's hard to get through to them that this is something they need in their lives."

"I've had a few good conversations, and spent a lot of time just building a lot of trust, just being a friend and trying to lead by example."

"More open doors came with the young guys I was working with," said Ramer, who also leads hockey camps for younger players. In these camps he brings in a Swedish hockey professional, they show the kids some skills on the ice, and then also share about their lives.

"I got more response from them; the older (groups) got, the more rooted they were in their way of life."

Tjörn, a town of about 15,000, is located on an island on the west coast of Sweden.

The Ramers also work as youth pastors. Five area churches have an amalgamated youth program in which about 100-130 youth participate. They've also spent time in a junior high school, helping with English classes and getting to know more children.

One ministry that didn't get off the ground was their suggestion of a food and clothing drive for the needy; "Who would we give it to?" was the response from the Swedes. Sweden, with its solid social services, has no marked classes of rich and poor and thus few people struggling to make ends meet. Clearly, this ministry is marked with the unusual challenge of a society whose physical blessings appear to weaken the desire for spiritual fulfillment.

Lea Anne and Jamie are members of Zurich Mennonite Church (Zurich, Ontario), and on September 16 welcomed their first child (7 lb. 13 oz. Brody) into their family. They are currently in Canada for a few months.