July 1, 2016

Athletes and Sabbath-keepers

When Sabbath and athletics collide, it’s no contest for these competitors.

Carolina Félix & Stephen Chavez

Soccer Player Refuses to Play on Sabbath

Brazil’s player of the year says he chooses God over career.

An up-and-coming soccer goalkeeper stirred up Brazil’s sporting world by announcing that he would no longer play matches scheduled from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

Carlos Vítor da Costa Ressurreição, 30, was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in December 2015.

Ressurreição made a number of important saves in the past year that moved his Londrina Esporte Clube up from Series C to Series B in the Brazilian National Championship, the main soccer league championship in the country. Ressurreição was named player of the year, resulting in a job offer from Serie A team Chapecoense, which would have doubled his salary.

Ressurreição turned down the job because it wouldn’t have allowed him to observe the seventh-day Sabbath as mandated by the fourth commandment, according to the newspaper

Moreover, Ressurreição’s future is up in the air because a number of Serie B matches are held on Friday nights and Saturdays. His team did not renew his contract when it ended in May.

A year before his baptism, he said, he spent four months at home in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, without a signed contract with any team. During that time, his wife, Gabriela, was approached by a friend at a hair salon and offered a partnership in producing handbags. The two women subsequently created their own label and formed a business that grew quickly, Ressurreição said.

“In a short amount of time, the profit grew larger than my salary had been in the soccer club,” he said. “That was the moment I understood that God had several possible ways to care for my family.”

After this realization, Ressurreição set aside his fears about not being able to land a soccer contract and began a process he called “intimacy with God.” He started to study the Bible and pray every day.

As he studied, Ressurreição became convinced that his mother-in-law, Tânia Rocha, a Seventh-day Adventist, had been right when she had told him about the Sabbath 12 years earlier. He was baptized on December 27.

The uncertainties that Ressurreição now faces may be as daunting as those that he had when he didn’t have a soccer contract a year ago. But he expressed calmness about the future when a reporter asked him at the news conference whether he was prepared to choose between his faith and his career.

“Without doubt, I choose my faith,” he said. “Many others came before me, giving me this opportunity to choose.

“I’m at peace because my life is in the hands of God,” he said. “As long as there are teams that respect my beliefs, sports will always be an option. If not, the Lord has already shown me in the past that He will take care of me.”

Carolina Félix, South American Division

Adventists Keep Sabbath, Run Friday

“The world’s most beautiful marathon” is a witnessing opportunity.

52 1 1

The Two Oceans Ultra-marathon, billed as “the world’s most beautiful marathon,” is also an opportunity for Adventists in South Africa to demonstrate their commitment to God’s seventh-day Sabbath.

For the past 27 years, Eric Webster, a retired Adventist pastor and editor, has worked with organizers of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM) to allow Adventists, and others who have religious convictions about running on Saturday, to run on Friday, the day before the actual race. All those who compete on Friday have their times included in the overall list of results, as if they competed with everyone else.

The competitors who run on Friday typically number several dozen. “We always start with prayer,” says Webster, who began running marathons at the age of 60. “I haven’t missed one [in 27 years].”

To call the OMTOM a marathon is a bit of a misnomer. An official marathon is 26.2 miles (42 kilometers). The OMTOM is actually an ultra-marathon, 34.8 miles (56 kilometers). A half-marathon, 13.1 miles (21 kilometers), is also part of the weekend competition, and Adventists participate in that distance as well.

“This has been a testimony to the importance of the Sabbath,” says Webster. “Many people along the course ask, ‘Why are you running today? Isn’t the race tomorrow?’ In many ways it’s been a good witness.”

In addition to providing runners for the Friday races, Adventists also volunteer as course marshals, and staff aid stations along the course.

Runners from around the world come to run the OMTOM. The races are run on South Africa’s Cape Peninsula, and begin on the Indian Ocean side of the cape. Runners then run through several communities on the Atlantic Ocean side of the cape before finishing at the campus of the University of Cape Town. More than 25,000 runners compete each year in one of the two races.

In a 2008 interview, Webster credited running with helping him in his career by giving him energy and time to think creatively. “It has been a great blessing for my physical, mental, and spiritual health,” he told Spectrum.

Webster credits the Adventist health message—along with the Sabbath—for the balance most Adventists enjoy. “I’ve always felt that the Sabbath has been a real blessing to us; to be able to rest that day, to lay aside our usual business activities, to concentrate on the Lord and spend time with Christ, who is the head of our faith. To spend time with Jesus is a wonderful experience.” 

Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review