Sport X Change founders, Jim and Diane Gordon, attended BIOLA College in Los Angeles, CA in 1954. A mandatory Christian Service assignment led Jim, an avid sportsman, to assemble a team of like-minded friends and head south for a weekend of ministry and adventure.
Crossing the Mexican border at Tijuana (south of San Diego, CA) they came across a small village where youngsters were playing sandlot ball. Jim challenged them to a game, and within minutes villagers were flocking to see these funny Americans who were taking time to play with their children. An interesting sideline—many of the children did not own shoes, but all had some kind of a rag glove. After a couple of innings, Jim gathered everyone together and had his translator, Phil Guerena, explain the Gospel—who Jesus Christ was—how He came, died and rose from the dead so that we could have forgiveness of their sins and spend eternity with Him. The children were stunned as they listened to a “ballplayer” share the word of God. Parents listened from their porches and readily accepted literature that was given out. This was the first of many trips to Mexico.
Jim ventured further inland in 1958 and found an old sawmill village high up in the Sierra Juarez Mountains. At this time the team was basically recreational composed of men who were available as God led. Stopping at this “hidden” village, the team challenged some tired, dirty lumberjacks to a game. After the third inning we were getting “creamed”, and Jim was concerned about “losing face.” He stopped the game and shared the Gospel with them. Most of the men accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and even asked Jim to start a church there. Later he did.
In 1960, Youth Enterprises was incorporated, and Jim and Diane went to Costa Rica for language study. Jim was invited to play on the Costa Rican National Softball and Basketball teams. This opened more opportunities to share the Gospel and to meet sports dignitaries throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.
The following year, the “Sawmill” village church was built. A youth camp was also established on the outskirts. Hundreds of orphans, churched kids, and other young people who were living on the street came from as far as 250 miles away. They came in the back of trucks, old busses and vans. Camp Aqua Viva (Living Water) was established in 1965 and a church was born in nearby Ojos Negros.
In 1966 the first organized basketball and softball teams traveled to three states in Mexico. They ministered in universities, communities, sandlots and wherever they were welcomed. Foreigners were not allowed to share Jesus Christ. The law stated that only Mexican clergy could preach and then only by permission. A new strategy was adopted and thus the name, Youth Enterprises, Inc. was changed to Sports & Cultural Exchange, Int’l. (SCEI) in foreign countries. Our Christian faith was a vital part of our culture, and was acceptable in that context. The 1968 Olympics opened up another opportunity for ministry. Jim became burdened to put together specific sports ministries in as many international sports events as possible. God allowed SCEI to minister in 65 countries. He challenged Christians and churches everywhere to use this platform of sports to appeal to unbelievers.
In 1973, SCEI took a soccer team to Mexico knowing it was no match for the Latin American soccer players. Sports officials were told up-front that the team was there to learn from them. They were thrilled and accepted our challenge. A skydiver asked Jim if he could go and minister with the team. It was perfect…half-time came and our friend skydived into the center of the field with a message and literature that all stayed around to hear! God was teaching us that athletic ability, musical talent, medical expertise, computer or construction gifts could all be used to glorify God and build a team.
In 1999 Jim Gordon went home to be with his Lord. David Gordon, Jim’s eldest son, was voted in as president of SCEI’s all volunteer board of directors.
In 2015, the name Sports & Cultural Exchange International was simplified to Sport X Change. This same year we humbly celebrated 55 years of God’s amazing grace in SCEI and 44 years of sports evangelism. “To God be the Glory, Great Things He has Done.” We give praise to our Heavenly Gather for the saints that He touched—those who supported us in prayer, in finances, and with words of encouragement.
“For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage: they shall share alike.” I Samuel 30:24