By Malou Francisco
EBC Central Europe Bureau/ Eagle News Service
(Eagle News) — Unity through sportsmanship was again exemplified as participants from Belgium – Luxembourg – Netherlands – Germany – came together on a chilly Sunday late October in the historical Dutch city of Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Many of them traveled up for more than eight hours in buses, cars, and rented vans. Some had not had enough sleep days before the trip as they must train for basketball, volleyball, badminton, and other games and rehearse an intermission musical number outside of their work and school hours.
What motivated these adults and children to spend extra time and travel that long when they could practice sportsmanship in their own communities? What other benefits then were at stake?
There was only one answer. They all had one purpose in mind – to be part of the Unity Games which is a multi-sport event organized by the Church Of Christ or the Iglesia Ni Cristo aimed at promoting unity through sportsmanship.
“It is called Unity Games so we members of the Church Of Christ can show true Christian and fair behavior while participating in a game. Unity is a vital component in an organization. The Church Of Christ is an organization, the most important organization here on earth because our Lord Jesus Christ was the one Who established it. Unity is a strength that can make things impossible, possible,” explained INC District Minister Brother Pepito Acuesta in Central Europe.
The whole day event in the Sportcentrum Olympos of Utrecht opened at 9 in the morning with the parade of colors. Players and participants wore color-coded shirts — green for Belgium; red for southern Germany; white for northern Germany; and yellow for Luxembourg and The Netherlands.
Adult male and female representatives from the four countries did their best and showed their sportsmanship in basketball, volleyball, table tennis, chess, and badminton.
Meanwhile, children put their physical prowess into test by joining the 50-meter relay, sack race, and the tug-of-war.
Peter Leenaars, from the congregation in Dordrecht, noted how the event was so well-organized and expressed happiness that he was able to join and witness the event.
“Our guests must have noticed how united and loving the members are,” he said.
Roderico Ramos, member of the organizing committee, said they were so thankful for the successful Unity Games, and recalled how they were able to find an alternate venue for the event just in time for the actual activity. This was because they found out just three weeks before the Games that the original venue would not be available because of the Dutch Championship Marathon.
Many participants were happy to have joined the Unity Games, and did not mind the long hours of travel to get to the venue.
During the Unity Games, the participants also performed a song number, “Salamat po Ka Eduardo” dedicated to INC Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo who celebrated his birthday on October 31.
Leenaars noted that the Unity Games “could serve as a model” for uniting communities.
Those who participated said that they did not mind taking the time to practice for the event despite their busy schedules.
Caroline Van Acker, a player and musical performer from Belgium, said that she and her sister also participated in a joint performance with participants from Germany, along with the other participants from Belgium.
“The performers from Belgium and Germany met for the first time and practiced together just a few minutes before our number at Unity Games,” she said as she noted that they could have done it successfully only with God’s help.
Luxembourg also participated for the first time in the Unity Games for Central Europe. This was also the first time for INC members from Luxembourg to join a district event as Luxembourg was just a very new INC congregation.
“It’s so exciting to see how unity works whenever the INC has district activities,” said Jia Atilano from Luxembourg whose family joined the Unity Games for the first time.
Roselle Martinez, a mother from Munich, said that it was great for her to watch her children play and mingle with the other young participants during the event.
She said that this brought her “so much joy” as her children was not only given an opportunity to practice sportsmanship but to “develop new friendships, as well.”
“I was just delighted to see that my children met new friends … friends who they’ll meet again in the next activities of the INC in Central Europe,” Martinez said.