Sports-focused ministry celebrates 30 years

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Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”

On June 4, International Sports Federation (ISF) celebrated 30 years of serving people around the world, using sports and recreation to fulfill its mission of bringing the life, hope, and love of Jesus to those who are marginalized and most in need.

In 1993, founder and CEO Cheryl Wolfinger had lunch with missionary Fred Sorrells, who explained the difficulty many missionaries faced when seeking to mobilize sports-related volunteers. At the time, it was hard to find coaches and athletes to serve on international mission projects. Later, in a meeting held June 4, 1993, in the basement of Park Cities Baptist Church, Dr. Ward Walker of East Texas Baptist University stood to his feet and said, “Today, I so move, that we begin the International Sports Federation, and that we appoint Cheryl Wolfinger as president and CEO.”

Those two events sparked a 30-year journey that has led to the mobilization of 18,000 plus missionaries, more than 50,000 people engaged around the world, and 126 countries served.

During the summer of 2012, Brett Bagwell served on his first international mission project with ISF. While playing at second base on a ball field in Belmopan, Belize, waiting for the crack of the batter’s bat, Bagwell accepted the call into the Gospel ministry. Fast forward 10 years, and Bagwell now serves as Director for Baseball and Softball with ISF. He leads teams globally in addition to fulfilling his strong passion for reaching, engaging, and teaching about the love and hope of Jesus within his own community.

“ISF has changed my life,” Bagwell said. “I’ve built lifelong friendships, traveled the world, and have had an opportunity to serve the Lord through the biggest adventures. I will forever be grateful for ISF, and its impact on my life and family.”

Recently, Bagwell led members of the East Texas Baptist University softball program to Australia, where the team competed in the Softball Australia showcase tournament and participated in various ministry projects. In August, he will lead a team of local central Arkansas athletes to Managua, Nicaragua. They will host softball clinics, play friendly softball scrimmages, and partner with Open Hearts Ministries in an effort to engage and impact the people of Managua.

Bagwell’s hope is that this team will return to Central Arkansas ready to spark a revival within their communities.

As fully faith-funded missionaries, Bagwell and his staff speak with individuals, business, and churches to garner support for their daily mission. Bagwell serves as a team chaplain within the Saline County area, provides one-to-one discipleship to local students and community members, provides Gatorade and popsicles to teams and organizations needing refreshments, and works to engage campuses through his faith every time an opportunity presents itself. In January, Bagwell set a goal to purchase and distribute 1,000 Bibles across Central Arkansas. It seemed like a lofty goal, due to the expense, but God provided the funds through donations, and on May 1, Bagwell and his team were able to purchase and distribute more than 1,500 Bibles.

On Sept. 16, International Sports Federation will host the ISF Elite Inaugural Bass Tournament on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, departing from the Fish Hatchery ramp. The tournament will start at first light and end at 3 p.m. The organization is seeking anglers to compete and enjoy a day on the water. The cost is $150 per boat with an optional fee of $20 per boat to enter the big bass pot. Currently there is $5,000 in cash and prizes available, but this amount could increase as tournament time draws closer.

Sponsors include: Allen Tillery Auto, Greg Orr Marine & RV, Thompson Electric, Hardman Lumber Co., Raising Cane’s, C.E.D Arkansas, Todd Matthews – Shelter Insurance, Humana, Hooked on Heroes, Arkadelphia Bass Club, New Beginnings Apostolic Church, and Arkansas Pro Wash. Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available if your business, church, or organization is interested. Volunteers will receive a free shirt, and have snacks and lunch provided at the ramp.

All tournament information, official rules, sponsorships, and volunteer forms can be found at All proceeds go to support ISF and Bagwell as they continue their mission of “changing the world through sports.”

As a 501©3 nonprofit, all donations are tax deductible, and can be made by visiting and clicking on the tab Pay/Give.

If you’re interested in helping change the world through sports – locally or globally – contact Brett Bagwell at (501) 507-2467 or email

Categories: Sports

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