This is a detailed account of what took place during the most awaited event of the year (besides Christmas) and nope it wasn’t golden week, it’s LOTHGM Sports Fest! This will be a lengthy post so grab your chips, gear up and bear with me. 

It has been a yearly tradition for LOTHGM members to  travel all the way to Chiba Ken to participate in the annual sports festival. This year we set foot to an unchartered territory, Gunma Ken!

Gunma did not disappoint as it held LOTHGM’s most successful sports festival last May gathering participants coming from Chiba and as far as Tochigi. The event hosted at least 500 participants. The gym doesn’t open until 9 but people were already flocking at 7.

The energy inside the gym quickly surged as members of each teams marched to the center stage each with their own chants and cheers and carefully thought-out themes. 

The Yellow Team; lead by James Bongo and PioAlday, came out as minions from the hit movie “Despicable Me”. Lorna Matsushima, the main minion character, skipped in glee as they established formation. The Yellow Team surely looked cute in their bright yellow jerseys!

Next to make a name for themselves were the Red Team lead by Jennison Casiño and Jayson Artiaga. First to enter the portal was Charlie Matsusaki the “flag bearer”. In an instant the Red team seemed like an OP (overpowered) team. Frankly, I wasn’t quite sure what characters they were trying to portray. They wore red shirts, red headgears and red wrist wraps with a yellow star print. It obviously was a Vietnam flag, but maybe it was “Wonderwoman”? or could it have been “Darna”? I have zero clue and have yet to debunk this mystery later.

Unlike the fierce vibe of the Reds, the Green Team came out enchanting! With wands on hand and wings in tact, the little ones of the Green Team did a perfect cosplay of little fairies, inspired by another movie, “Tinker Bell”. Following the little gals were the slightly grown-up version of Tinker Bell played by the teens of the team. The rest of the mob wore uniform costumes depicting the character “Peter Pan”. Judging by the detail of their wardrobe, from the hats down to the flops, it seemed like they’ve really put in hefty hours of preparation. Nevertheless, it all paid off. 

Last and definitely not the least, the Blue team! First came the superhero-vibed background music. It sounded really familiar because of all the hype the MCU has been making recently, when out of nowhere Captain America and Blue version Iron Man emerged from the arena! Lead by Glady Rocha and Dion Ramos, they brought a battalion of soldiers along with them. 

The fact that Cap and IronMan was in the building already got everyone pumped up, but it wasn’t until Donald Trump, Shinzo Abe, Kim Jong-un and a grown man with an infant’s head that makes no sense showed up that everybody lost their minds. 

The Blue Team dropped the bombed and the game hasn’t even started yet! (no pun intended to Mr. Kim)

The bible commands us to honor God in all things and so with teams settled down, we opened the ceremony with a prayer lead by Ptr. Jebb Alibutod.

It is a thing of beauty when the whole congregation unites in prayer.

Ptr. Monty Izon casually blending in with the crowd. 

The program was hosted by our beloved Senior Pastor Monty Izon. He always has a way of making the crowd cheer aggressively for their teams. An hour into the fest and the place was already about to erupt. Come game time and we set things off with one of the crowd’s favorite, volleyball! 

The Yellow Team determined to put a stop to the Blue lady spikers’ rampage. 

The Blue lady spikers dominated every match effortlessly. They smashed their way to the finals beating every opponent in their way ultimately winning their last game against the Yellow Team. They tasted no defeat. Not one set. There was no worthy opponent.

Red Team ecstatic after their first victory. 

On the other side of the court were the boys division and it was a different story. The Red Team had some pretty good players and the Green Team was a powerhouse as well. Both teams demolished their opponents in the first round leading to the final match. The first set was a tight battle. They gave the crowd “oohs”and “aahs” in their rally. The Green Team endured and was able to get the first W. This gave them momentum and easily won the next set making them the volleyball champs. 

Dance performance by LOTHGM Gunma Dance Ministry.

Next game is called “shoot the balls”. It is basically just throwing plastic balls the size of a baseball to a bucket elevated at a height of around 15 feet in a given amount of time. The team with the most balls wins. Simply put, this game is a free-for-all-ball-barrage. 

The game was taken by the green team with a 6-point difference. No sweat. 

Ptr. FerdieCañeso munching on his lunch.

We hit the 12pm mark so everybody went for lunch in their own camps. Lunchtime during LOTHGM Sports Fest is always so fun! You will see people sharing food, talk, laughter, and a whole lot of love. You don’t even have to bring food, just bring a plate and it will be filled, guaranteed! 

Half-time performance brought to you by LOTHGM Gunma’s Youth and Singles Ministry (YS)

Kids at play.

While others were trying to get in some good rest, it was time for the kids to have fun. The children’s ministry committee prepared a handful of games for the little ones. Joined by their guardians, kids as little as 3 went from running and jumping to popping balloons. There were no losers, all were winners! 

The teams assembled once again in their respective barracks. The Blue Team, being the most aggressive squad in the arena, rolled their drums, lined up their troops and marched back and forth flexing in front of other teams.

The Red Team was not impressed. They took formation in the center court, raised their banners and unleashed their most skilled troops into the battlefield only to show off their moves on the dance floor. The crowd was psyched! 

The Yellow Team weren’t going down without a fight so they pulled off their own moves as well. 

Compelled by their co-competitors, the Green Team also brought their own spin to the game. They  didn’t come with empty pockets as they shocked the other teams with a full cheering routine. 

Teams went crazy, the place was lit!

The next game is called “string and ball relay”. Basically, the game must be played by 2 members, using 2 strings, and a ball. Facing each other, the team leader must place the ball on the top of the strings held by both  participants on each end. Once settled, the players must run to the other end of the court and back while dodging obstacles set by the committees. If the ball drops, players must stay in their position and wait for the team leader to reposition the ball and resume play. Despite the rules, many players weren’t able to comply. Some shortened the strings, some held it in one hand, others were even touching the ball and it all added up leading to a heated argument between team leaders and officials. 

Blue Team leader Dion Ramos making the assist

As a committee, it was very hard to officiate the game. Once the players got off the starting point they went with their own and it was hard to prevent those things unless we postpone the game. That’s exactly what happened mid game. We made some adjustments and so did the players. We had a short meeting and came up with the decision to have points deducted to the team who failed to comply the most. Green Team got first place, Blue Team second, Red for third and Yellow with the last place.

Everything was water under the bridge as the game approached the final rounds. 

Up next was the most requested game, “Tunogmo, Hanapko”. Analyzing the title, you probably already know what were dealing with. 5 members spread out and blindfolded must regroup with other members using only animal sounds assigned to each team. We had a “meow” sound, we also had an “oink”, a “meheheheh”, and the most ridiculous, the “moo” sound. 

I love this game but I think it is better spectated than participated because making weird animal noises at the top of your lungs for  5 minutes doesn’t seem fun for your vocal cords. But that’s just my 2 cents in, everybody seemed to have a lot of fun playing! 

The Green Team sealed the deal for the women’s division while the Yellow Minions won the Men’s division.

Blue Team frontlinerAsuka Ciano locked in for the battle for third place. 

Mirror mirror on then wall, who’s the strongest of them all? We now go to the battle of endurance and strength, the “Tug of War”. Elimination round was too easy for the Red Team quickly defeating the Blue Team two games to none. Same story went with the Green Team pulverizing the Yellow Team to two and O. 

Yellow Team knocked out by Blue Team for third place.

Battle for third place went to the Blue and Yellow Team. Both teams made some adjustments with their crew and strategy giving the crowd a fist clinching match with no team wanting to give up. The Blue Team found their rhythm midway and ended the match in a dramatic fashion knocking the Yellow Team to the ground, literally. 

For the championship match, we have the defending champions from last year; Red Team and the new challenger; the Green Team. It was probably the most intense match that day with both teams equalling in strength and technique. The Green Team though, was able to snatch the first match but it was no easy task. 

Stunned with their first loss, the Reds regained their focus, mustered all of their strength and gave it all in the second round turning the tide as they were able to pull the ropes on their side but the Green Team, still not giving up easily managed to put a stop to the Red’s momentum leaving the marker just inches behind the victory line for the Red. 

Green Teams epic comeback. 

From there, the Green Team, having almost lost the game and with most of their backline down on the floor trying to press weight on the ropes with desperation  started to fight back pulling bit by bit with perfect synchrony and the Red team, out of gas, wasn’t able to hold off the Green Team’s final counter-attack. It was an epic comeback! 

With all the games on the list crossed out, we went on with the awarding ceremony. It was no surprise that the Green Team came in first place overall. They dominated almost every single game and gave no chance to the other teams. Blue Team fell in the second spot and Red and Yellow for the third and fourth place respectively. 

Every year, we give a bonus award (and that means more prizes) to the most united team, or the Unity award. The committees got to vote for the winner and this year was really tough. Everybody seemed to be equally united with their teams but we had to give out our votes in the end. 

All Greens rejoiced upon Most United award

It wasn’t unanimous, in fact it was a multiple split decision. Once again the Green Team proved to be worthy of the title “Champion”!

Everybody was tired yet fulfilled; worn-out yet overjoyed. Upon the closing ceremonies Ptr. Monty stressed out the importance of balance between rest, play, and fellowship. 

God created us to rest, recreate, and rejuvenate. We are finite creatures. We need to rest and get away for a time. We need to go out and enjoy life and do some fun things for a change. Take the family or take a friend with you. There is everything right about seeking a solitary place, or resting, having some recreation, or just enjoying life. God is not anti-fun. He wants us to have a rich, abundant life of enjoyment and fun. That life begins with Jesus Christ.

And like we always do, we wrapped things up with a grateful and most heartfelt prayer to the one who is the source of our joy, our strength, and our purpose, Jesus Christ. 

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