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Remembering Bud Schaeffer (Sports Ambassadors)

Bud with Venture for VictoryThis month we want to remember Bud Schaeffer, who went to be with His beloved Lord and Savior on July 22, 2015 at the age of 88. He holds a place in OC’s 63-year history as one of One Challenge’s first mission workers and early pioneers of sports evangelism.

Bud’s Call to Serve through Basketball

The arena God appointed for Bud was the basketball court, giving him unusual athleticism and skill. Schaeffer, a Wheaton College graduate (BA in Biblical Studies ’50) made quite a name for himself in basketball with his unbelievable feats on the college court. In 1952 Schaeffer was selected by Taylor University’s Coach Don Odle to join the first basketball missions tour sponsored by Orient Crusades (OC’s name at that time). This was in response to Madame Chiang Kai-Chek’s request to Dick Hillis and Ells Culver to bring a basketball team to Taiwan to share Christ with her people. Norm Cook, also on that first squad in ’52, remembers facing the Republic of China’s national team in Taipei on a night when the men had already played three games that day! “We were behind by 16 points in the third quarter and Coach ordered us to go into a pressing man-to-man defense. Although exhausted we did it and Bud was the key to our winning. A UN war correspondent who saw the game said: ‘It wasn’t fair because that team had God on its side!'”

Bud basketball team

Bud’s Early Family Life and Ministry

The next year Bud did a second Venture for Victory trip to the Philippines, accompanied by his wife Alice. In the process, he developed a deep concern for and interest in the Filipino people. The couple joined the OC staff in 1954 and left in May 1955 for the Philippine Islands with Sheryl, their baby daughter. Three other children were born to the Schaeffers during their years of service in the Philippines: Teri Ann, David and Kevin.

For twelve years, the Schaeffers lived in the Philippines directing and coordinating Venture for Victory basketball teams, camp work, and sport clinics and having many pastors’ and youth conferences. Venture for Victory used athletes as evangelists and mission workers. Teams from the U.S. would play local teams in schools and communities. At half time, the team members would sing, testify, and present the gospel to those present. Those people who made decisions at the game were encouraged to sign up for a Bible correspondence course available through OC. This was a perfect fit for the talents and personality God had given Bud – sports, music, humor and endurance.


Bud with SA

Bud’s Move to Director of Sports Ministry at US Mobilization Center

In 1967 Bud was asked to come back to the United States to be the Director of Venture for Victory, later known as Sports Ambassadors (SA). For the next 16 years Bud’s deep devotion to the Lord found expression in sports ministry. He recruited and mentored players, took some 50+ teams abroad as player/coach, and with those teams shared Christ in over 30 countries before hundreds of thousands of fans. He participated in his last game at age 75.

Bud with SA

In 2009 he went on his last SA trip to Mindanao, Philippines with the current Sports Ambassador Director, Robin Cook (husband of Bud and Alice’s daughter, Teri). Rob recalls how Bud energetically shared at every halftime of the 32 game tour using simple “props” to illustrate the relevance of Jesus Christ in the basic issues of life.

Bud’s object lessons were not limited to halftime on the basketball court. All who knew him will remember him for his single-mindedness in using every opportunity given to him to share the love of Jesus. He lived out his identity and will leave a godly legacy! To GOD be the glory!

In Bud’s Memory…

A Schaeffer Scholarship Fund has been set up within Sports Ambassadors. If you desire to play a role in future ministries of Sports Ambassador’s, you may send checks to: Sports Ambassadors, PO Box 36900, Colorado Springs, CO 80936 or give online.

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Sports Ministries
One Challenge is an international mission sending agency empowering local church ministry in more than 100 countries around the world. One Challenge uses sports as a vehicle to create opportunities for sharing the gospel, planting churches, helping churches engage their communities, and developing disciple-making networks.


  • Ina Heinrichs says:

    Bud was an amazing man and a great boss. I had the privilege of working with Sports Ambassadors for several years during my time at OC. The ministry is still close to my heart and I will never forget the impact Bud had on the many players, coaches and others who went out with the teams. Bud always had a joke, word of encouragement or story for every occasion! He loved the Lord, his beloved Alice, and family very much. He was truly a man of God and showed it in every part of his life. I miss you, Bud!

  • Joshua Cook says:

    Grandpa Bud played a great game for Christ and I’m thankful dad will be there to help Grandpa “leave it all on the court!”
    Uncle Dave E. you put it nicely.
    “Jesus, this Bud’s for you!”


  • Jim Christensen says:

    I am saddened this morning by learning of the passing of Bud Schaffer. I among many of my basketball colleagues was drawn to the strong, godly character of Bud Schaffer–what an instrument of God!
    This morning I was studying a passage that dealt with leprosy and a I remembered a time in 1978 when Bud Schaffer took our Sports Ambassador Basketball team on a bus to a leprosarium in the Philippines. As a young 20+ players, my teammates and I were shocked by the disfigurement seen on so many faces and bodies. What was so amazing about that visit was the love and concern that Bud had for all those at the leprosarium. Bud introduced us to a small, frail, leprous man named, Mr. Tsai. Half of his nose was missing and his fingers were stubs on his hand. We were given a tour of the leprosarium–a definite eye-opener! Our team was moved by the experience of seeing this difficulty and suffering. We boarded the bus to leave; a bit stunned by our experience there. Bud was getting on the bus last as he was addressing his good friend, Mr. Tsai. By chance, I happened to look out the bus window and saw Bud not only embracing Mr. Tsai when we were leaving, but Bud also kissed Mr. Tsai on the cheek. I will never forget that act of kindness and love, never. Bud Schaeffer, true champion and example of God’s grace.

    • shannon says:

      Thank you for sharing this special memory of Bud and the ministry of Sports Ambassadors!

  • I first met Bud at the Australian Basketball club championships in Melbourne Victoria. He asked me, “Would I like to play basketball for Jesus” after hearing I was a Christian. I ended up touring the Philippines and Hong Kong with the first two Venture for Victory basketball teams to go from Australia. Bud was with us on the Philippines section before he left the team in 1976. I toured again in 1977. Bud had come to Australia as a mission worker with the goal of getting a team together. Even though Bud was getting on in years, he could still play pretty well, and he had of course his trick shots. I’m glad I had the privilege of meeting him. He was an inspiration to me, and I was never the same after those tours. As missions got into my DNA I have since been on many mission trips since. I even married a Filipina who worked with our hosts Philippine Crusades in Manila, and we have two boys.

    • shannon says:

      What wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing, Pastor Jim.

  • Roger Yarhouse says:

    I remember Bud first from our playing days at Valley Church in Cupertino, CA where he encouraged me to join a mission team with these unforgettable words, “I’m sure we can go deep enough into the jungle for you to participate.” The second memory came from his visit to us in Lebanon, PA when he showed off his dexterity juggling a soccer ball with his feet. He used this along with his penny whistle to draw crowds to hear about our Savior. What a blessing he was.

  • Janet and Skip Magee says:

    Had not heard anything from Bud for a while and decided to ‘google’ his name. While I am sad to hear Bud is no longer here to brighten all of our lives, it is wonderful to know he is finally with his beloved Jesus! What an amazing witness he was, even if you were just driving through a parking lot and a worker was sweeping it, he yelled encouraging words to the man.

    My husband and I were blessed to have Bud perform our marriage ceremony 47 years ago in Pasadena California. How blessed we were to know him and be a small part of his life. He was truly an ambassador for God.

  • Billy Edge says:

    One of the boldest men I knew that shared the Gospel every opportunity he could with others. Enjoyed my time learning and sharing Christ with others with Bud. He is still missed and truly an influential man of God. He could also tell you a few good stories about his career and life!

  • Douglas Gwinn says:

    Bud Schaeffer was the most authentic Christian I’ve ever known. He was our leader at a basketball camp where I was a counselor in the summer of ’76, Wolf Mountain in Grass Valley, California. He was on my team and one time we got a rebound and started up court for a fast-break. Bud had the ball, and I was about 15 feet in front of him. But I wasn’t looking for a pass, I was just running straight ahead, which most players would understand as a mistake. Bud, who often used both hands for passes and shots, passed the ball to me while I wasn’t looking. It smacked me so hard in the posterior! Like a song, “Isn’t it just like a friend to hit me from behind!” It woke me up that fundamental… always be looking for the ball, and in your Christian life, never consider yourself unimportant in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus. He is throwing the ball at you, at us, and we need to catch it and do His will. Thank you Bud for being such a powerful witness to the character of Jesus in the way you lived and taught others.

  • Alvin Wesley Pablo says:

    My dad, Rev. Dr. Alfonso Pablo (General Superintendent Emeritus of The Wesleyan Church – Philippines), recalled that he was handpicked by Bud to display his basketball skills when he was young…

  • Keith Christensen says:

    I was 18 years old at San Jose Bible College where I was playing basketball my freshman year. After playing one of our games Bud Schaeffer came out of the stands and said that he loved the way I played the game and asked if I would go on a trip with SA. I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t know anything about SA.
    Of all things I got to go with Robin Cook and it changed my life. I will forever be grateful for both Bud and Robin because they cared for me when I would have never thought of being used by God the way they supported me.
    I can’t wait to see Bud again and thank him for believing in me at such a young age. I shared with someone yesterday about being in Africa with a lady from Africa who told me how lonely she is during the covid pandemic. Because of Bud asking me to go to Africa gave me the opportunity to talk with her and try to encourage her to go to church with my daughter. God is still using what Bud did for me 43 years ago.
    So thankful for him.

  • Lawrence Teoh says:

    I was in the process of writing an assignment that required me to include persons of influence in my life and Bud Schaeffer came to mind. I was based in Adelaide Australia then and he came to share the S.A. ministry.
    As I was about to be married, we asked him to perform our wedding ceremony and he graciously accepted. Furthermore, his wife sang for us. It was a memorable day. Bud Schaefer, you are always remembered.

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