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Remembering Dan Brandel – “Father, Friend, Mentor, Coach”

In memory of Dan Brandel
Born October 14, 1951, in Chad, Africa
Taken to glory on April 25, 2021, in Malawi, Africa

Sports Ambassadors

One Challenge and Sports Ambassadors lost a dear brother and mission worker into the loving, eternal arms of Christ Jesus. This is a small tribute to a man who loved the Lord wholeheartedly, served for an audience of One, and was born, ministered, and died in his beloved Africa.

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These pictures are the front & back of a “sports card” Dan carried with him in Africa. He would give these out to those he met as a way to connect and share the story of his relationship with Jesus.

Testimony About Dan

From Dave Erickson, coordinator of the OC Global Sports Team:

Having known and served with Dan Brandel since 1998, there are a lot of stories I could share. I’d like to share two key observations of Dan that God used to bear much fruit.

First, God gave Dan a love for people. He served all over the world, but if you know Dan … his heart was in Africa. Dan had the God-given gift of being able to talk to just about anyone. We roomed together at a global sports ministry conference awhile back. Each day consisted of meetings for 8-10 hours. Being more introverted, I relished the chance to have quiet evenings. Being more of a morning person, I eagerly looked forward to going to bed by 10. However, our room soon became the “African Community Center,” as each night the folks from Africa filled our room with conversations, laughter, and song past midnight. Having grown up in Chad, Dan spoke French, so much of the conversation I could not understand, but love and laughter is universal. Thankfully, I began to look forward to these evenings because I saw in Dan a love for people and a genuine joy being with them, and that is contagious. 

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Second, God lit Dan’s heart with a passion for discipleship. Dan was an accomplished basketball coach, but rarely talked about games, wins, losses, etc. What he relished in was how God allowed him to use the game he enjoyed as a tool to develop relationships, integrate faith, and serve players and coaches toward following Jesus. Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more people in one year than most people will in an entire lifetime.” That being said, Dan embodied this quote toward kingdom impact.

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Finally, Dan lived his life for “An Audience of ONE.” On 25 April, 2021, in Malawi, Africa, Dan instantly left the continent of his birth, the place he was Born Again, and the land he learned basketball to be in the presence of that “ONE” … Jesus. We are deeply saddened for our temporary loss but thrilled for Dan’s current joy inexpressible. May we all be encouraged and exhorted by Dan’s life to love genuinely and use our gifts and lives to serve others in following Jesus. Truly, a fruitful life!

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Remembrances of Dan

I am truly stirred and inspired by the way Dan ran his race; and as if rounding that last turn, he somehow drew additional strength to sprint those last meters to the finish line, giving 100+%. What a testimony for all of us! What a legacy he leaves behind for us to emulate.

His shocking and sudden departure leaves us deeply saddened; we grieve with his wife, Sandy and family, this great loss. I personally experienced the care and compassion of Dan in El Salvador in 1987. I had contracted hepatitis and was in a bad place as we traveled by bus from San Salvador together back to Guatemala City. Dan got me there. I’ve loved my brother ever since. He’s inspired me in this season of his life, generously giving back to Africa, where he found Jesus and there served Him to the end. We are proud of Dan and his inspiring legacy. – Bruce S, OC teammate

My brother Dan! A partner here with us in Central America! Awesome coach and coach of coaches! His love for the Lord amazed me! You are in the best place, Dan! We miss you! – Jamie L., OC Global Alliance teammate

Dan inspired us with his heart, moved us with his compassion, and showed us how to serve with his life. He adventured with God – making a difference – to his last breath. On behalf of One Challenge workers worldwide, we honor Dan, mourn with Sandy and carry forward the Great Commission passion for which he lived. – Dean C., One Challenge USA president

Mr. Brandel worked at PCA, a school I attended as a kid. He was friendly, kind, and a faithful picture of godly leadership. Lots of love to the family, losing a spouse or parent is one of life’s most difficult stages even in the knowledge of the joy Mr. Brandel is experiencing now. – Benjamin B.

I have known Coach Brandel since 2017. I and my family hosted him in Kenya in April 2018. I have known him as a humble, faithful, and dedicated servant! We were looking forward to hosting him in July /August this year, am sad this won’t happen but rejoice in knowing that our dear brother is at “home” and being applauded for his faithful service! – Joseph M.

He loved basketball, but he loved the Lord much more. We all grieve from this loss but rejoice in his homecoming. His life impacted many for Christ and will continue to be a legacy for those he impacted through his faithfulness. I’m praying for his family at this time. Mt. 25:23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’” – Todd J.

Dan was a fantastic coach and taught me way more than just the game of basketball! He was a great player of the game, taking on five on the court and winning! When I went to college he ironically moved to Grand Rapids that year as well. He asked my coach if he could come to our practices and scrimmage. He coached me one-on-one during that year and I learned so much!

Having this passion for both the sport and wanting to share God’s generous and faithful love he eventually traveled with Sports Ambassadors all over the world! We got to see each other a couple years ago – he was meeting with many people he had coached – to connect and share his ministry! So thankful for that!

The world, literally, has seen a great loss! But Dan has met Jesus and heard “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Praying so for the family! – Syndi H.

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To read more memories of Dan or share one of your own, please visit OC Sports Ambassadors Facebook page:

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. Contact the OC Sports Ambassadors at .

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