Karate for Christ Reaches Youth in Unique Way
Local youth enjoy interacting with Rev. Mark Pedersen via his unique outreach ministry in the Grand Saline community.
Sometimes Rev. Mark Pedersen puts on a robe and stole before sharing about Christ, and other times he dons a traditional karate uniform and black belt and blends spiritual lessons into the Tae Kwon Do training he offers young people in the area around First UMC, Grand Saline. Pastor Mark explains, “The goal of Karate for Christ is to build true confidence through knowledge in the mind, faith in the heart and strength in the body. This forum also facilitates friendships to build a strong, happy community. I teach the children to never fight to achieve selfish ends, never to bully but to develop ‘might for right.’”
His Might for Right Ministries strategy includes teaching students from four years old through adulthood how to block, kick, punch and perform other martial arts moves. Tricia Adams is glad to see her 15-year-old daughter, Emily, thriving in the program. Emily, a green belt, is one of Mark’s assistants and loves teaching the younger children. “Learning self-defense is a good idea for anyone, but I have seen this activity help Emily overcome shyness and be more confident,” shares Tricia. “Emily has a heart for God and knows a great deal of scripture, due in part to this program. Every child has to recite a verse as a part of the belt ceremony, which occurs at a worship service.”
Adds Tricia, “Pastor Mark provides covers the cost for the tests and belts. On top of that, he is modeling Christian character traits in a patient, calm way.” She has observed new families coming to the church and additional teens to youth group as a result of this unique program.
He is willing to take this ministry on the road. Last year he taught three classes in the Fruitvale ISD through the statewide ACE Program: After-school Centers on Education. “Building on success there,” he explains, “I’ve offered to teach at churches in the surrounding area. After the Edgewood ISD allowed us to send Karate for Christ flyers to promote the registration for classes at Cheatum Memorial UMC, we had no idea what to expect. A total of 50 children and 100 adults showed up!”
In the ‘little dragon’ class of 4-to-6-year-olds, he teaches life skills and safety lessons along with Martial Arts skills. Adds Mark, “This ministry is a great way to introduce people to the UMC that would never come otherwise. Some churches plan classes for the parents while the students are busy learning karate.”
Students work toward receiving their belts, and get this honor during a worship service. During that service, they are required to recite their Bible verse in front of the congregation.
"I teach Martial Arts so that the kids learn discipline in their mind, in their school, in their home and in scripture," he says. "I teach them to have respect for themselves, for their friends, their parents, their teachers and for God. The five-minute devotional at the end of class applies what we have learned back into a scriptural context."
As an alum of Stephen F. Austin in 1991 and Texas Christian University in 1995, Mark views this as part of his calling to ministry. "This is a way that I can use my talents and gifts to reach out to the community," he says. "It helps me get close to a lot of these kids' parents that are on the fringe and needing a relationship with God as well." His Might for Right Ministries is part of the Karate for Christ International organization.