Members of the women’s soccer team at East Texas Baptist University led sports clinics, competed in international soccer games, distributed Bibles and shared their faith during spring break mission trip to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Kristin Cox, head coach of the women’s soccer team, and Lisa Seeley, director of the Great Commission Center and Global Education at ETBU, led 30 student athletes on the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience trip planned in partnership with Youth With a Mission.
“The team grew together and as individuals as we learned more about what it means to use our sport to glorify God,” Cox said. “I enjoyed watching our women eagerly volunteer to lead as they felt God calling.
“Whether we were competing, running soccer clinics, participating in manual labor or traveling through difficult terrain, we worked through each fun adventure and challenging task as a team.”
Cox fondly recalled hearing the young women chant “3:23” during some of their longest days.
“The phrase comes from Colossians 3:23 and serves as a reminder that everything we do, we do it for the Lord,” she said. “I look forward to seeing how the lessons learned during this trip transform the lives of our ETBU student athletes.”
The ETBU women’s soccer team competed against four local teams in Costa Rica. Enjoying the competition, one of the opposing teams asked the Tigers to play again later in the week. Many of the local players also attended the clinics and games hosted by the ETBU team, enabling the Tigers to build close relationships in the community.
“Arriving at the field, I was shocked at the number of fans that showed up to watch,” said Abigail Bath, an ETBU freshman. “I was exhausted, but our coach pointed out all of the people watching. She said that we needed to persevere because we were there to show them we are different because of God. Hearing her say that sparked something in me. We ended up winning the game 1-0 and continued to play small side games the rest of the afternoon.”
Since four players on the ETBU team speak Spanish fluently, they taught their teammates questions and phrases that would help them coach the children at each of the clinics. The Tigers provided a local team with five soccer balls and a set of jerseys for their future practices. At one clinic, more than 60 children and youth participated.
“At the soccer clinics, I was welcomed warmly by the children, who I had in my group previously,” said Gabi Henley, an ETBU junior. “We spent time doing soccer drills, playing games, and having a good time with the youth. Before we returned to the YWAM base, we were able to take pictures and exchange information with the kids so we can keep in touch with each other.”
Several members of the ETBU team who can play guitar and sing led late-night worship experiences every evening. They sang in both Spanish and English during Family Night, an evening of worship, testimonies and a sermon open to the local community. ETBU senior McKenna Medders presented her Christian testimony at Family Night.
“With every delay, the girls were still joking and laughing. This seemed to be the theme for the week,” Medders said. “The overall attitude during the trip was positive. Every time plans changed, the girls would go with the flow without complaining. Through the experience, I found a love for missions and felt a strong calling to go into full-time mission work. On the days where the work seemed to be hardest, I had unexplainable energy. My own joy and the excitement and support of my team and the YWAM staff confirmed my calling.”
From persevering through challenging tasks to initiating fellowship and praising God, the student athletes responded to every situation with a servant heart, team leaders said.
“My favorite part of the trip was having the opportunity to distribute Bibles to Las Palmas, a poor community in Costa Rica,” ETBU junior Ashleigh Rondon recalled. “It was humbling to provide the first Bible in a family’s home. We prayed over each house, and some families welcomed us inside.
“One group of the team visited a house where the father had recently had open-heart surgery. Without being able to work, the family could not afford food. The girls on the team immediately gathered all the money they had, as well as the snacks in their bags, to donate to the family. The experience made me realize how much we take for granted.”
The trip to Costa Rica marked the ninth Tiger Athletic Mission Experience, which provides student athletes the opportunity to use their talents as a platform to connect with people and share the gospel. The ETBU Men and Women’s Tennis Teams will travel on mission to France in late May.