The East Texas Baptist University Women’s Basketball team traveled to Jamaica from Wednesday, August 1 through Thursday, August 9 as a part of the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME) program. Led by Head Coach Rusty Rainbolt and ETBU Director of Global Education Lisa Seeley, the group of 27 partnered with Ignite International to minister to the people of Jamaica.
“The coaches prepared the ETBU Women’s Basketball team both physically and spiritually for our time in Jamaica,” Dr. Seeley shared. “From the beginning, the team was ready to share the joy of the Lord with the people of this island. These young women are amazing and love God with all of their hearts. It has been a blessing to travel and serve with them.”
Founded in 2003, Ignite International is an organization that uses the platform of sports to share the Gospel overseas. With Ignite, the ETBU team competed with international basketball teams, conducted sports clinics for local children, volunteered in schools, and visited orphanages.
“We went to the Melody House for Girls, a home for abused teenage women,” ETBU junior Kayla Bise explained. “A few of my teammates shared their testimonies, a powerful experience that created a connection with the girls. Afterwards, the women had the opportunity to share their story with us and ask questions. One girl expressed how she knew who Jesus was, but felt like God didn’t love her. We had the chance to open the Bible and show her how much God cares for her.” Bise continued, “By the end of the conversation, she accepted Jesus into her heart, and at that moment, I thought to myself, ‘This is it. This is why we are here.’ The whole experience reminded me of Isaiah 61:1-2.”
Whether serving at nursing facilities and children’s homes, swimming in the ocean, or competing in basketball, the ETBU Women’s Basketball team intentionally sought ways to express and demonstrate Christ’s love throughout the trip. The Tigers played at the University of West Indies against Jamaican Olympic and National Team athletes. During half-time, the groups gathered on the court to share testimonies and pray together. Following the games, the teams spent time together in worship and fellowship.
“We were blessed to play with ladies from another country, who we could relate to on and off the court,” ETBU senior Valarie Matlock said. “At half-time, we brought the team in the middle of the court and told the crowd about what God does for us. We prayed together and showed them that God is more significant than our ability to play basketball. ETBU won 41-39, but the score was not as important as the fact that we were able to spread the Word of God as a team.”
Both the student-athletes and coaches communicated how the seeds they planted will continue to sprout in the lives of the Jamaican people and in their own lives on to the future.
“These staff members and student-athletes have poured their hearts into advancing the Kingdom of God, encouraging the people of Jamaica, and building the team’s chemistry,” ETBU Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach Caleb Henson commented. “Our players have learned not to allow their youth to hinder them as they profess the name of Jesus. They have set an example for all believers with their vulnerability, love, and faith. I believe this experience is going to serve as a foundation for our program as we head into the upcoming season.”
The trip to Jamaica was the seventh Tiger Athletic Mission Experience, which provides student-athletes the opportunity to use their God-given talents as a platform to connect with people and share the Gospel of Jesus.
“The mission trip to Jamaica was an experience of a lifetime in so many ways,” Coach Rainbolt said. “I can’t begin to describe all that we saw and experienced through those nine days. I can say that, more than ever, our team experienced the biblical elements of love, patience, longsuffering, and kindness. May we never forget, and may we never be the same.”
ETBU Vice President for Athletics Ryan Erwin will be taking the ETBU Hockey team to Austria and Slovakia in early January for the next TAME trip. To stay updated with upcoming TAME trips, follow the blog at tigerathleticmissionexperience.tumblr.com.