March 19, 2019
The East Texas Baptist University Women’s Soccer Team traveled to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica from Saturday, March 9 through Saturday, March 16 as a part of the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME) program. Led by Head Coach Kristin Cox and Director of the Great Commission Center and Global Education Lisa Seeley, the group of 30 student-athletes and University staff partnered with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) to share the Gospel through sport clinics, international soccer games, personal testimony, and Bible distributions.
“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. A highlight of the trip was hearing the girls chant “3:23” during the longest days. The phrase comes from Colossians 3:23 and serves as a reminder that everything we do, we do it for the Lord. I look forward to seeing how the lessons learned during this trip transforms 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,” ETBU freshman Abigail Bath shared. “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.”
As four players on the ETBU Women’s Soccer Team can speak Spanish fluently, they taught the team 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 another 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,” ETBU junior Gabi Henley commented. “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. Although today was physically draining, I enjoyed it all I was able to work for God’s Kingdom.”
The ETBU Women’s Soccer Team also has several women, who can play guitar and sing. Regardless of how tired they may have been, the girls gathered for late-night worship each day. Singing in both Spanish and English during Family Night, an evening of worship, testimonies, and a sermon open to the local community, cultivated unity between the Tigers and Costa Rican people. At the event, ETBU senior Athletic Training major McKenna Medders had the opportunity to share her testimony.
“With every delay, the girls were still joking and laughing. This seemed to be the theme for the week,” Medders shared. “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. The team also provided for a local family with their own provisions.
“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 explained. “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 was the ninth 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 ETBU Men and Women’s Tennis Teams will travel on mission to France in late May. To stay updated with upcoming TAME trips, follow the blog at tigerathleticmissionexperience.tumblr.com.