January 9, 2023
East Texas Baptist University’s Tiger Softball Team traveled to Australia in December for the University’s fourteenth Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME) trip. Led by the Director of Global Education and Great Commission Center Lisa Seeley, Vice President for Athletics Ryan Erwin, and Head Softball Coach Janae Shirley, the group of 41 athletes and staff partnered with the International Sports Federation (ISF), an organization that seeks to change the world through sports.
“For me, this trip has been an opportunity to talk about the Lord, get closer to my teammates, and learn more about the beautiful culture of Australia,” ETBU senior biology major Hannah Kelley said. “I was so excited to see what the Lord had in store for us as we served in Australia.”
After several travel complications resulting in a 48-hour journey, the team arrived in Adelaide and hit the ground running with the 23 and Under tournament hosted by Softball Australia. After the game, the group spent the afternoon hosting a softball clinic at Hills Christian Church and Community School. The players were able to teach softball skills and share their testimonies and faith with over 30 children before ending the day handing out t-shirts and ETBU trading cards, and signing autographs for the campers.
“This trip posed a lot of challenges particularly in scheduling and travel,” Coach Shirley said. “I know for many girls on the team, this was their first trip out of the country which also brought on fear and anxiety. I am so proud of how they managed to overcome their fears and anxiety and adjust and go with the flow. They really managed to see the positive in things and adjust and work together as a group.”
The Tigers finished the tournament undefeated with six wins. Following the final game, the student-athletes shared Scripture bracelets and spent time sharing about life in the United States with other teams.
“The opportunity to play against the Australian National teams was so amazing,” ETBU sophomore biochemistry major Sydney Green said. “I got to share my love of the game with others and spread the Lord’s Word in Australia. It not only benefited those around me, but it has also brought me closer to God. This trip has shown me so many new ways to be a light to others, and I am truly grateful for that.”
Experiencing different cultures is a key component of every TAME trip. Because this visit took place in mid-December, the Tiger Softball Team also had the opportunity to experience Australian culture during the Christmas season and got a glimpse into how others celebrate the birth of Christ across the globe.
“This trip to Australia has been amazing, and I’m so thankful for this opportunity to come and serve the Lord faithfully alongside my teammates,” ETBU sophomore nursing major Ellie Watkins said. “We went to the beautiful town of Lobethal, where we got to serve their community. We served food to the locals and got to meet and share the Love of God with the people we were working with. We also got to share the Christmas story through caroling at a live nativity scene. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope we all brought as much joy to the people we served as they did to us.”
In addition to using their sport to connect with others across the globe and being able to experience new cultures with their teammates, TAME trips are heavily focused on and centered around group service opportunities. During the final portion of the trip, the group partnered with Mission Australia and SecondBites, a Christian ministry in Sydney whose mission is to rescue food, minimize food waste, and provide it free of charge to those experiencing hunger and food insecurity throughout the region. The Tiger Softball Team packed over 950 bags of meals to prepare the community for the Christmas holiday weekend.
“I was able to help by breaking down boxes, filling bags, and writing personal notes that were put in each bag of food,” ETBU senior biology major Marin Musicant said. “Being able to work with my friends and teammates helped me realize how fortunate we are to be able to serve others and further our mission of being servant leaders.”
The ETBU Softball Team spent their final day in Sydney, Australia, serving at the Living Hope Church at Camperdown. Half of the team helped wrap Christmas gifts for church members while the others divided into groups to canvas the local neighborhoods, inviting the neighbors to the church’s food pantry and other outreach activities.
“It was so cool to see some of my teammates share with others on the street about what our mission was and what the true reason for the season is,” ETBU sophomore Braidee Glenn said. “We were also able to see where all the food we prepared the previous day had gone. It was so awesome to get to see the impact we made on people through not only things given away, but also the carols and speeches given by some of my teammates. It was really impactful to listen to my teammates share what the birth of Christ genuinely means for them.”
East Texas Baptist continually partners with ISF for many TAME trips due to the alignment in mission and values between the two organizations. ISF exists to bring the life, hope, and love of Jesus to the world through the exciting and vibrant world of sport. TAME was created to allow ETBU Tiger student-athletes to use their God-given talents and abilities to share their faith with people all across the globe as they strive to transform the world for Christ. Since 2016, ETBU Athletics has sponsored trips to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Serbia, Israel, Jamaica, Slovakia, France, Japan, Greece, and Scotland.