August 9, 2023
The East Texas Baptist University Women’s Soccer Team had a unique opportunity to minister to the people of New Zealand during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as part of the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience (TAME), July 18-31. The team engaged the community through soccer, mission projects, prayer, and conversations during the 14-day mission trip.
“God opened doors for our team to minister and share the gospel throughout the trip,” ETBU Head Women’s Soccer Coach Kristin Cox said. “The trip was full of girls stepping up and stepping out. From praying over random people on the streets, to forming new relationships, to acknowledging faith through baptism. These 12 days on the ground in New Zealand have left everlasting memories, not only in the lives of people we encountered, but in the lives of our ETBU students. It was amazing to see the women on our team gain confidence and become bold about sharing their faith throughout the experience.”
The Tigers volunteered at the South Auckland Christian Food Bank, where they had the opportunity to pack care packages for families from across Auckland, New Zealand. In addition to packing boxes of food, the women’s soccer team cleaned the facility, sorted food, and helped prepare for future packing days. Once all the boxes were made, the team prayed over the care packages and delivered them to homes in need.
“The best part about getting to immerse ourselves in a new community is having the joy of stepping out of our comfort zone,” ETBU senior nursing major Hailey Maloy said. “When in a foreign country with new people, it can be easy to stay in your shell. However, this mission trip taught me that by trusting God and believing in His will, He gives us the best opportunities.”
During the trip, the team had the chance to walk the streets of downtown Auckland near and around the FIFA World Cup FanZone, praying for individual people, the streets they walked on, the city, and the country.
“To be honest, this completely terrified me, but many of my teammates and I felt that this was our opportunity to fulfill God's calling to us to go out and minister to the people of New Zealand,” ETBU freshman nursing major Caroline Wilemon said. “I have never done anything like this in my life, and I just thank the Lord for how much I have grown and that He gave me and the team the boldness to speak and pray over complete strangers, spreading His love and the Gospel.”
ETBU Women’s Soccer connected with students, faculty, and staff at Papatoetoe High School throughout the two weeks in New Zealand. The Tigers met with the high school girls’ soccer team, visited with students in classrooms, and played soccer against the faculty and staff at the school. Engaging with the students and staff multiple times opened up doors for sharing the Gospel with and praying over them. In one of the matches, the Tigers faced an all-boys team and had an opportunity to share their faith and pray over the team after the game. The coach from the local school who organized the game told ETBU it was probably the first time many of the players on the team had heard about Jesus.
While on mission, the Tigers attended the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Opening Ceremony, followed by the New Zealand vs. Norway game. The next day the team donned their red, white, and blue to cheer on the United States Women’s National Team in their opening game against Vietnam. This experience was a dream come true for several ETBU student-athletes. The team also enjoyed God’s creation each morning, watching the sunrise on the beach during workouts and experiencing the sites and culture of New Zealand throughout each day.
“We as players, coaches, staff, and ISF members have constantly been reminded that the Lord is always moving in our lives, and He wants to make a connection with us,” ETBU senior kinesiology wellness major, Aylisse Warren said. “He speaks to us in ways we may not know or understand, but He is always with us every step of the way.”
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, Australia, Spain and Portugal, Northern Ireland, and New Zealand.