In the summer of 2006, I went on my first exposure on the Youth Sports Team trip to Nairobi Kenya. The funny thing was while it was a "Youth Sports Team" I was the only "varsity athlete" on the trip. In the past it was very difficult for athletes to go on a trip, as teams stay together during the summer for training and summer school. Every athlete is an investment for the University sports programs (recruiting, scholarships etc), there was a balance of risk assessment for the program not to have their player become sick due to the new 3rd world environment. Because of my ACL knee injury I was last in line to be a starter and point scorer on the court. After discussions with my coach around my inability to practice due to my knee, I was released to apply.
While on the trip I made incredible friendships with normal students, and started to see that the bonding that naturally happened. When I returned to the volleyball team I saw my relationships from the trip stronger than my own teammates. What if the teams that were already formed could serve together? I started asking questions with department heads making the case that if you had strong relationships on the court you would be more likely to create an environment to elevate players confidence and camaraderie, leading to more wins.
The benefits of serving together as a team will not only strengthen the individual sport but the entire sports program. Connecting players from different sports creates a cohesive community. Football players at Volleyball games. Volleyball girls at Soccer games. Everyone supporting everyone. But it would take someone on the Athletics staff to become the leader of such a culture change.
Enter Football Coach Art Briles and his newly appointed Athletics Chaplain, Wes Yeary. Without Wes, this dream would not have become a reality. Staring in 2009 he began gathering athletes and taking them over to Kenya. During that same year we were finishing up the building of The Liberty House.
Since the first trip in 2009, an athletic team has served every year after in Africa. My favorite part is that every year that they Sports Ministry Team heads to Kenya they make sure to stop and visit Pastor Boniface and lead a clinic for the street kids. It has been my greatest joy to follow these trips from back at home in the States.
I never thought that God would use my knee injury to help connect two worlds: Missions & Athletics.
Check out the Baylor Sports Ministry online here!
Are you called into Sports Ministry? Check out Baylor's Truett Seminary degree plan that equips the next generation of sports leaders here.
Do you have questions about preparing for a overseas trip? My first recommendation is to get involved locally and make all decisions with extreme thought and care.