This summer, I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with nine girls I had never met before and play volleyball there as a team. Prior to leaving for the trip, whenever I would talk about it I would describe it as a volleyball trip during which we would also do some missions work in our down time. Our team was there to represent the USA in some crazy competitive games against two different levels of Costa Rican national teams, their college teams, and more.
However, on the first night, it became apparent that that was not what we were there to do. In Costa Rica, times and schedules carry infinitely less weight than they do in the United States, and thus things can get shuffled around with little or no warning. A perfect example of this was when we stepped off the plane and were informed that we had no time to practice, and our game scheduled for tomorrow night had been moved to tonight. Amazingly, though we had just learned each others names the night before, we were able to pull together as a team and win that match pretty easily, in front of a sizable crowd of high school students. We were all exhausted and a little jet lagged after that, so I expected that we would be heading straight back to the hotel, but instead our coach told us to go sit with the girls from the other team while he talked about something important with the crowd.
He stood up in front of a large crowd of primarily non-English speakers (with the help of a translator of course) and began to talk to them about Jesus. He shared a personal story of a close friend from Costa Rica that he had lost last fall and how, because they are both believers, he will be able to see him again. At the end of his testimony, he invited the crowd to pray a prayer with him, accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He continued to do this after every game we played and clinic we led for the entire rest of the week, speaking to hundreds of people. He even shared with us one night when we returned to the hotel how a little girl had come up to him at a clinic and told him how she had decided to accept God's plan for herself.
The purpose of this trip was not at all what I had believed it to be in the beginning. I thought we were going to play, representing the United States, and then separately do missions work, representing God. This was not the case. We were actually representing God as we played, as well. The volleyball was the draw to allow us to speak truth into them. We formed relationships and had fun competing together. That helped them trust what we were saying to be true. Our coach said at one point, before a big clinic, "They need to see Jesus in you throughout the day, otherwise when I get up there to talk it will be meaningless."
God blesses us with many different talents: sports, art, singing, speaking, etc. Each of our special gifts can be used in ways to bring people to Jesus. An AACS athlete has the responsibility of carrying themself with a Christ-like and dignified attitude, complete with competitive drive, sportsmanship, and encouragement. We impact dozens of Maryland schools as an athletic program with all the games we play, and every team recognizes the word Christian in the name. Just as I mentioned before, they must see Jesus in us, otherwise their view of Christianity could be quite jaded. We are called to be set apart and athletics is an incredible way for us to honor God in that way.