Cross-Country team serves in Ecuador

By Mya Hudgins, Assistant Faith Editor

This past summer some of our Bison athletes had the opportunity to share the love of Christ 2,712.55 miles away from home.
The OBU male and female cross-country team left for their seven day trip to Mindo, Ecuador this past June. This mission team consisted of Kaylee Crowsen, Sydney Lawrence, Michaela Phipps, Berkley Price and Nathan Crowsen, along with their coach, Matt Kennedy.
“We had an opportunity to witness to children in the form of sports camps,” head cross-country coach Matt Kennedy said. “We offered a soccer camp to the locals. During the camps, we would have a time of learning the sport and a time of devotional each day.”
“A couple of evenings, we even went to some houses and visited people that were either needing prayer, or needing to hear about Jesus,” senior cross-country runner Sydney Lawrence said.
Before the members of the team could board the plane to Mindo, Ecuador they had to come up with fundraising ideas to get there.
“We had a pancake breakfast at The Gathering Place, a coffee shop downtown, we did a couple of bake sales at our track meets, and we sold t-shirts made by Berkley’s dad, Jim,” Lawrence said.
“Individually we asked for donations from friends and family and made things to sell or had yard sales.”
Once arriving, it did not take long for the people of Ecuador to focus their attention and love to the American cross-country team.
“We were out in the village telling people about the soccer camp we were having,” Lawrence said. “One of the little girls noticed that we had walked up and ran to me and hugged me. I felt so loved in that moment by a complete stranger. I can not explain how much joy I felt. It was like God had reminded me right then how easy it is to love others. I do not have to spend a lot of money or do a big project; I just need to see who is in front of me and bring love and joy to them.”

With Lawrence as a senior and a leader on the cross-country team, she learned many lessons on this trip which she believes will help her as she leads out to exemplify Christ.

“This trip has helped me understand that loving people is the first thing I should do as a leader,” Lawrence said. “Seeking God’s help for that will help reveal to me the ways that I need to be there for others, lift them up, and point them in the right direction.”

Freshman cross-country runner Michaela Phipps, plans on pursuing missions in the future as it has always been her passion. On this trip, the Lord showed her the beauty of ministry.

“God taught me the beauty in cross-culture worship and ministry,” Phipps said. “We had the privilege of going to a church that people of multiple cultures attended, and it offered me Word of God in multiple languages throughout the service. Throughout serving with the people of Mindo, we were able to witness how God could break down language barriers through the expression of love in actions.”

As this trip taught the team members about winning people to Christ on the mission field, coach Kennedy hopes it will also remind the girls what winning is all about during the cross-country season this fall.

“[This trip] showed a way for those girls to act out what we want our team to be about,” Kennedy said. “We talk a lot about winning; wanting to do everything possible to help our team win and we work hard to win at a high level. If we are only doing all that for the purpose of winning, then it is pretty shallow because really running will be over. Some might remember this team for a couple of years, but eventually it will be gone. What gives winning depth is the opportunity it gives for people to notice us, and then for us to witness to them.”

Berkley Price, a freshman cross-country runner, was encouraged by the joy she saw in the kids she ministered to this summer.

“Something that stuck out to me was how much joy the kids had,” Price said. “They did not have much, but they did have joy. That really inspired me to find the joy in my life.”

Coach Kennedy compares some of his proudest moments in past cross-country seasons to the respected moment he felt on the mission field with the members, who gave up a week in their summer to serve the Lord.

“I have had many proud moments with the two seniors that went and I will have proud moments with the two freshmen, as I will be with them for four years,” Kennedy said.

“With the seniors, there has been a lot of heartwarming moments for me,” Kennedy said.

“I remember the first time both of them broke eighteen minutes, when Kaylee won the NCCAA National Championship out here, and when Sydney had a big personal record at Azusa, California. But none of those moments compare to the amount of pride I felt for them when I looked across a soccer pitch and saw them in a huddle praying with little Ecuadorian children. I got the opportunity to be proud of them in a different and greater way.”

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