Varsity Girls Basketball Team Takes Their Mission Overseas
ON SATURDAY, APRIL 8, WESLEYAN’S VARSITY GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM, THEIR COACHES AND A FEW FAMILIES, BOARDED A PLANE HEADED FOR BARCELONA, SPAIN. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS WOULD CHANGE THE WAY MANY OF THE GIRLS VIEWED THE WORLD, AND THEIR WALK WITH CHRIST.
Earlier this year, Dave and Cindy Bintz, American missionaries working as sports directors at Camp L’Arcada in Northeastern Spain, invited Wesleyan’s Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Daniel McRae and his team to participate in L’Arcada’s Goodwill Games. These games are part of L’Arcada’s “seed-planting” mission that involves Christian sports teams playing exhibition games with Spanish Club teams in country. According to McRae, “I loved the idea. Sharing Christ and playing basketball? I’m in!”
Bintz explained to McRae that because less than 1% of Spain’s population is Christian and is anti-religion, it is difficult to share the Gospel and have it received well. To overcome this obstacle, the Lord led the Bintzes to create opportunities for Christian athletes to establish relationships that could open the door to invite the Spanish players to attend L’Arcada where they could hear God’s Word and experience the love of Christ. Coach McRae was sold.
Though the main purpose of the trip was to play four exhibition games and get to know the other teams, the girls would also participate in a few service projects on site at L’Arcada and spend time sightseeing and learning about the Spanish culture. Coach McRae explained to the girls that the players they would meet may have never met a Christian; therefore it would be their purpose to show the love of Christ to these other teams by the way they interacted with them.
Making New Spanish Friends During Pica Pica
The girls were excited as their plane landed in Barcelona but the moment they arrived at their first game they were “awestruck”. More than 100 spectators were there to watch the game, and according to WCA eighth grader Blythe Cunningham, “The Spanish team was so welcoming and happy to see us!” The American girls came equipped with a little bit of Spanish, but they quickly learned their opponents instead spoke Catalan, one of four official languages of Spain. What could have been a barrier served to bring the girls closer together as the Spanish players worked to teach the Americans Catalan.
After each of the four games the Wesleyan team played during their week in Spain, they enjoyed “pica pica” with their opposing team immediately following the game for at least an hour. Cunningham described it as a “snack time” with many foods. McRae explained that this was a time of fellowship that gave the girls an opportunity to connect with the other players and hopefully establish relationships with them.
Senior Lily Pereira added, “During pica pica, they wanted to know everything about America … what our school day was like, our families, and even about playing basketball in the States and going to college. She continued, “I quickly realized there are not many opportunities to play college basketball in Spain and being recruited overseas is very difficult. This experience really opened my eyes to better understand how many opportunities we have in the States and all that we take for granted as Americans. We have so much to be grateful for.”Throughout the week, the girls enjoyed making friends with the Spanish teams and shared social media account addresses before heading back to the U.S. According to Lily and Blythe, now back in the States, the team is keeping up with their new friends through social media. Coach McRae and the entire team look forward to seeing how God moves in these relationships in the months to come.
When asked what she personally gained from the trip, Lily didn’t hesitate: I realized that I can witness to people without words but through the way I present myself, the way I interact with others and even through the game of basketball. It’s really those things that can point others to Christ.”