Crusader softball team partners with El Faro Mission in Guatemala
October 8, 2013 | Ian Richardson
On the edge of the Guatemalan jungle, Evangel University alumna Meagan Ephraim (’07) runs a mission named El Faro. For 10 years the mission, whose name translates as “The Lighthouse,” has reached out to the surrounding villages by hosting several short-term ministry teams.
Sixteen representatives of Evangel University’s softball team journeyed to El Faro this August to share their love for the game of softball and to minister to children in the jungle villages. They stayed at the mission with a softball team from Guatemala City, playing and interacting with them for two days. They then put on a series of softball camps, children’s ministry outreaches and service projects in the surrounding villages.
David Stair, Evangel’s director of intercollegiate athletics, says many of the Guatemalan softball players they met during the first two days had had little exposure to the gospel, but that this changed through the relationships they formed with the Evangel players.
“We were told by one of the adults who came with the team who was a born-again Christian that it was amazing how much impact our girls had on their girls spiritually, and how much they appreciated and enjoyed being part of us for two days,” Stair says.
Senior softball player Brooke Brenton says their mutual love for the sport helped the American and Guatemalan players bond quickly.
“Even though we did not speak much Spanish, we were able to communicate with them in a language we all understood: softball,” Brenton says.
Along with Stair and Brenton, those who went on the trip were Chad Gehring, Evangel’s athletic ministry coordinator and his son Carson; Charlie Getty, the softball team’s strength and fitness coach; Christianna Nelson, assistant softball coach, Natalia Gochicoa, an Evangel alumna; players Desley Jett, Brittany Arnold, Emily Boulger, Jessica Jett, Katelyn Tollefson, Rachel Rhoten, Jasmine Godwin and Angela Howes; and Jessica Nunley, the team’s backpack journalist.
This trip was led by The Evangel Athletics Ministry (TEAM), a program that provides Evangel’s student athletes with opportunities to use their athletic gifts to minister to others while gaining intercultural experiences.
Evangel has sent athletic teams to El Faro before, once with the volleyball team in 2011 and then again last year with women’s basketball team.
“The neat thing about El Faro is they’re ministering to those people all the time,” Stair says. “Even though you can only minister for a week and you’re gone, you’re contributing to the larger ministry that El Faro has there 365 days a year. That’s the neat part of it.”
Stair says the Ephraim’s’ ministry has been effective over its 10-year existence, and that Meagan has run the mission for the past six. She is the only American among a staff of 30 full-time Guatemalan workers.
“It’s neat for our kids to see one of our grads in a position like that,” Stair says. “It’s just interesting to see how much she’s been able to accomplish, how much the Guatemalans care for her.”
After interacting with the Guatemalan team for a few days, the team began journeying to surrounding villages to complete outreach projects.
One day, the team visited a children’s hospital in Puerto Barrios, the town nearest to El Faro. They took coloring books and crayons and spent time with the children and their parents.
Stair, who has traveled to El Faro in previous years with Evangel’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams, says the journey to the hospital was one of the most personally impactful moments for him of the trip.
“Going to the children’s hospital this time was just hard,” he says. “It was difficult to leave.”
As the team continued its outreaches, Jessica Jett, who had never taken a mission trip before, says what most jumped out to her about the Guatemalan culture was how open and loving the people were.
“I felt that I came back with so much love in my heart,” Jett says. “The people of Guatemala taught me more than I could have ever imagined. This trip changed my view of different cultures, taught me that it is in fact possible to love everyone. This trip really showed me that the love of God is everywhere.”
Jett’s most memorable moment came during a softball clinic in one of the villages, through interaction with her “little shadow,” a 10-year-old shoeless Guatemalan boy named Axon, whom she first met as he was wandering around the softball field during one of the team’s clinics.
“I asked him if he liked baseball and softball, and he shook his head with happiness,” Jett says. “He stayed in my group the entire clinic and then stuck around after.”
As the team prepared to leave the clinic for the day, Jett handed Axon her cleats and told him they were to play and have fun in.
“The translator said that he was speechless and very grateful,” Jett says. “Axon walked me to the bus, watched me through the window, waved me goodbye, and followed the bus as it left. It is something that I will never forget.”
Looking back, Brenton says this trip helped her realize the importance of not only ministering to those overseas, but also those she sees on a daily basis.
“This trip helped me realize the importance of serving others,” she says. “I realize it is easy to serve others when you are on a 10-day mission trip with the purpose of loving on people and sharing the good news of Jesus. But I need to love and serve the people that I encounter every day.”
Stair says his favorite moment was the final night when everyone on the trip talked about what had impacted them most and what they were going to take away from it.
“That’s the highlight for me to hear that,” he says. “It’s sort of the reason you do it all.”
Stair says the trip has made a lasting impression on several of the players, and that several of them now have Guatemala on their hearts, someday planning to return.