SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Members of the Evangel University women’s basketball team started their summer break this year with an 18-hour flight to the Philippines for a service trip.
While there, the 13 ladies played exhibition games with the Philippine National Team and the National University Team. They also provided basketball clinics and served in a variety of settings with children, high school students and college students in Manila, Tagaytay and Batangas.
“Opportunities like this are life changing for our students and are a wonderful way to live the mission of Evangel University,” said President Carol Taylor.
One particularly impactful day was spent serving at an orphanage in Manila.
“It was inner city, and that was tough,” said Head Coach Leon Neal. “Some girls went to the nursery and held the babies, while others played with the little kids and showed them some love.”
Alison Jarrell, a junior athletic training major from Dexter, Mo., was deeply touched by her time there.
“This trip shifted several of my perspectives about servanthood, contentment and true joy,” she said. “Meeting the children at Gentle Hands Orphanage taught me so many things. They were truly content and happy with everything they had, despite the circumstances they have had to deal with at such a young age.”
Jarrell added that the experience has inspired her to financially support organizations that help orphans.
Long-time Evangel professor Dr. Jeffery Fulks believes strongly in providing opportunities for service trips, having seen the impact that a change in culture can have on students and their perspectives on life.
Fulks has taken many such trips and traveled with the girls’ team this spring.
“These students were able to see the power of establishing relationships with people from other cultures,” he said. “The girls played basketball with young children, youth, and adults and immediately had a bond of friendship.”
Speaking specifically about student athletes, Fulks added, “They were able to see the power of dedicating their lives to coaching students and the impact it may have on not only their skills, but also their life trajectory.”
One highlight for Coach Neal was the visit to an academy high school in Tagaytay.
“We did a basketball clinic and led a practice for the students,” he said. “The team also had the opportunity to speak to the youth, one of our girls sang and two others shared their life stories.”
Connie, the in-country host, was pleased with the basketball team’s interaction with the local youth. “The ladies were very well received, since basketball is a huge sport here, and they love Americans,” she said.
One thing she appreciated about the girls was their understanding how service is “a part of who we are, not something we just go out and do.”
Goodwill Games in the Philippines
According to Coach Neal, the team enjoyed the opportunity to play in the exhibition “goodwill games.”
“Basketball is big there,” he said. “We were driving down the road, and I saw a basketball goal attached to a coconut tree. We would drive through isolated areas in the jungle, and we would come to a clearing where there would be a pavilion in an open space with a basketball court.”
The National University Team was very competitive — they had earned back-to-back conference championships in 2014 and 2015. “They are the top college team here in the Women’s division,” said Connie. “Most of their players will end up on the National Team.”
Coach Neal was also quick to point out that Evangel only lost by “two points, at the buzzer,” against the Philippines National Team, which competes in the International Basketball Federation, also known as FIBA, in the Asia Division, Level 1.
FIBA is the world governing body for basketball, bringing together 215 National Basketball Federations from all over the world.
“After a week with them,” said Connie, “I have developed great respect for Coach Neal and Coach Dawn. What an asset to EU to have coaches who are spiritually forming these ladies for life, not just building a basketball program.”
EVANGEL UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS: http://www.evangelathletics.com/
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY: Dawn Neal