BRISTOL, Tenn. – There are many different ways for collegiate teams to give back to not only their home community, but communities around the world, and King University women's volleyball coach Morris Cephas likes to take a mission trip every other year to not only give back to a community in need, but to help team bonding. Earlier this spring, Cephas and his team partnered with Sport X Change to travel to a few cities in Costa Rica and spent 10 days on this ministry.
"Our trip to Costa Rica brought some challenges and many joys as we were able to connect to people through the sport of volleyball," freshman setter Abby Anderson said. "It amazed me that even though we were not able to have conversations due to the language barrier, we bonded and built relationships just by playing volleyball."
The trip started out in the cities of San Jose and Quepos where the Tornado spent a few days, helping run volleyball clinics in the morning and then spent time building relationships in the afternoon. For Cephas the afternoon sessions were very powerful, being able to not only grow in his faith, but to see how the members of the team interacted and grew as well.
"It was really cool to see how God has blessed each member of the team so differently," Cephas said. "You had some who had gifts for working with people with special needs, some who had gifts of working with children, some who had gifts of ministry, gifts of singing, gifts of peace, and more. It was a powerful experience to be able to see how God used each one of us so differently."
Later in the week, the team traveled to Perez Zeledon, where again they held volleyball clinics in the morning and met with the local students in the afternoon. However, here the Tornado were talking to the same people in both the morning and afternoon sessions, which meant building deeper relationships with them. As Cephas and his team continued to spend time with the locals, they saw they were alike, but Cephas said they still admired us because we were spending time with them. For Anderson, this was something that stuck out to her as well.
"Seeing the joy of their faces as we played with them and just spending time with them helped me remember why I started playing and why we came there," Anderson continued. "Each time we left a clinic or town we all felt Jesus's love shown through us just by how we loved on them and taught them volleyball and shared the story of Jesus with them. It was overall a great experience to be able to share with my teammates sharing the love of Jesus."
Cephas felt like this was a very good experience not only for his team, but for the Costa Ricans they spent time with over the 10 days. For him, seeing the different ways people interacted on the trip was very rewarding as each person is in a different place in the their walk with Christ. The Costa Ricans had a person that was in a similar place they could talk to and grow together with.
"That's kind of what is really special about mission trips," Cephas continued. "You are able to pour out and invest in other people and communities. You are able to see how you can help inspire change and make a difference for other people by how God uses you. Through that, you're able to see God's work, and how He is helping you to grow in your personal spiritual walk."
A typical day for the Tornado involved waking up early, at 6:00 a.m., for breakfast, followed by a devotion before their volleyball clinic at the schools. That was followed by the day's gospel before breaking for lunch. After lunch, the team then had a ministry with the locals before concluding the day with dinner and worship.
The Tornado did have a little more than a day to explore the landscape and culture of Costa Rica a little bit as Cephas said they went to the beach one morning, then in the afternoon followed that with a trip to a waterfall. The next day they were able to go see a local mountain.
Going into the trip, Cephas was expecting that there would be a spiritual overload with the focus on the players growing personally, and that happened, just not the way he expected it to. The players grew from the experience, but it came from their interaction with others on the trip. He also thought they would invest in themselves, but in the end, everyone became invested in each other and the communities they were in.
It was great for team building as the players were able to grow in their faith together and learn about their teammates and what strengthens them. In that aspect it was more about the individual learning about their strengths and weaknesses as well.
"It's a really powerful synergistic experience that I know we all benefited and grew from," concluded Cephas.