Never-ending days on the field and long workouts in the weight room could not have prepared Lipscomb’s softball team for what they would experience during the week they spent serving with Mission Lazarus in Honduras. Right before the school year began, the girls found themselves embarking on a trip that would not only change the way they looked at the world, but also the ways in which they worked as a team.
Lipscomb athletic teams are becoming more and more active within the Lipscomb Missions community. Following in the footsteps of the annual Track/Cross Country summer mission trip along with the winter break Men’s Athletics trip, the Softball team was the third and final athletic mission trip slated on the 2012 Lipscomb Missions docket. Interestingly, two team members were actually the ones who came up with the idea for a softball team mission trip. One of the leaders, 2012 graduate Mollie Mitchell, explained how enthusiastic her teammates were about the idea, saying, “The team LOVED it. Immediately we had full support from the players and coaches; everyone was completely on board with the idea.” Wanting her fellow teammates to have the life changing experience of a mission trip, Mitchell was thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response.
Also desiring to share her passion for mission trips, the second of the two trip initiators, recent graduate Whitney Kiihnl, found herself wanting to expose her teammates to the harsh reality of third world living. She knew that there were many life lessons that just cannot be learned anywhere else, explaining how her previous mission experience had “opened my eyes to how materialistic I was, and how I take the small things for granted. It showed me how much these people in third world countries rely on God for everyday things such as food and water, and here I was stressing about how I performed in a game.” Anticipating the immense impact that a team trip could have, she was ecstatic when her fellow players quickly shared her desire to serve.
Brent High, Lipscomb’s Associate Athletics Director for Spiritual Formation, chronicled the weeklong trip on the athletics website, conveying the intense physical labor of which the team was asked. On day two, he explained that the first order of business was moving over 30,000 pounds of boulders to the middle of their work site. Building a house is no easy feat, yet these girls completed every assigned task with great efficiency and zero complaints. High goes on to explain how impressed the Honduran natives were with the girls’ strength and endurance, as he refers to the numerous times the surrounding people commented on the team’s ability.
Physical labor did not fully encompass the nature of the service of which the girls participated, however. Even after grueling days spent working in the sun, the team found time to actually interact with the kids of the area. At one point, High comments, team member Kelsey Cartwright started playing soccer with some kids in the street. She began playing with just one kid and ended up with an entire crew of excited children who were eager for interaction.
As the day continued, the girls took several different opportunities to play with the surrounding kids. “The kids fell in love with the girls immediately. They asked to have their pictures made with them,” explained High.
As the week progressed, the team never lost focus of why there were there. The days were long and hot, yet the girls did not relent as they pushed through the grueling construction work, while also making time to bond with the native community and children. Head Coach Kristin Ryman got to see her girls in a different light and was very excited to see the ways in which the trip created new bonds, saying, “It was neat to grow together and start the new school year with such a great bonding experience.”
Ryman explained that while she was ecstatic for such an opportunity, she was not surprised by her girls’ desire to serve in such a capacity. “We’ve always had great girls. It meant a lot to know that they wanted to do this and all of the fundraising that came with it. It wasn’t going to be a vacation,” Ryman expressed.
All in all, the Lady Bisons spent a meaningful week working for Mission Lazarus and will not soon forget the impact that it had on the team. Seeing each other serving others while making personal sacrifices fostered new bonds and relationships that will prove invaluable both on the field and off as they embark on a new season.