Many Wabash men will take the first week of March and relax after a difficult semester. Some will go to Florida and other tropical climates to get away from the bone-chilling cold that has characterized recent weather in Crawfordsville. Others will take a week’s trip to a country as an extension of their course studies– trips paid for by the College. For some Wabash athletes, this break will be anything but relaxing. These men will be spending their time in one of the most impoverished countries in the world bringing the message of Christ to teenagers through sports.
Not the classic definition of a “break.”
Twenty-one Wabash athletes will be leaving the USA for Maun, Botswana to organize sports clinics in remote villages and spend time ministering to these young people. Sophomore running back Brock Graham, who is serving as the unofficial coordinator of the trip, said the idea for the project originated from a conversation with former Little Giant Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery.
The athletes include Graham, Josh Gangloff ‘09, Adam Pilli ’09, DJ Singfield ’11, Derrin Slack ’10, Josh Miracle ’11, Andrew Sparks’11, Spencer Whitehead’11, Gabe Guerrero ‘08, JT Moore ’11,
Dan Eddelman ’10, Jacob Grow ’10, Mike Purol ’11, Dan Ryan Wood ’11, Chris Beedie ’11, Andrew Rode ’09, Patrick Concannon ’11, Dan Masterson ’09, Micah Lembke ’11, David Mann ’09 and David Rosborough ’10.
“Coach Neathery had played with a guy at Wheaton who now is involved with OneWay Ministries,” Graham said. “He approached a few of us and told us about his friend, and said that they were wondering if anyone would be interested, and if we thought if anyone would want to go do a missions trip in Africa over Spring Break.”
“I just said let’s do it,” he continued. “If we get five guys to go, it’d be a great time. Obviously we have a lot more than five going now. We’ve got twenty-one guys going now – it’s pretty amazing”
OneWay Ministries was started by the aforementioned Wheaton graduate and is based in Naperville, Illinois. It organizes missions in both Botswana and Ghana and networks within these countries.
“They [OneWay] have a team in Botswana they call the ‘A’ Team,” Graham said. “They are a group of missionaries who travel through villages and Botswana, but they have a tough time it seems reaching teenage males. What we are going to try to do is go to these villages and through sports draw males into this setting – put on some clinics, just have a good time. At the end, we’ll have some time to just sit around some bonfires and tell stories of Christ from the Bible and talk to them about who Jesus was and his importance.”
The decision to go on this mission was a quick one. Graham said the initial confirmation for who was going on the trip happened late in the last semester. On top of that, each Wally would have to raise his own money to go.
“I knew if we were going to do it,” Graham said, “we were going to have to get on it because that was right before Christmas Break. So we put an informational meeting together before the break. Guys came out and pretty soon after that we said, ‘If you are going to go, we’re going to have to know.’ These guys are all raising $3000 a piece to go. I told them over break if you don’t have a passport, you’re going to need to get a passport and start raising support.”
Financial support necessitated quick action and each of the athletes on the trip began working to raise their money. “We’re sending out letters,” Graham said, “we’re talking to family and friends back home, we’re talking to people in the community, and talking to alums, letting them know what we are doing and what the goal of our trip is.”
“We’re in that support- raising stage until that plane leaves,” he added. The trip was, however, not cost prohibitive for the athletes. “I really don’t come from money,” said Gabe Guerrero ’08, “and they [OneWay] said if that’s an issue, don’t worry about it, we’ll help you out. They wanted us to be there really bad. Initially, when I first looked at going, I thought I couldn’t afford it, but when he said that I thought, ‘I’m going to trust that God will provide and come up with this money.’
Nevertheless, each athlete is working hard to pay his own way.
“I’ve sent out support letters home to Texas to family and friends,” Guerrero said. “I just got a letter the other day from a guy whom I have no idea who he is who is in my grandfather’s Bible study in Texas, and he just sent me money in the mail. It’s a process, and I’m still working to get mine.”
Graham said the final two meetings the group will have before departing will most likely concern some cultural issues they need to be aware of in Botswana. They already have discussed some culture they need to be aware of.
“One of the things they’ve brought up already is the dress,” said Graham. “We were thinking mesh shorts and stuff initially, but they said you don’t show a lot of skin over there.”
He also noted that Art Professor Elizabeth Morton, who has lived in Botswana, offered to talk with them about what the country is like. For Graham, the Wabash trip to Botswana will be his second foray into Africa.
“I was on a mission trip from my church back home,” he said, “to support an orphanage in Kenya outside of Nairobi and so we were over there just doing whatever we could for them last summer for about ten days.”
“I enjoyed it,” he continued, “and said when I got back I told myself if I ever get a chance to go again I’m going to go. When this came up I couldn’t go back on my word.”
For many others, this will be their first trip out of the country, let alone to Africa. For many, like Guerrero, this trip is something they had to do when they learned about it.
“I just stepped out of the boat,” Guerrero said. “Pastor Terry at Pleasant View Baptist Church gave this sermon about stepping out of the boat and believing you can do it like believing Jesus could walk on water. I really didn’t think twice about it – it hasn’t hit me yet. We’re leaving in three weeks but I’m sure it will hit me when we’re on the plane.”
“I worked at a Christian family camp,” he continued, “last summer and I remember the first time I was there. You really didn’t know what to expect and it just blew your mind when you got there.
“I think it’s going to be a similar experience,” he added. “It’s going to blow my mind away.”
If anyone is interested in supporting the Wabash athletes’ efforts in Botswana, please visit http://www.onewayministries.net/index.pl?id=2207&isa=Category&op=show for further instructions on giving.