Lions use sport to share the gospel in the Dominican Republic
May 29, 2010

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The following article appeared in The Herald-News, Dayton, Tenn., May 26, 2010, and was written by Herald-News Sports/Design Editor Cathy Barnes. Used with permission.

Some view basketball as a competitive release while others see it as a hobby to stay fit. Still others use basketball as an avenue to get to college.

The Bryan College basketball team recently took the sport to a whole other level, using basketball as a platform to share Christ with people from another culture. The 11 Lions and three coaches took a mission trip to the Dominican Republic from May 10-17.

The team engaged in several games with local club teams, after which they shared the gospel and sometimes tracts, food and clothing or toys.  With the help of a translator, the players shared their testimonies.

"When Scott [Newton] and Dominique [Clements] shared about the difference that Jesus Christ has made in their lives, the villagers hung on every word," said Ryan Hansen, assistant director for Score International, the organization the Lions were working through.



"The team acclimated to the slippery surfaces we played on, the heat and the officiating quite well. For the week, Astral Guerier, Demond Craig and Scott Newton led the way, but we got good play out of all the guys in the final two games," Bryan Head Coach Don Rekoske said.

In addition to playing basketball, the team spent time in a remote village called "Honduras", where they used sports to connect with local youth.

"Upon our arrival, we played a big game of baseball with about 15 of the kids, while about another 20 watched. It was clear that baseball was a national pastime in the Domician Republic, as some of the kids were really good. I'm not sure who ended up winning the game, but it was a lot of fun to start building a relationship with these kids and give them love and attention," Hansen said.

Bryan's boys also spent one day visiting an orphanage for mentally and physically handicapped children.

"Most of the kids were confined to wheel chairs and were severely mentally disabled. Still it was such a joy to get them to smile and laugh with something as simple as a touch. Guys on our team were pushing kids around in wheelchairs, tickling kids, passing out candy and anything else to brighten up the kids' day," Hansen said. "Although these kids were disabled and had nothing, most were very happy. This was especially convicting because it opened our eyes to how good we have it."

In addition to their ministry while in the Dominican Republic, the Bryan team also got to spend some time at the beach and touring such cities as Santo Domingo.

This is the third such trip for Rekoske, who took two teams on similar trips to Honduras when he was working at Crown College in Minnesota.

"The main thing we went over there to do was to give and do something good, but while we were there, we probably received more from the experience," Rekoske said.

"Although I am quite certain we are making a difference in the D.R., I feel like these experiences are also impacting us as well. It is impossible to see what we have seen and not begin to have a different perspective on life," Hansen said.

The team raised over $22,000 to go on the trip through support letters and fundraisers.
"We want to thank those that helped make our trip a success by giving money, clothes, toys and candy before we left," Rekoske said.

According to the coach, around 150 people the team encountered during the week made professions of faith.

The Bryan Lions, who finished the 2009-10 season with an 18-10 overall record and 11-5 in conference play, are a member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference.