While the majority of Maranatha students traveled home for spring break to sleep in their own beds and get their moms’ “home cooking,” 15 students headed to the second-largest nation and most-visited destination in the Caribbean. The Sabercats men’s baseball team spent spring break in Bani, Dominican Republic, hosting baseball clinics and partnering with a local church there, Iglesia Bautista Cristiana, to share the gospel. Baseball coach Gary Garrison led the team in their ministry in the Caribbean.
Originally planning to leave on Friday, March 20, the baseball team experienced cancelled flights and had to wait for flights to the Dominican Republic. Although faced with the loss of a few days on their itinerary, the team waited for God’s timing to start their trip and flew out of Chicago at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 22.
Each afternoon, the baseball team invited 9- to 12-year-old boys to baseball clinics that included five baseball stations and a gospel station. “Attendees rotated between the six stations, getting fundamental baseball instruction (through an interpreter) from our college players and also attending the gospel station, which was staffed by members of the local church we were working out of,” said Coach Gary Garrison. “Approximately 55 boys attended the sessions each day, each hearing the gospel and getting baseball instruction.”
A closing program was held on Thursday evening, giving the young boys who had attended the baseball clinics the opportunity to invite their families and friends. Approximately 400 people were in attendance. The gospel was presented again and numerous salvation decisions were reported to have been made. The local church in Bani will follow up on contacts and decisions the nationals made throughout the week.
The baseball team learned to better serve the nationals during their trip, but were also surprised by how much the national Christians wanted to serve them. “The people of the Dominican Republic were so humble and selfless,” team member Ethan Hokanson (senior) shared. “One example was that the mattresses we slept on were the personal mattresses from members of the church. They slept on the floor in their houses all week, while the team slept on mattresses. These people did not have a lot, but what they did have they selflessly gave.”
“I was personally struck with the contentment of the Dominican people in the little that they had,” said Junior Tim Rogers, who is going into his third season on the MBU baseball team. “Their contentment really showed how selfish I can be with so much. The baseball team went to be a blessing to the Dominican people, but we soon realized that, with the hospitality and servant’s hearts of the Dominicans, they were so much more of a blessing to us.”
The mission trip prepared the baseball team to serve and encourage each other as they begin their own athletics season. Mornings in the Dominican were spent practicing together for their future games this spring. “We grew much closer as a team and, as a result, bonded as a group of men preparing for their upcoming season,” Garrison said.
Hokanson summed up the week: “Probably the most exciting part was being able to use a game that I love as a medium for sharing the news about the Creator who loves me.”
Article contributed by Grace Peters