“The uncertainty of each day allowed us to have to trust God and rely on the Spirit to lead us.” Said Charlie, one of the team members from AIA Sports Performance’s recent tour to Honduras. Charlie’s statement sums up the trip very well! Despite weather delays, baggage issues, and multiple schedule changes, the team sought to trust God. It seems that things never went as planned! But God provides and His plans are always better than ours. As a result of this team, the love of Christ was shared with nearly 300 people and 32 of them indicated making a decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!
God brought together an amazing team, made up of a variety of skills covering four different disciplines. Jim (AIA staff and team leader) is a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist. Hilary, a gymnast at Iowa State University is seeking her masters in nutrition and exercise. Sasha, a sprinter from the University of Arizona has a degree in public health. Charlie, a former college football player is currently a strength & conditioning coach at Houston Baptist University.
Jim and Hillary experienced weather delays as they flew to Honduras. As Jim sat waiting in the Atlanta airport for 12 hours, changing gates 7 times, a devotion, sent from a friend, ministered to him. Aptly titled, “The Joy of Pressing Through, Find joy in the midst of everyday trials, even though the trial might be stretching you right now” and based on James 1:2-4 gave Jim the strength he needed to persevere through these changes. After two days of travel the whole team was finally together in Tegucigalpa Honduras. Then, to top it off, Jim’s luggage and team equipment bag didn’t arrive. Thankfully, Jim had an extra set of clothes with him – but didn’t know he would have to wear those clothes for two days, when his bags arrived…damaged and wet!
Sunday night, as the team met together in Honduras, they were hit with the reality that political protests due to changes in the education and health systems were stirring in the country. The universities where the team was planning to teach and do outreach was closed! As the team turned in for the night, they were not sure what was going to happen with the conferences/clinics planned for the week. On Monday morning, Jim’s devotion read, “REST IN ME, MY CHILD. Give your mind a break from planning and trying to anticipate what will happen. Pray continually, asking My Spirit to take charge of the details of this day. Remember that you are on a journey with ME.” Since the universities were closed, the local AIA staff invited the university faculty to come to the team’s hotel to hold the meetings there. For two days 32 coaches, students and administrators, including an official for the Honduran educational department, showed up for the presentations. Despite all the uncertainty caused by the political protests, God used the team - ministry happened, lives were changed!
In the afternoons, the team went to a basketball coliseum that houses a medical clinic and fitness center. It is run by Laura, a physio therapist, who was exposed to AIA’s ministry during our 2017 trip and also attended the 2018 International Sports Performance Academy where she received training in sports ministry and sports medicine. In Laura’s words the clinic is a ministry whose main activity is to create spiritual movements using various tools of evangelism. Through this activity Laura serves as a catalyst for AIA’s chaplaincy movement among elite athletes in Honduras and she is also considering coming on staff with Athletes in Action. The team helped Laura and other AIA volunteers evaluate injuries and develop rehabilitation programs. 64 Athletes were evaluated and 41 spiritual conversations took place with 23 exposed to the gospel and 12 making decisions to follow Christ!
AIA’s relationship with the Honduras Olympic Training Center opened doors for the team to teach and do clinics there with a variety of sports including gymnastics, volleyball and martial arts. So our AIA staff in Honduras invited the students and professors from the closed universities to come there instead to hear the AIA team and participate in hands on clinics. 160 Showed up! The team covered topics such as nutrition, speed training, strength & conditioning, and mental health, using T-shirts that had symbols of a heart (God’s love), division sign (sin), cross (Jesus), and a question mark (Have you made the decision?). At those sessions, 20 indicated decisions for Christ, 4 wanted to be in a Bible Study, and 8 wanted to know more about a personal relationship with God. 32 expressed interest in becoming involved with Athletes in Action. Hillary, who used both gymnastics and nutrition to share her faith said, “The AIA tour in Honduras was an opportunity of a lifetime. It was such a special experience sharing of our gifts with our sports and academic expertise, all the while sharing His good word. It was a life-changing experience that brought me closer to God and closer to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!”
The schedule changes also opened a new opportunity for Athletes in Action to minister at the national police academy! 90 Police academy students listened as Sasha shared about mental health. Brochures were handed out that contained the gospel. Azucena, the director, wants to develop a Critical Incident Stress Management program for the police cadets. Jim has received this training through the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and connected Azucena with the President of International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Pray that this leads to a practical way to impact Honduras. Seeing examples like the Police Academy on the trip gave Charlie a vision for how to combine his loves in life. He said, “This trip was such a blessing! I learned so much about myself and God’s faithfulness. I have this vision of combining mission work with my love for movement: strength & conditioning with ministry. It seems this could be a possible vocation for me in the future if God makes it clear.”
Weather delays, baggage issues and protests could have derailed the team but God in His wisdom provided ways for the team to share the gospel and bring credibility to AIA’s ministry in Honduras. The four person team rested in God, trusted His strength and pressed through to encourage, equip and empower approximately 20 AIA staff and volunteers in Honduras. In doing so they developed a close bond, doing Bible study, engaging in thought provoking discussions and praying together. Sasha said, “God truly revealed Himself in Honduras. I made memories that will carry on with me for the rest of my life.” Those memories serve as a model for AIA educational clinic teams seeking to provide professional expertise to the sports communities they travel to around the world.