by TMC Staff
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMNews) – Twelve Truett-McConnell Men’s Basketball players, led by head coach Jon Yeh, traveled to Poland earlier this summer and partnered with a family of missionaries to help launch a basketball club where the Gospel can be openly shared.
The TMC team used basketball as a tool to build publicity, marketing, and networking for the local Christians in Swinoujscie who are hoping to launch the club.
A ministry of partnership
The groundwork for the trip began over 16 years ago for Yeh: “I worked with Coach Jim Martin at Grace College for one year,” he said. “Jim later moved to Northern Ireland [and] connected me with Chris Grant of Salt Factory Sports, a ministry that uses sports to share the Gospel. Chris met Szczepan Cackowski who was serving as a church planter in Northern Ireland. Szczepan was moving back to Poland and had a heart for the people in his native Swinoujscie.”
According to Yeh, his team’s theme throughout their season was ‘Love One Another’ from John 13:34-35. “Those verses fit perfectly with the mission of our trip,” Yeh added. “Due to the fact that the Polish people do not favor blatant preaching or open evangelism, it was crucial that we just love on the people that we met through our time there.”
“By loving on them and even just being in their cities it opens up conversations and long-term opportunities for others long after we have left to share the Gospel. We also used our Bear Necessities of ‘Be Humble…Be Hungry…Be Helpful’ to share Godly influence, being careful to adjust the spiritual message accordingly to the audience.”
Ministry in action
The team started their trip in the larger city of Szczecin (pop. 400,000) for the first three days of their journey. Then they moved north to the Baltic Sea resort town of Swinoujscie for the remainder of the trip. “We tried to teach our men that even if you don’t feel qualified, as long as you yield yourself to God you can be used….like Moses in the Bible,” Yeh said. “The Polish people were so kind and hospitable it was very easy for us to meet people and quickly become accepted.”
For the first few days, the team participated in the Bombardier Basketball Club, based in Szczecin, for the ‘Bombardier Basketball Weekend 2015.’
“We played a game against a group of higher level professionals on the first day,” Yeh said, “and conducted clinics and split up to play in a high level 3-on-3 tournament on day 2. And on Day 3, we played against the Bombardier team.”
The team also spent time assisting local missionaries by going out into the city and making contacts through conducting basketball clinics for middle and high-school students.
TMC’s group had many opportunities while in Poland; some of the highlights of their trip included:
• Competitive games in Szczecin against a collection of top and 1st level professional players in Poland and a 2nd/3rd level club team.
• Clinics in Szczecin, Swinoujscie, and Dziwnow for youth, middle, and high school players.
• Competitive 3-on-3 tournament in Szczecin where TMC players were split into three squads.
• Friendly 3-on-3 tournament in Swinoujscie where each TMC player was drafted onto a local team.
• School visits in Szczecin, Swinoujscie (three different schools), and Dziwnow where the men interacted with students and shared American culture.
• Exhibition matches versus high school teams in Dziwnow and Swinoujscie.
• Leading several individual training sessions for high school players in Swinoujscie.
• Beach ministry events in Swinoujscie.
• Taking part in Sunday morning service at Maranatha Baptist Church in Swinoujscie.
• Marketing and hand shaking with local business owners, government officials, and school leaders.
A cultural experience
TMC’s players were amazed at the hospitality of the Polish and the importance of relationships in their culture. Jacob Brooks, a TMC alum, noted how different the culture was: “The culture was very hospitable and much more laid back than the culture here [in America]. This allowed us to be able to connect with those people that we came in contact with.”
“I enjoyed the Polish culture,” added Brandon Cerezola, a TMC junior. “People in Poland are not in as much of a rush as we are here in the United States. Many people get from place-to-place on bicycle and walking. Also, there was clear evidence that family, as well as relationships with friends, is extremely important to the Polish.”
Working closely with a local missionary family and Maranatha Baptist Church, the students spent time growing in their own walk with Christ. “My favorite thing about the trip was the worship times that we had with our team,” Brooks said. “Twice we had worship times with just our team and the missionaries we were working with. This was a good time of fellowship and discipleship.”
A learning experience
“We had the opportunity to build relationships with the Polish people and plant seeds for other missionary groups to be able to come in and witness as well,” Cerezola continued. “As we built relationships, we had opportunities to talk about our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We had the opportunity to minister and love on others through basketball which was a humbling experience.”
The TMC students were able to use their unique gifts to serve the people of Poland, allowing them to see Jesus shining through their lives. “I believe that our entire team was put in several situations and activities that we were able to show something is much different about us and that is the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives,” Cerezola said. The team was challenged not only to speak the Gospel but to show it through their labor and service to the community in Swinoujscie.
“The Lord taught me there is no qualification or specific kind of person that can preach His Word to others,” Cerezola said.
TMC senior, Andretti Lloyd shared how the team’s small acts of service led to opportunities to share the Gospel: “The Lord really showed me how just by us doing the smallest things like picking up trash after an event and cleaning up after ourselves everywhere we went, that people noticed and saw Him in us, which helped our group leader spark conversations about Christ. It was awesome to see God show Himself to by us just going back to help clean up.”
Some material for this story was taken from the TMCBears.com website.Return to News Archive