Women's soccer team takes to the missions field
Cultural differences can be large barriers when it comes to missions work, but the bridge of soccer for the Biola women’s soccer team helped them make an instant connection with the Japanese people.
Women’s soccer took their third team mission trip to Japan this past August. A trip that first happened in 2004 and then was repeated in 2008 was put together again this year. Every member of the current team, from incoming freshmen to seniors, made the trek.
The spirit and serving nature of the Japanese people blew away senior Taylor Lundquist.
“My favorite part of the trip was our time with the different churches and ministries along with just seeing their hearts and serving people and how hospitable they were,” Lundquist said.
Trip changes athlete's view on the sport
The trip changed Lundquist’s view on playing soccer in general, from Japan all the way back to the Biola soccer field.
“It really helped show that God cares about all aspects of our life and uses all avenues of our lives to draw him into himself. We used soccer as a means to interact with them and talk with them after their games,” Lundquist said. “Our purpose in soccer isn’t only soccer, but should be to glorify God and encourage each other spiritually and be lights to those we play against. God is interested in our soccer not only in Japan, but here.”
The trip was organized by assistant coach Paul Gizzi, a missionary working as the director of Southern California Seahorses through Missionary Athletes International.
Soccer serves as medium to interact with locals
“We do local ministry and global ministry. It’s all through the sport of soccer, knowing that it reaches people who otherwise wouldn’t have been reached,” Gizzi said. “I’m a full-time missionary that happens to coach at Biola.”
The team interacted with Seahorse Soccer International Club, an extension of the efforts Gizzi directs in America. Southern California Seahorses uses soccer as a bridge to connect to people and get places where they could not have without soccer, according to Gizzi.
This was not the first time the team has gone to Japan as a team with this connection tracing back to the early 2000s.
“I approached [head] coach Todd Elkins and said your girls have been to Japan in 2004, 2008, this would make sense to go again in 2012. If you would want to do it I’m going to offer it up to you guys before I do to others,” Gizzi said.
Areas of interaction widely vary for team
The team played against varying teams ranging from national top-16 university teams, to professional teams, to junior high boys at a military base. They worked with several pastors, churches and missionaries. The women even went to the same town where Gizzi’s parents served as missionaries.
The trip was filled with full-day work for the women doing soccer training clinics in the mornings and playing games against Japanese teams in the evening. Before many of the games Biola players or coaches gave testimonies to the non-Christian teams, furthering their mission to the Japanese people.
The bonding the team experienced on the trip is something almost no other team experiences.
“You will see this personal bonding that occurs,” Gizzi said. “You get tired and you’re serving and your real self comes out so it’s really tough to keep going, but through the power and strength of being a unit you keep going.”