WATERTOWN, Wis. -- Ministry first, soccer second. For Asa St. Lawrence, a trip to Western Europe to use soccer as a ministry tool was a no-brainer.
Next week, the captain of the Sabercats Men's Soccer team will travel to Portugal along with 17 other players and various staff members for a sports ministry trip with Athletes In Action. St. Lawrence will be teaming up with NCAA DI, NAIA, and NCAA DIII players to play against high-profile clubs, offer clinics, share the gospel, and get involved in overseas ministry.
Competition and Clinics
The highlight of the trip's competitive games will be an exhibition game against S.L. Benfica's U-19 team. Benfica is a perennial mainstay in the UEFA Champions League and is one of the top clubs in Western Europe. The club is the reigning Primeira Liga champion and has won the league title 36 times in addition to two European Cup titles.
Aside from the competitive games, the team will host clinics for local children, keeping the opportunity to tie sports in with the gospel as strong as ever.
"There's something about sports in this day and age that connects," remarked St. Lawrence. "If you bring a ball, kids are going to come out, and hopefully, their hearts will be open to the gospel."
"It'll also get me out of my comfort zone, which is always good," St. Lawrence continued. "[Coach Pill] preaches that a lot here - 'be comfortable being uncomfortable.' I'll be playing with really talented players, I'll be sharing the gospel, which always takes boldness, and [I'll be] going overseas with the unknown factor there, so it'll stretch me."
The soccer aspect is significant and important, but that isn't the primary objective of the trip.
"I know we're doing some cool stuff," said St. Lawrence, referencing a question he asked his coach before the trip. "But what are we doing for ministry?"
St. Lawrence quickly learned that the ministry-development side of the trip will be paramount. The team will be establishing a Portuguese-based AIA ministry, helping a local church get established, and engaging in relational evangelism and personal discipleship.
"Sport is such a good tool for ministry," said St. Lawrence. "I mean, we [at Maranatha] do the clinics and the soccer ministry team. So going on a tour with a group where that's pretty much all they do will be pretty cool. So if I can make some connections there and learn some stuff, it's a great opportunity.
Here is the 18-man roster for the trip:
|Jeremiah Anderson||Westmont University||NAIA|
|Joel Foster||Boyce College||NCCAA DII|
|Sawyer Gaffney||Davidson University||NCAA DI|
|Jason Gay||Legacy Christian Academy||OHSAA|
|Jacob Goodall||Xavier University||NCAA DI|
|Jackson Hawthorne||University of Kentucky||NCAA DI|
|Cole Heilman||University of Kentucky||NCAA DI|
|Grady Howe||University of California-Los Angeles||NCAA DI|
|Leon Jones||University of Kentucky||NCAA DI|
|Benjamin Lawrence||Houghton College||NCAA DIII, NCCAA DI|
|Ben Leba||University of Dayton||NCAA DI|
|Ignacio Ramirez||University of California-Irvine||NCAA DI|
|Zachary Randall||Pennfield Rangers||(Club)|
|Patrick Ross||William Carey College||NAIA|
|Zachary Schoon||Bethel College||NAIA, NCCAA DI|
|Jordan Sharp||Mount Vernon Nazarene University||NAIA|
|Stanton Smith||Johnson University||NCCAA DII|
|Asa St. Lawrence||Maranatha Baptist University||NCAA DIII, NCCAA DII|
|Jared Wellman||Syracuse University||NCAA DI|
|Blake Wilson||Georgia Southern University||NCAA DI|
|Kurt Kuykendall (Coach)||New York Cosmos||NASL|
|Glodi Konga (Coach)||Liberty University||NCAA DI|
The May 14-June 1 trip will begin when the team meets Monday in New York City. They will train there and preview the trip before flying into Barcelona, Spain, home of world-famous FC Barcelona. After five days of training in Barcelona, they will fly to Lisbon, Portugal, where they will stay for the remainder of the trip. The team will return to the United States June 1.
St. Lawrence recognizes the potential that this trip has to offer, both for the advancement of the gospel and for his personal growth.
"But most important is the ministry aspect of it," said St. Lawrence. "We want to share the gospel and we look for ways to do that, but this trip will force me to get out of my comfort zone and share the gospel. So for those reasons, this was an obvious decision for me.
"It's amazing how much you grow when you need to rely on God. We get comfortable everywhere we're at. A subtle reminder is good sometimes, so hopefully, this will draw me back to my reliance on Him."