Going on a mission trip is a life changing and character growing experience.
Posted on 9/12/15
By Melissa Anderson
Going to another country on a mission trip is an even more challenging experience. Last fall, during his freshman year at NDSU, Lucas Dick decided it was time for him to travel out of the country on a mission trip.
“It was something I had wanted to do for awhile but hadn’t for some reason,” Dick said.
One night Dick researched basketball mission trips and it was Athletes In Action (AIA), part of what was formerly known as the Campus Crusade for Christ organization, that caught his eye.
“They send out around 30 different teams to different countries around the world,” Dick explained.
AIA was started in 1966 and uses sports as a platform to spread the message of Christianity. Of these teams, the majority are basketball with other teams being in the sports of track, baseball and football.
Dick explained that three to five of the basketball teams are womens teams and the rest are men’s teams. The men’s teams are formed with either NCAA Division I players, NCAA Division II, NAIA or some unaffiliated players such as Dick.
“If I was on the NDSU basketball team, I probably would have gone on a D-I tour. Our team was a whole mess of guys of varying ages and skill levels,” Dick said.
Once the teams are put together, the players all meet in one location to conduct a training camp and get to know one another. For Dick, that training camp took place over the last few days in July of this year.
“Team time was our spiritual training time. Here we went through AIA’s five principles which are their ministry beliefs. We also worked on how to write and present effective faith testimonies,” Dick said.
The day before the AIA team left for their mission trip to Columbia, the team played a game in the Lebanon Correctional Facility against a team composed of prisoners in Lebanon, OH. After a well played game, the AIA team eventually lost by only four points but not before an unfortunate accident during the last two minutes of that game left Dick with an injured arm.
“I fell over a guy and landed on my elbow. We discovered that night after x-rays that I had fractured my radius. I only played about two minutes of live basketball in Colombia, but God has His reasons and I wasn’t going to argue about it because I will lose every time. He had other purposes in mind for me than just to play basketball,” Dick said.
From there the team traveled to Columbus, OH to begin the journey to Columbia. It was here that Dick encountered another trial and tribulation on his first out of country mission trip.
“We were to fly from Columbus to Miami to Cartegena, Colombia. Unfortunately, upon arrival to Columbus, we were told by the airline that our flight had been cancelled. From this point on started the longest and craziest time of my life,” Dick said.
The team was split into three groups: one group of nine traveled to Cartegen, Columbia that night, a group of four were sent first to New York, then to Miami, then to Bogota, Colombia,where they spent the night in the airport before arriving in Cartegena the next morning, the last group was composed of Dick and another player who had originally been with the first group but changed to travel with Dick when he realized that Dick would be traveling by himself.
“After many cancelled flights, overbooked flights, delays, one night in New York City, getting separated in Miami so we separately made flights to Bogota two hours apart, finding each other in Bogota, spending the night in Bogota, then flying the next morning to Cartegena to find our bags and five other members of our team’s bags missing,”Dick said.
Eventually the entire team and their luggage were reunited in Cartegena, Columbia. The country of Colombia is located at the northern tip of South America. It has a landscape of lush rainforest, towering mountains and coffee plantations. The city of Cartagena is on the Caribbean coast with tourist features of a walled colonial old town, a 16th century castle and popular beaches.
“Columbia is pretty well developed in large cities; however, we drove through some smaller villages that were very poor,” Dick said.
The team spent two days in Cartegena, one day in Barranquilla, and three days in Santa Marta all of which are located on the north coast of Colombia.
“Santa Marta was very hot and one of the bigger touristy spots in Colombia. Our hotel was right on the beach,” Dick said.
After Santa Marta the team flew to Bogota, then directly to Santiago de Cali, where the team spent almost an entire week.
A typical day for the team began with breakfast at around 8:00 a.m., and then team time until around 10:00 a.m. The team would then run a basketball clinic for the local kids.
“Either before or after the clinic, one of us players would share his faith testimony, and our team discipler would share the Gospel message,” Dick explained.
Afternoons were for the members to have their own time. This time off gave the players a chance to catch up on rest, do activities at the hotel, or maybe do some shopping or sight seeing. The players could also participate in another clinic. The evenings were spent playing basketball.
“We would have a full regulation basketball game against a local University team,” Dick said.
According to Dick, Colombia is not a very basketball rich country like the United States. The AIA team was also composed of very good players which also gave the team credibility as they taught and played locals.
“No one really listens to someone they just beat by 40, but since we beat everyone by 40, it gave us a huge platform,” Dick said.
At halftime of the games, someone on the team would again share a testimony and the team discipler would share.
“Adam, our discipler, said that during this trip was the most he had ever gotten to share the Gospel,” Dick stated..
The best experience that Dick had on the AIA mission trip was the day trip to Popayan. Dick explained that in order to get there, the team had to take a three hour bus ride through the mountains.
“These mountains were where a lot of coffee and fruit are. It was beautiful,” Dick said.
The game in Popayan was the biggest of the trip as there were over 600 people in the stadium. It was also the flashiest game for the AIA athletes as well.
“There were lots of dunks and blocks and we really had the crowd going,” Dick stated.
One aspect of the game that was very memorable for Dick was when a teammate fouled a player from the local team and the crowds reaction.
“My teammate went to help him up, and the crowd started cheering. They cheered just as loudly for a dunk as they did when they saw their player being helped up by one of us,” Dick said
Overall, the experience taught Dick a lot of things. One of the lessons that Dick learned on the trip was about happiness and joy.
“The joy that these kids had. Here in America, you see a lot of unhappy kids that have everything they could possibly need or want. These kids have little, but they have unmatchable joy,” Dick said.
Another lesson that Dick learned was the impact of influence. Dick explained that ,while you may not be aware of it, someone is almost always watching or listening to you. If no one on Earth is then God always is.
“Sometimes it felt like no one was paying attention during our testimonies and when we would share, but after we would leave the city we would go through countless Facebook posts from our new Colombian fans that would be praising and thanking God for the team that came to visit them and share our faith with them,” Dick stated.
For Dick, the AIA trip and the lessons he learned were truly inspiring.