Women’s Soccer Vision Meets Mission

Five years ago when Michael Voss was hired to be the Grace College women’s soccer head coach, he became a man on a mission.

With a vision of what he wanted the women’s soccer program to look like, he set out on a
mission to recruit players. His vision—build a team of women who not only could compete at a high level of soccer, but who also had a passion for sharing Christ—a goal that seemed contradictory or idealistic to some.

Now as he looks back on his team’s recent spring break trip to the Cayman Islands he can see that mission has paid off. Yes, this trip had been in the works long before the team started fundraising and long before talented recruiting classes were brought in the past few years. It started with a Gospel-centered dream, and that dream just became a reality.

Grace's women's soccer team after arriving in the Cayman Islands in the spring of 2012

Although Tebow Time and Linsanity have done much to enhance the perception toward using sports as a means of evangelism, the mentioning of “sports ministry” often receives scoffs or criticisms about its usefulness. Add in “75-degree weather” and there are even more doubters. Yet when the women’s soccer team landed at the Owen Roberts International Airport on March 10, they knew their mission.

This story is not about Voss and not about the team, but rather how a group on mission went and lived out their faith.

Voss recalls talking with an opposing coach about the Gospel and feeling a prompting from the Holy Spirit to look up. When he did, he saw every player of his team talking to another player from the opposing team—Bible open, Mission Ball in hand, and sharing their love for God.

“It was at that moment when I looked up and saw every player fully engaged, I thought to myself, ‘This is it,’” Voss said.

The team had not only caught the vision, but they lived it.

“The difference between this ministry trip and typical mission trips was that the Cayman people don’t have a physical need we can meet,” Voss explained. “Instead of building something or giving stuff away the only need they lacked was Christ.”

Grace coach Michael Voss

That, however, did not deter the team from doing all they could to reach that need. Each player packed the essentials in their luggage: clothes, soccer gear, toiletries… and Mission Balls (see more about Mission Balls by viewing the newspaper spread here). The team brought enough Mission Balls with them to give one to every player they played against, plus some extra to give to people they interacted with. It certainly is not every day that you see a group of boys crowding around a soccer ball reading Bible verses to each other.

Yet, giving away Missions Balls was just the tip of the iceberg. The team gave themselves.

Whether it was enjoying barbeque at a party at night, going shopping in the afternoon, or having a worship service in their hotel, the Lady Lancers never seemed to be away from the women on the Cayman national team, except maybe skill-wise on the soccer field.

In three games against the Cayman teams, Grace won 4-0, 5-0, and tied 2-2. These were no shabby opponents, either, as the tie came against the Cayman Islands U20 Women’s National Team. The team’s success in the national spotlight—the team’s visit was covered multiple times by local Cayman television stations—gave them the respect they needed to talk to the locals about God.

When the women’s soccer team went to put on a skills demonstration for a local elementary school they were in for a surprise. The elementary school visited turned out to be a high school, and the skills demonstration they planned was swapped for a gymnasium filled with an audience ready to listen to whatever the team had to say. Fortunately, God was moving long before the team ever arrived in the heart of one member of the Cayman Women’s National Team named Nikki. Through her help, junior Kristin Yocum’s Gospel presentation would be accepted with open ears and hearts.

When Nikki first met the Grace soccer team, a bit of a reputation preceded her, so much so that one of her own teammates asked if she was really invited to dinner with the Grace team. Her honest “you might not want her” was met with a simple “we love her anyway.” Three days later it was Nikki, newly saved through conversations with players from Grace, who told her former high school, “I know you all know who I am and I know you all know what I’ve done, but I’ve been changed by this team and I want you to listen to them.” The students did, and many students raised their hand to receive Christ when the invitation was given to. Such is the power of a team who is “like Christmas every day,” as one opponent said.

Ten days does not seem like much time to make a lasting difference. Or is it? The results speak for themselves: 20 salvations, dozens of Cayman soccer players reached with the Gospel, and countless lives impacted across the country.

Without each player playing an important role on the trip, the women’s soccer team’s trip would not have been so successful, and at times, confusing. As Cayman women soccer players talked amongst themselves about the crazy foreigners who had just invaded their country, they could not figure out what was the cause for the joy that fueled their passion. Then finally, one player spoke up. “Don’t you see? It’s Jesus, guys.”

Now at home, Voss has a new story to tell recruits, a story of the unified effort of a team that loved God and loved soccer. He has a finished product to sell, and a vision that has only begun.

“If you didn’t believe sports were a legitimate way to share the Gospel, you can’t doubt it now.”

By Zane Gard

This story was published in Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

*To view the newspaper spread as printed in the Sounding Board, click here.

Grace's Jalisa Thayer sharing a devotional from the Cayman Islands

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