Women’s Soccer Program Travels to Japan for Competition and Outreach

Team experiences different culture with common passion for soccer

Jun. 5, 2012 By Tenielle Schroeder

The Biola University women’s soccer team will step out of their comfort zone into a new culture to express God’s love this summer. The women’s soccer program will begin their 2012 season in Japan competing and building relationships overseas. The team hopes to spread God’s love through matches, a soccer camp and clinics.

Biola freshman defender Shea Davis said, “I am excited to go to Japan and learn how to bring people the most important thing in life: the gospel.”

This year, the women will head to the cities of Osaka, Iwata and Iwakuni in Japan for 12 days from Aug. 2 to 13. Biola has teamed up with Missionary Athletes International’s (MAI) Los Angeles Seahorse Ministry for the past several years. The first Japan outreach was in 2000 with the Biola men’s soccer team. This summer, the girls will reach out to Japanese Christians and minister to people who may not have ever encountered a Christian before. This will provide them with the opportunity to change the lives of their competitors through soccer.

Head soccer coach Todd Elkins said, “We want to encourage the Japanese Christians we will spend time with, while exposing our players to a sports mission trip where they are using their soccer abilities as a bridge to share the Gospel with people.”

The team will start in Iwata where they will have two games and fellowship with the Sangyo University women’s soccer team.  After the games, the women will share their testimonies with their opponents. This has been a powerful time in past trips as several Japanese have come to Christ.

Paul Gizzi, the director of Seahorse Ministries and assistant coach for Biola Men’s soccer team, shared stories where some of the Japanese women were so impacted by the way the Biola athletes worshiped that they were moved to follow Christ. One of the Japanese girls said she accepted Christ because of the love the girls had showed for members of their team. This was a different love that she had never seen nor felt before: the love of Christ.

The girls will depart Iwata moving onto Iwakuni where they will stay at the Iwakuni Marine Corp Air Station. Hosting a day camp for the children of the F-18 fighter squadron and their support team families, the camp will provide an opportunity for them to share the love of Jesus with the children.

Their last stop is Osaka where they will work directly with the church pastors in that region. Biola has had the opportunity to put these Japanese pastors on the map as they connect them to the athletic community of Japan. The team will also play soccer matches and participate in soccer clinics where they can work to expand their own soccer skills before traveling back to the United States.

The ministry does not stop when the women leave Japan — the relationships they build iin Japan are very strong. In the past several of the team members have gone back individually.

Gizzi explained how this ministry works so powerfully: “The bridge of soccer becomes a natural platform.” The teams bond through their love of soccer and relationships are built through that.  The Japanese team has traveled to California as well to continue to foster this growing relationship they have with Biola soccer.

Japan is a nation where less than one percent of the people claim Christ as Savior, explained Gizzi. The team has engraved this ministry into their season since they first traveled to Okinawa because of this and have continued to travel back to Japan with their own funds every three years, making it a tradition.

If you are interested in becoming involved with the Southern California Seahorses Soccer Ministry and supporting the women’s soccer team trip to Japan, please contact the women’s soccer coach at todd.elkins@biola.edu.

Written by Tenielle Schroeder, Media Relations Intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator, at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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