July 17, 2017 |
For Team Arkansas USA, a Central Arkansas little league baseball team, the sport they love is proving to be more than just an opportunity to be on the diamond and score bragging rights from a big win.
After a visit to Nicaragua last summer to minister to their peers on the baseball field, Team Arkansas USA decided to bring their friends from Team Nicaragua to their own backyard in Searcy.
“At the end of the day, there’s no monetary value you can put on cross-cultural experiences,” said Dr. Andrew Baker, director of the Center for Leadership and Ministry. “You give me a ball and 10 minutes, and we’re going to have a group of kids playing. That’s just the way it works.”
Baker has been leading University students to Nicaragua as a part of the center’s sports ministry since 2004 and worked with 2012 graduate and Team Nicaragua coach Colette Price to bring the team to the U.S.
“Baseball is what they love,” Price said. “If I get involved with what they love, then I can tell them about what I love, and that’s Jesus.”
Price has lived in Nicaragua since she graduated, and when the opportunity arose to bring her team to the U.S., there was a fear that it might not become a reality.
“They were invited, and visiting was a big dream,” Price said. “A lot of people always dream and joke of visiting the States, but in reality, Nicaragua has an 80 percent rejection rate of visas. So it seemed like such an unattainable dream. But we said, ‘Let’s do our part that’s possible, and pray that God puts the rest in place.’”
During its trip, Team Nicaragua will play several baseball games, attend a baseball camp in Little Rock and in Searcy with the Harding Bisons, explore Arkansas, pack meals for children in local communities, and attend a Kansas City Royals game before heading home.
Price said the team has felt nothing but warmth and love from the people they have encountered on their trip so far. At church Sunday, an elder led a closing prayer in English and Spanish in honor of the team being there, which Price said was the highlight of the kids’ day.
As the team returns home at the end of the week, Price said she hopes a greater message has been communicated in using the sport they love.
“I hope we can translate that the love and welcome they’ve had here is how much God loves and will welcome us in heaven and so much more,” Price said. “I want them to understand why God is so important and why that changes not just baseball, but every part of their lives.”