NewsCougars Use Basketball to Present the Gospel in Jamaica
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - While most college basketball players were enjoying the beginning of their summer vacation, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s basketball team spent 10 days from June 7-16 on a team missions trip to Jamaica.
MVNU head coach Scott Flemming, assistant coach Josh Gast, and current Cougar players Andrew Thompson, Alan Bock, Nick Zarley, Chris VanSchepen, Josh Haumschild, Mark Hess, Ryan Seesholtz, Steve Mayes, Jaren Coldren, Bryan Wyant, Josh Smith, and Ben Falkenberg made up the team. They were joined by former MVNU alum and current Wooster Church of the Nazarene senior pastor, Nathan Ward, who served as the chaplain for the trip. Brian Gliem, who attends the Wooster church, also went along as the cook for the trip.
The team played four games on outdoor courts during the trip and posted a 3-1 record with wins over the Jamaican Junior National Team, the Montego Bay Club Team, and the Savanah Hawks Club Team. The only defeat on the trip came in overtime at the hands of the unbeaten Jamaican Senior National Team. In that game, MVNU rallied from a 16-point deficit to tie the game as Zarley hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation and the team missed a shot at the buzzer that would have given the Cougars the win.
However, the trip was about much more than basketball. At halftime of each of the team’s four games, one of the MVNU players would share their faith and a short Christian gospel message. The team also conducted four clinics for kids - two at orphanage schools, one at a public school, and one in a city neighborhood. These clinics consisted of working on basketball fundamentals and skill contests with prizes that included shirts, jerseys, shorts, and shoes. At each clinic, Flemming and one of the players would again share the gospel.
The team also participated in a church service in Mandeville, Jamaica, where Flemming led the music and worship time and Ward preached. In addition, the team had Bible studies, sharing times, and prayer daily throughout the trip.
"This was an unbelievable experience for everyone who was able to participate on this missions trip,” said Flemming. "I know all of us left there with a love for the people of Jamaica. As with many trips like this, we were faced with seeing people who had virtually nothing materially and yet they had a joy for living.”
"Although we were able to minister to multiple groups of people, I am just as excited about what this trip did personally for my players,” Flemming added. "We certainly grew closer as a team and the spiritual impact on each of the players was invaluable. God used us for His purpose and I am sure this experience will have lasting value for our program and our campus in the years to come.”
The MVNU men’s basketball team finished the 2004-2005 season with a 21-11 overall record marking the eighth time in the past nine years that the Cougars have reached the 20-win mark. MVNU had just one senior on the team, which received votes in the final NAIA national poll.