The ORU women’s basketball team went to Costa Rica for a trip that included mission work and basketball earlier this month.
The team spent 10 days in Costa Rica, where they played against the Costa Rican National Team and volunteered at a foster home and daycare run by the Roblealto organization.
Head Coach Misti Cussen said the trip was a special experience for the entire team.
“Seeing our girls and staff have the opportunity to interact with the children and seeing how excited the children were to spend time with them was rewarding and special for everyone involved,” Cussen said. “Mark 10:45 says that ‘even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.’ So to be able to serve and follow His example was important and rewarding for our entire program.”
Players and coaches spent time at the foster home with children ages 6-12, playing basketball, soccer and singing songs. They also played water games and gave ORU gear to the children and their families. At the daycare, they played with children ages 4-6 during recess.
The team shared the story of Jesus with the children, something that forward Detti Balla described as a “privilege and honor.”
Cussen said the opportunity to share Jesus with the children was a new experience for the players.
“For many of our student-athletes, this was the first opportunity for them to share their faith with children that needed to hear the message of the Lord,” Cussen said.
Cussen was humbled to see how the the team interacted with the children.
“What really stood out to all of us was how much each of these kids needed the love of Jesus in their daily lives and how open they were to the message of His grace.”
Balla said the trip not only impacted the children, but the players were able to learn something from the children.
“By ministering to kids, we also learned a lot about ourselves,” Balla said. “As hungry as they were for God, that’s how hungry we want to be as well. There were many, many children that had a big impact on me, because they all taught me the importance of having a thirst for God and His love.”
Both Cussen and Balla said the trip helped the team get closer and spend time bonding into one unit.
“As a team, we bonded over service and basketball, and they will only help us be a more cohesive unit when the season begins,” Balla said. “We learned more about trusting God and submitting to His will and that faith will help us through any trial this season.”
“More than any one moment or activity, my favorite part of the trip was seeing how our athletes came together as family,” Cussen said. “We were able to bond together to accomplish our common goals.”
After finishing service work, the team hit the court for basketball games.
The team played twice against the Costa Rican National Team and won both. They had to adjust to international basketball rules which differ from the normal college rules the team plays by.
Cussen compared playing the national team to playing against a high level college team in the U.S. She said the team was a good challenge for ORU’s first game action since the end of the season.
“More than anything, I think we learned a lot about our own team,” Cussen said. “[We learned] how we can best utilize our newcomers and how the improvements our returners have made in the offseason can have the greatest impact on our team.”
Balla said the trip was something she would never forget.
“I will always remember ministering to the kids at Roblealto and sharing the love of Jesus with them. We truly bonded as a team and as a family while we were there.”