The East Texas Baptist University men’s and women’s tennis teams recently traveled to Paris, France, as a part of the Tiger Athletic Mission Experience program.
Led by Great Commission Center and Global Education Director Lisa Seeley, head coach Jeff Bramlett, and assistant coach Drew Lambert, the group of 15 consisting of athletes and staff partnered with the International Sports Federation and Youth with a Mission in evangelism and ministry from May 30 through June 9 surrounding the French Open at Roland Garros.
“When we went to Paris, I hoped we could plant at least one seed of faith for the people we encountered, but I watched God plant an abundance,” Bramlett said. “We know what God can do with the smallest mustard seed of faith and how it can be used to move mountains. I thought about this often, as we were among the most beautiful mountains in the world. I pray for a bountiful harvest from every seed planted and sowed by our ETBU Tennis TAME trip. It was amazing to spend time with the ISF and YWAM teams, a passionate group of people spreading and acting on God’s word.”
During the trip, Bryan Doyle, the International Sports Federation’s director for sporting events, brought the Tiger tennis teams to Alpha Church in Grenoble for a beautiful service in the mountains. On the wall of the chapel is written, “La parole qui change les vies,” which translates, “The Bible will change your life.”
The ETBU team witnessed the truth of this phrase throughout their time in France. Student-athletes served the homeless, invested in local churches, worked at the YWAM base, and attended worship services at the Refugee Ministry. On guided tours, the teams also visited historical sites such as the Basilica du Sacre’-Coeur, Notre Dame, the Louvre and Eiffel Tower.
“The city holds history and beauty at every corner. Overlooking the distinct architecture from the Eiffel Tower, we prayed for our mission and the people across the country of France,” ETBU junior Ashley Schenck shared. “My favorite part of the trip was praising the Lord with the local church members. Listening to the French and English versions of the songs sung together was a unique experience. The love of Christ brought us together from different parts of the world, where we could worship together without any barriers.”
Many of the Tiger tennis members mentioned how the experiences overseas inspired and encouraged their faith journey. From worship services to French Open tennis matches, the group of ETBU student-athletes marveled at God’s workmanship throughout the trip.
“The way other students and leaders worshipped was contagious. I could feel God’s presence from the beginning, and I could not help but stand in awe,” ETBU junior John Herr expressed. “After worship, we went to the French Open. It was the best place on Earth for a tennis player. I was astounded to see such high-level matches, easily the best tennis I have ever seen in my life. Honestly, it was one of the best days of my life.”
While ETBU team members grew in their personal faith and athletic abilities, the group also invested in local French communities. For an outreach event hosted by the Refugee Ministry, the group prepared and distributed nearly 170 meal packages and 75 children’s goodie bags on the streets of Paris. Students built relationships with people as they promoted the church’s events, spread the Word of God, and prayed for families.
“We were able to meet many different people and children of every age,” ETBU senior Tiffany Stankiewicz said. “We played games with them, loving on them in the best way we could during the time we had. I enjoyed seeing people’s eyes light up when they received a bag of goodies, which was, for them, a bag of hope. It touched my heart to see the Lord work through each of my teammates.”
Whether the team was serving in neighborhoods, at a homeless shelter, or an outreach festival, the ETBU student-athletes used their unique skill sets to minister to each other, the ministry partners, and the people of France.
“An ISF representative shared a prayer with us he has repeated for 30 years, that he wants the end of each day to be different than it was when it started. With this as motivation, I hope to use the gifts and talents the Lord has given me to better this world for His glory,” said Reid Adams, an ETBU graduate with a Bachelor of Science in athletic training. “As we were serving at a homeless shelter in Paris, our world collided with the locals. Even though we could not understand one another, we were able to communicate through the love of Christ. A volunteer at the shelter, who spoke little English, shared the Gospel with the others there. Hearing it presented in a different manner, but having the same impact and response was incredible.”
Partnering with various churches to host an outreach festival in the French Alps, the Tigers set up booths for games, face painting, and other activities. The universal language of fun and laughter enabled the students to connect with participants at the festival.
“Bringing joy to the local families by immersing ourselves in their culture was the biggest blessing that the outreach festival brought to our group,” ETBU junior Ty Tarver said. “Although tennis is an individual sport, we still rely on our teammates to achieve a team victory. In that way, the festival was similar to a tennis match. We were spread out across the park, each of us with our own individual challenges, but we relied on God to shine through us and achieve a team victory for His kingdom.”