Baseball is a worldwide sport. It’s played in stadiums. It’s a pastime in the backyard. It’s a chance to enjoy a hot dog and root for your team. But in Nicaragua, baseball is a lot more than just a sport. It’s a way of life. And our team that went to Nicaragua used this way of life to show the way to eternal life.
During the trip, baseball and presenting the Gospel paired up through camps and games that occurred throughout the week. At the camps, players ages 4–24 worked on fundamental baseball skills and heard the fundamental truth of the Gospel.
At the games, Bellevue’s mix of high school and college players competed against teams from surrounding regions and cities in Nicaragua. It was great ball players going head-to-head. These games were highly anticipated, competitive, and fun. The players experienced the joy of the game and were told where true joy can be found.
Our 12-man missions team had a range of ages and backgrounds: players from different schools and retired players and coaches. However, the similarities between the men on the team outweighed the differences. The unity was strong. All the men shared one passion, baseball, and had one goal in mind, reaching others with the Gospel.
Zach Cook played baseball in college. He loves the sport. This was his first time going with this missions project, and he knows his love of baseball was used for something greater.
“Baseball was our foot in the door,” he said. “Baseball was not the main reason. It was part of the reason. But of course, the reason was to actually fulfill the Great Commission with the aim of making disciples.”
It’s hard to gauge the exact number of people who responded to the Gospel message because the religious climate in Nicaragua is a unique one. Most of the country professes to be Roman Catholic, but there is a stigma attached to Christianity. Fortunately, the translators on the ground could tell that people were receptive and the Spirit was stirring in many hearts.
Jeff Hopkins is one team member who has seen the Lord consistently work through this trip. He’s been going to Nicaragua since the very first baseball trip in 2015, and he’s seen how it has made an impact on Nicaragua, specifically in the region of Pantasma. This year, the mayor of Pantasma invited Jeff into the region’s schools to share about the importance of education. Jeff was also able to tell the kids about salvation found in Jesus.
“God is doing a mighty work in Nicaragua,” Jeff said. “Through this mission trip, I believe that many young people are coming to Christ.”
Hayden Edwards and Matthew McDaniel joined Jeff on the trip in 2017. From that trip to this year’s trip, there were some changes.
“I felt like we did a much better job than ever of not just playing baseball, teaching baseball, or doing camp, but just loving the people,” Hayden said.
Hayden and Matthew formed connections that go deeper than just helping with swings and pitches, friendships that go beyond language differences.
“Once you get past the language barrier, it’s like you’re almost speaking the same language,” Matthew said.
Matthew still communicates with a few guys on WhatsApp, talking about everyday things like school and life at home.
Hayden reconnected with Junior, a child he befriended all the way back in 2017.
As soon as the team arrived and Hayden stepped off the bus, Junior came running to him with a baseball in a plastic bag. With the help of a translator, Hayden found out he had autographed that baseball for Junior six years ago, and Junior had kept it safe and clean for all those years.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this isn’t real.’ Something so simple to me mattered so insanely much to this child,” Hayden described.
The Nicaraguans—young boys at camp and experienced players on the field alike—found joy in the simple gifts: an autographed baseball, a new glove, or just a game well played. Because of this trip, some of them even discovered the greatest gift of all, Jesus.
The high schoolers, college students, and coaches who went to Nicaragua with our team found a way to use their gifts to share the Gospel. How is God calling you to use the skills He has given you for His glory? There are more everyday talents and passions, like baseball, that can become unlikely partners with spreading the Gospel. God wants to use it all! Bellevue’s Missions office would love to help you discover ways to serve. Contact us at email@example.com.