Volleyball Team on Mission in Dominican Republic and Beyond

Volleyball Team on Mission in Dominican Republic and Beyond

By Alyssa Kranz

Have you heard the phrase, your mission starts wherever you are?

For Kaitlin Ruiter, a senior Volleyball player, this was especially true.

Imagine you are flying home from your mission trip. You look over at the woman next to you, and wonder if you should start sharing the Gospel. You’ve just spent 13 days helping the poor, working in the community, and expanding your spiritual boundaries.

This is exactly what happened to Ruiter after working in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip with her Crown Volleyball team.

During the flight, she felt the Holy Spirit nudging her to speak up. She was nervous as she didn’t speak much Spanish, and didn’t know how long a conversation with her could last considering the language barrier.

Surprisingly, the woman introduced herself first! Ruiter knew that was God encouraging her to speak. She continued the conversation and could tell the woman was a little nervous about the flight, so Ruiter asked if she could pray for her. “Her eyes lit up!” says Ruiter. “She responded ‘yes’ so I prayed for her.” She was delighted to know they shared a belief in God, which made the flight more comfortable for both of them.

Now, imagine you begin the day by waking up and doing a morning devotional in 2 Timothy while looking at the foggy mountains. You pray for the day ahead, that somehow God would use you and your seemingly insignificant talents to reach the people you’re working with.

For Michaela Svoboda, this is exactly how she woke up every morning in the Dominican Republic. “It was so emotional being able to wake up and go to bed in the middle of one of God’s most beautiful creations.”

This summer Svoboda and Ruiter, along with the Crown Women’s Volleyball team, had a unique opportunity to go on a mission trip to Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic with Students International. STINT focuses on finding a specific need in a community and meeting it. Some communities need education for young children, some need social work for struggling mothers, and some need appropriate technology to get clean water in their homes. Their goal is to then provide that particular service while sharing the Gospel.

These ministry sites (as they are known) involve things like health care, sports (specifically baseball and volleyball), education, and media and communication.

However, their trip was unique because they got to play volleyball almost every afternoon with the local middle school, high school, and college team.

“Going as a team was special because we had the opportunity to share these amazing experiences together, and grow as women of God all while playing the sport we love,” says senior Christine Anderson.

In addition to their service sites during the day, the team added two more hours of volleyball at the end of their days, all to build relationships with the locals. Their practices included different skill-building drills and scrimmages. Crown won two out of the three games. “We were pretty evenly matched,” says junior Kassy Steinkamp. “It was interesting to play against them and see our differences in playing styles.”

One of the college players named Mabelis inspired Steinkamp. During their time playing with the team, Steinkamp got to know Mabelis who shared her testimony with the Crown team and talked about her rough home life. Yet in the end, God had really worked and provided for her. “Her testimony is very powerful because she never let the hardships hinder her walk with the Lord,” says Steinkamp.

Students International split the Crown girls between the women’s sports, health care, media, education, and social work sites. The sites are located in the communities where a specific need exists. For example, the volleyball team spent time at the local university as a way to encourage girls to be involved in extracurriculars and to share the Gospel. All of them worked at a site that relates to their current career aspirations.

For Anderson, the trip had more than just a momentary impact. God showed her through her work at the women’s sports site that God is calling her into ministry through the use of volleyball, one of her biggest passions. The girls at the sports site had many opportunities to share their faith. The Crown players started each practice with a devotional and testimony. They talked about things like overcoming fear, trusting God, and being confident.

Students International teaches every team who serves with them to be open, to serve, and be served. “When you go to another country, you expect to serve, you expect to impact people, you expect to make a difference, and love people fiercely,” says sophomore Sarah Reinke. “But in fact, it’s the other way around. The Dominicans served, impacted, and loved on me.”

Reinke learned this lesson when she walked around her community to visit with the locals. She said this lesson was very moving because regardless of the financial state of the homeowners, they still insisted on inviting her in to make her coffee or food. She felt love like she has never felt it before. She felt challenged to learn from the homeowners, and to love with everything she has.

“Going as a team was an amazing opportunity,” says Steinkamp. “I believe we all bonded in a much deeper way — one that wouldn’t have happened without this experience. We created so many unique memories that will not be forgotten.”