News - Selfless: Lady Panthers Score Unexpected Rewards In Costa Rica

Selfless: Lady Panthers Score Unexpected Rewards In Costa Rica

by Rachel Heston-Davis Selfless: Lady Panthers Score Unexpected Rewards In Costa Rica

When the Greenville University women’s basketball team traveled to Costa Rica this May, Coach Roy Mulholland had a very specific goal in mind: selflessness.

“This trip was not about us; it was about those we were going to serve,” he said.

The players planned to hold basketball clinics for children in various cities and meet Christian ministers in local neighborhoods. SCORE International Ministries facilitated the trip.

“We did not go to be waited upon, we went to serve any and all within our sphere of influence,” Mulholland said. That sphere turned out to be broad: children, teens, pastors, professional basketball players and some of Costa Rica’s poorest citizens.

Hunger, Struggle, But So Much Joy

“Today our team had the opportunity to serve one of the [poorest] communities in Costa Rica,” began a May 20 status update on the Greenville University women’s basketball Facebook page. Players Ashley Dryden and Haley Smith posted their reflections from Alajuelita, the poorest area in Costa Rica, located 20 minutes outside of the country’s capital, San Jose. 

There, the team met Pastor Efraim, who serves the community. When Efraim describes the people he serves, he doesn’t sugarcoat the poverty, domestic violence and sexual exploitation that plague them.

“Each story breaks your heart anew,” Mulholland said.

Nevertheless, the Lady Panthers observed resilient spirits coexisting with desperate conditions.

“We witness hunger and struggle but so much joy,” Dryden and Smith wrote. “This afternoon we also put on a [basketball] clinic for some local school children, which involved plenty of play.”

When the Lady Panthers brought 10 bags of food to one of Pastor Efraim’s neighborhoods in Alajuelita, the families’ responses moved Mulholland. “It is amazing to experience the depth of gratitude from each person when we felt like we were doing so little,” he said.

That evening, the G.U. coaches challenged the Lady Panthers to collectively give $200 of their own money to help supply food to the neighborhoods they had visited. Each coach offered to personally match the $200.

“My vision was too small,” Mulholland confessed. By week’s end, players had personally pooled $300. Along with donations from coaches, the group gave $1,000 toward food for Alajuelita families, plus a pile of shoes and sweatshirts the G.U. players donated for distribution to those in need.

“God really began to challenge us collectively in terms of needs and wants,” Mulholland said. “I hope it is a lesson that will fundamentally challenge who we are and how we see others.”

Kiddos on the Court

The team hosted basketball clinics for children and teens at various locations throughout the week-long trip. Often, their young pupils had no previous exposure to basketball, so the Lady Panthers experienced the joy of introducing children to the basics of their treasured sport.

The players found the children and teens a delight to spend time with. “Despite the language barrier, they were still willing to listen and be patient with us,” Kenzie Schwab and Ashley Anderson wrote in a Facebook update. Positive interactions went a long way to make up the language gap—smiles, simple affirmations like muy bien (very good).

“If I learned anything on this trip, it is that there is power in the act of a high-five and a smile,” wrote player Sidney Webster in a blog entry about the trip.

The Lady Panthers asked the Costa Rican teens about their future plans and heard answers similar to what you’d hear around G.U.’s campus: dreams involving computer engineering and forensic science.

“It was interesting to see how each of these kids was listening to God’s calling for their lives,” Schwab and Anderson remarked.

Every Opportunity to Share Christ

The G.U. players executed their ball-handling skills on-court with professional Costa Rican players, including the U17 National Team and others.

“It is really amazing to connect to these women,” wrote Panthers Hannah Krukewitt and Clarissa Duebel, who noted some of the players were 15 years their senior. 

“After each game, one of our players gave a testimony and then [a representative from] SCORE International shared the plan of salvation,” said Mulholland. “One of the things we talked about was how the missionaries looked for every opportunity to share Christ. I think in the USA, we are often apologetic about sharing Christ, and I think we will probably be more aware of opportunities Christ presents us to share the gospel.”

God At Work

By trip’s end, the young Panthers were convinced of one thing: God is at work in Costa Rica, even amidst difficult conditions.

Mulholland, meanwhile, also noticed God at work in the lives of his 18 players.

“These players were willing to be vulnerable and to share with each other the things they were seeing, hearing and learning.” He watched players give attention to God’s voice in their individual lives.

Mulholland has one message for all G.U. friends who hear the story of this trip. “Pray that the lessons of our trip take hold and the lives of our players are changed in such a way that they become change agents in their world.”



From Green to Great: Four Years of Men’s Volleyball at G.U.

Offense, Defense, Character, Class

Blend of Leadership and Service Score On and Off the Court

Calling: Coach’s Helper

You shape young athletes for Christ with your support of scholarships. As a Division III school, G.U. does not offer athletic scholarships, so your generosity provides the financial relief these students of character seek. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on July 10, 2019

comments powered by Disqus
315 E. College Avenue
Greenville, Illinois 62246-1145
800.345.4440 / 618.664.7100
Contact Us © 2000-19 Greenville University. All rights reserved.
Greenville University is authorized to operate as a postsecondary educational institution by the Illinois Board of Higher Education
Accreditation | IBHE Complaint Form