Fifty three Cornerstone baseball players, coaches and staff started their Christmas break by boarding a plane headed for Havana, Cuba. It is a country where few have gone and even fewer have dared share the gospel.
But that was exactly their goal.
The seemingly hostile country gave a warm welcome, inviting CU’s baseball team to play games and teach clinics to the Cuban players. And, most importantly, they were open to hearing about Jesus.
"You can’t go in as missionaries, but you can go in as a baseball team,” said Mitch Swaney, a sophomore and right fielder for the CU baseball team.
The team took turns on and off the field, while some spent days visiting local households others played games against local players. After the games and clinics, the team would meet in a circle centerfield and talk to those they played and others who were there to watch. The coaches and players would use translators to share about Jesus Christ.
"We used baseball to see people come to Christ,” Dave Mitroff, head coach, said. “Hundreds of people prayed with us during the trip.”
While there, the team played six games, with two double headers, against a makeshift team of Cuban players ranging in age from 16-35 years old. The love of baseball attracted local crowds to watch the games, and the CU team took that as an opportunity to present the gospel.
“Baseball is god there so everyone came out to watch us play,” Mitroff said. “Everyday we had people pray with us to receive Christ."
Ultimately, this trip was about sharing the love of Jesus with the people of Cuba, said Chuck Lowitzki, assistant coach for Cornerstone University.
“The most cross-cultural thing on the planet is the love of Jesus,” he said. “It is what brings people together and opens doors. I am especially blessed to work for our unbelievable student-athletes. I am so proud of them and who they are. They lived out what it means to be Christ-followers while we were in Cuba and made a deep impact on many lives.”
Sophomore and first baseman, Zach Bohl, first heard of the Cuba trip during his recruitment.
“It sounded legit,” Bohl said. “It was a really enticing reason why I came here.”
Swaney could relate, saying he was especially interested in the way a mission trip could be made possible through baseball.
To prepare for the culture shock and the challenges in sharing the gospel, the team had training sessions to keep an open heart and an open mind.
Each team member brought one checked bag packed with Bibles and supplies to give away. But once they arrived, they realized their supplies were not enough to meet the need.
Before leaving Cuba, the CU team literally gave the Cuban team the shirts off their backs.
“We gave them the shirts off our back, our gloves, our cleats,” Bohl said. “We gave them anything they could use.”
Each player walked away, touched by the experience and stronger as a team.
“It was so evident we were supposed to be there. There is something special going on down there,” Dave Grube, athletic director, said.
Plans are in the works for a return trip to Cuba with the team traveling to remote areas of Cuba. For more information about the CU baseball team and upcoming trips, visit www.cugoldeneagles.com