Cornerstone Staff Member Creates Mission Opportunities for Athletes
by Audrey Wierenga (B.A. ’18)
Student athletes do not always have the time or resources to go on mission trips or be involved in local mission work. Thankfully for Cornerstone University students, an education professor has a passion for these athletes.
Matt Wallace, an education instructor, has had a passion for student athletes and missions ever since he was an undergraduate student at Taylor University. As a baseball player at Taylor, he realized how difficult it was for athletes to be engaged in student development activities.
"Sports are a great avenue for sharing the gospel," Wallace said, "but athletes' schedules don't always allow for mission trips."
With his baseball coach at the helm, Wallace was involved from the very start in Friendship Sports International (FSI), an organization committed to fostering global relationships among churches, student athletes and mission organizations. FSI focuses on short-term mission opportunities for Christian college athletics, church groups and other school groups.
"It's not just for athletes," Wallace said, "but we want athletics at Christian schools to be about more than just playing and competing. We want to develop relationships with the global church."
A Global Partnership
Cornerstone has benefited greatly from Wallace's involvement with FSI. In August of 2018, Wallace took CU women's soccer to Haiti. In June 2019, Wallace with the leadership of his wife Alissa, also a physical therapist, took three CU athletes who were also pre-physical therapy students to Guatemala. While they were there, they provided physical therapy for underserved areas of the country. In December 2019, Wallace traveled to Honduras with the men's soccer team.
"There's a lot of scrutiny toward short-term missions," Wallace added. "We want to educate athletes that there's a bigger picture than just going to a country for a week and feeling good about yourself. We are part of a global church and partner with them to share the love of Christ and help carry each other's burdens."
Wallace has made sure that the impact of these trips reaches beyond the trip itself. CU athletes will be selling bracelets made by Honduran women and raising awareness for sponsoring children during soccer games in fall 2020. Wallace makes sure that relationships and connections are fostered every step of the way—before, during and after the trip.
Wallace reflected on the story of an athlete who went on a trip through FSI and entered into it with a skeptical mindset. When she returned, however, she had a completely new perspective on her role as a team leader on and off the field. She is now interning in ministry.
"It's important to provide opportunities for students to get out of their world for a period of time," Wallace said. "In the recent men's soccer trip, the players reflected that they need to be more aware of the needs around them. The trip pushed them out of their complacency."
The Reach of FSI
FSI facilitates global as well as local trips. Wallace has also led trips to inner-city Detroit, where he has seen students' perspectives on poverty change. Wallace plans the trips well in advance in order to accommodate athletes' busy schedules and to tailor the trip to their strengths and the ministries' specific needs. Students have run sports camps, children's ministry, worship services and more while on these trips.
Wallace sees the future of FSI's involvement with Cornerstone athletics as one of continuing growth. Plans are in the works with women's basketball and tennis for trips in the upcoming year.
"We want to continue to build relationships and further CU's mission to be Christ-centered in everything we do," Wallace said. "This is about the kingdom and discipleship, for students to become influencers in the global church."