GREETINGS Just an update on this newsletter/blog. First of all, welcome to all new employees. We are glad you’re with us and please be sure and read the weekly news to get connected with the rest of the Corban community. I apologize for this newsletter being on hiatus for five weeks. Because of that, some of the news that was submitted to me in late June is not getting published. Those files are lost in cyberspace somewhere. Others are just now getting published here.
On June 25 I was in the forest between PVG and Farrar Hall, which is very steep terrain. I was alone, setting up tools and equipment for a volunteer day when I slipped and broke my ankle. Thanks to Chris Horn, of Corban security, who came immediately after I called. I had a complicated break requiring surgery on July 6. I have been off my feet since then and have a few weeks to go. Thanks for your prayers.
NOTE: Because I am working from home on the blog, it would be easier if you’d send/respond with your communications to my home email. email@example.com.
Thanks, and never hesitate to send me news by each Friday. Please don’t be shy or unduly humble about what is going on in your area, about your accomplishments, or your favorite trip, family/off campus life. Sharing about yourself or others keeps us connected and unified.
—Steve Hunt, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives
TODAY! Warrior Athletics invites you to come and enjoy some burgers and hot dogs as we kick off the 2016-17 year on July 25th on the lawn of the Athletics House from 12:30pm-1:30pm! Corban Warrior coaches/staff will be in attendance and look forward to meeting each of you while enjoying some tasty food and drinks! Hope to see you there!
CONGRATULATIONS to Gina Ochsner on her new book available in hardcover, audio, at Amazon.com. Release date is
It’s the 40th book published by Corban faculty and leadership in the past four years.
CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Greg Trull whose article, “Twist of Faith: Irony in Job” is in the July/August 2016 issue of Bible Study Magazine (FaithLife).
THAILAND TRIP FOR TWO STAFF MEMBERS
Kathy Benitez, Corban alumni Kristy Benitez and Ellen Zarfas spent over two weeks in Southern Thailand. “We worked in a community center and Christian school for Thai residents and Burmese refugee children located in a remote fishing village where Kathy’s daughter, Katie, currently serves. It was an amazing trip! Every day we had a new and exciting opportunity to share our heart for the Lord. We taught English to high schoolers, baked chocolate chip cookies and muffins with middle school girls who had never seen an oven, worked on sewing projects with young women, practiced English with Burmese teachers and learned to cook real Thai food while the ladies practiced their English. We provided support where needed for the ministry leaders, taught in pre-school and kindergarten, planned and played games with children in a small Thai Muslim village and rode the “bus” to take children home at the end of the day. We also had the opportunity to hand out 250 new t-shirts from Church Art Works, Salem OR to the Burmese refugee children at the school. We heard stories of men and women from Burma (Myanmar), China & Thailand who gave their lives to Christ and how they all came together to work for a godly business man from Singapore to provide hope for a community that was completely destroyed in the tsunami of 2004.
The best part of the trip? We saw Jesus working in lives 8000 miles from Salem in a small fishing village in Southern Thailand.”
Ellen rode bareback on an elephant in the tropical jungle of Thailand for an hour! And the children and teachers from the school captured her heart. Kathy had the privilege and joy of ministering alongside her two daughters as God used them to reach lives for Him. And she has no complaints about the Thai resorts.
IN THE NEWS Former ASB President on HGTV. Read the story of Ben Morris and his wife who are finalists in a kitchen makeover on HGTV: Here.
PARKING INFORMATION On behalf of Campus Safety, it is my pleasure to announce we are now overseeing the issuance of all parking permits. To ensure you with the best customer service experience, we must confirm that all records are accurate. I am asking for your help, please re-register your existing vehicle confirming your parking permit information. We have made this process nearly painless via an online form which is also mobile device friendly. Action Step: Click here to access
Please note: Faculty and staff who are new or have recently purchased a vehicle and have yet to receive a parking permit must still complete the online form but are asked to leave the existing parking tag space blank. Once online registration is received, Campus Safety will get a parking permit to you via your campus mailbox as soon as possible.
-Mike Roth, Chief of Security and Campus Safety
by Kathy Gallagher
I’ve been eyeing that last, lonely jar of canned tomatoes from last summer’s bounty, and at last I hit upon the perfect celebration of tomatoeyness: Tomato Medley Bisque. Slightly smoky and with a tiny hint of heat, this creamy bisque is complex enough to be intriguing, but simple enough to be packed with fresh flavor. You can feel good about the nutritional content of this eat-your-vegetables soup, and if the decadent addition of a little cream scares you, it’s surprisingly creamy without the cream, thanks to some well-disguised, roasted butternut squash. (We call it Tomato “Medley” Bisque so your kids won’t hear the dreaded S-word.)
Here’s how it unfolded:
* Cut that sneaky butternut squash in half, and roast on a cookie sheet in the oven, cut sides down, until soft. Refrigerate.
* Char three red peppers in the oven: Cut them in half, remove seeds, and flatten them onto a cookie sheet, skin side up. Broil on high in the oven until the skins are black. (Fan on—learned that one the hard way!) Slip them off the pan and into a bowl of water to cool them and loosen the skins, which will easily slide off when cool, leaving that lovely smoky flavor behind on the red peppers. Slip the now-naked peppers into a baggie and refrigerate.
Dinner time minus 20 minutes:
* Melt the butter in a large pot. Add chopped onion and chopped garlic and stir until things begin smelling lovely in your kitchen.
* Whir your canned tomatoes and 2/3 of your prized roasted red peppers in the blender or food processor. Add to the vegetables. Also add 4 cups of chicken broth, and let the mixture simmer. While it’s simmering, chop the remaining red peppers finely, and reserve for the final step.
* Scoop the seeds from the cold, soft butternut squash, peel off the skins; discard. Chop the flesh of the squash into cubes and add to the yumminess simmering in the pot. When mixture is heated through, scoop out the vegetables and puree them in a blender or food processor. Add puree back to the pot and heat through once more.
* Add the chopped, roasted red peppers and ¼ cup cream. Stir, adjust seasonings to taste (a splash of Sriracha suits me just fine), and serve with a swirl of sour cream, chopped herbs, or toasted pumpkin seeds on top.
Have a Healthy Bite of your own to share? Send it to Kathy Gallagher in H.R., and we will include it in a future blog.
Tomato Medley Bisque
Ingredients: 32 oz. canned tomatoes; 3 red peppers; 1 butternut squash; 3 tablespoons butter; 1 chopped onion; 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped; 4 cups chicken broth; 3 tablespoons tomato paste; ¼ teaspoon pepper; ½ teaspoon cayenne; Salt to taste; ¼ cup cream.
Since April I have been serving on an advisory committee for Chemeketa Community College’s new Threat Management Program. I am working with a planning committee team comprised of experts from multiple agencies in preparing for a two-day Disaster Behavioral Health Conference, to be held on February 8-9, 2017, at Chemeketa’s Eola/West Salem facility. National keynote speakers as well as regional and local experts will present topics such as EMS and Emergency Management, Psychological impact of Disasters (natural and man-made), Self-care and Responders Team Dynamics, Psychological First Aid, Survivorship (Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Oso, Washington landslide), and Multicultural and Spiritual aspects specific to disaster recovery. Stay tuned for further information and registration details.
Representing the Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMCH) program, I have been working with several campus partners to roll out career counseling services for undergraduate (UG) students beginning in August. We have plans to initiate a pilot career counseling program fall semester, by utilizing our mental health counseling interns to work with two groups of UG students, including students in Dr. Jesse Payne’s Student Success course and “undeclared students” working with Daren Millions (Student Services). CMHC counseling interns will work with CMHC faculty to provide career counseling services to these two groups of UG students that shall include career assessment and exploration using the Career Information System (online) with a scheduled follow up one-on-one career counseling session with each student participant. In addition to providing personal counseling services through Corban’s Career and Counseling Center, our CMHC interns are being prepared to provide career counseling services to Corban’s undergraduate students. This fall semester pilot will help us set in motion this new service opportunity.
–Linda Keller, Ph.D., CMHC Faculty
PAPUA FUN TIMES What to do on a warm, lonely summer’s evening at Corban? Make homemade ice cream of course! On Thursday evening, June 23rd, Carol Kruse, Kim Rossner, Kim’s husband, Leonard, Dawnita Libby, Thomas Berney and wife, Christina, helped the International students make homemade ice cream with just three simple ingredients: Half & Half, vanilla and sugar. When they finished making their “Ice Cream in a Bag” they got to choose from strawberries, chocolate syrup, and bananas for their toppings.
There was lots of giggling, bag shaking and excitement as they watched these ingredients turn into a yummy, cold, sweet treat. It was a great way to spend the evening with them. –Carol Kruse, Mailroom Supervisor
CORBAN BASEBALL CUBA TRIP 2016
A full-length report by Tim Seiber
Last year Corban University’s baseball team made history. A 2015 Corban squad ventured to Caimanera, Cuba, to play baseball and to offer, for the first time in half a century, friendship, good-will and hope.
This time, Corban players and team leaders found themselves embarking on a major mission of light, shining the love of God into one of the darker corners of this enigmatic Caribbean island state.
Head baseball coach Jeff McKay, ministry professor Paul Johnson and Tim Seiber combined with Warrior players Austin Holmes, Rilyn Lewchuk, Jessup Scott, Jackson Smith, Jarett Thoren, Luke Dusenbury, Ben Northrup, Austin Marsh, Michael Acquazzino, Benjie Liogan, Lathan Alger, and Kyle Kilian to form the Corban contingent.
This group teamed with tour advisors Pastors Glenn Wilson and Jay Velez, and mission’s veteran Rick Young, to journey back to Caimanera, near Guantanamo Bay, for a second visit to one of the country’s most highly secured regions June 4th through 11th.
“God is using baseball to draw a community to see the manifestation of Christ,” said the Cuban born Wilson. Raised in Caimanera until the age of 13 before emigrating to the U.S with his family, Wilson, 67, has long looked forward to God opening ministry into his city of origin.
On the morning of the team’s first full day in Cuba, he told Corban members: “This an opportunity for you to be light – shining the light all around this community. Opportunities are going to arise all around us. Just let Christ use you as light in this place.”
Those words were barely out before they became almost prophetic. A mere 24 hours from the group’s arrival in Cuba, a stranger appeared at the team’s breakfast session, searching for a “Glenn” whom the stranger said he had remembered long ago in Caimanera.
Within minutes, following a private conversation between Wilson and the stranger, Corban’s presence and mission for the trip came sharply into focus, delivered from an unknown, unsolicited and unexpected source.
“The gentleman (a doctor from Caimanera) said to me, ‘Thank you for bringing joy and light to our city,’” Wilson related. A ringing message that helped confirm Wilson’s own reminder that the trip’s purpose was about so much more than baseball: “The best Gospel message here is what God’s doing in your life. Baseball is just the excuse to get us here.”
The day prior to the stranger’s visit, the team had participated extensively in two Sunday services in partnership with ‘Salt of the Earth’ Church of Caimanera. Both events – a morning children’s ministry and an evening worship service – gave Corban players and staff a powerful gateway into a full week of serving and sharing the love of Christ.
LIGHT FOR THE CHILDREN Thanks to Professor Johnson’s foresight and planning, Corban came ready with teaching material and a healthy supply of crafts to present the Gospel to children and youth in the form of the well-known Wordless Book bracelets.
The Sunday morning children’s session brought hundreds of eager children and adults filling the church sanctuary to overflowing. Children dominated the interior, yet a wide gathering of curious adults crowded doorways and leaned in to see and hear through windows.
“As soon as I saw that church full, seat after seat, I thought ‘Oh wow! And they were so excited and happy,” marveled Corban freshman Michael Acquazzino.
Church leaders presented the Gospel message through the colors of the beads, and Corban members soon spread out among the packed facility to help people of all ages construct the wordless bracelets.
Simple as the activity seemed, the ingredients were poignant to the culture, and the moments powerful in the hearts of Corban players side-by-side with Cuban children.
“Beads are involved in the witchcraft here, so the Gospel shared in colored beads and the bracelets has significant meaning,” noted Wilson. “What we’re doing with these kids – don’t take for granted. They’re never going to forget those bracelets, and they’ll never forget those colors!”
“I love the kids,” said Acquazzino, “They are amazing – they bring everyone together. They came right up to me with their little pieces and the leather and asking me to tie the knots for them.”
Swarms of hopeful, energetic kids, youth and even adults pressed in and around Corban players who readily bent down, crouched or kneeled around the sanctuary helping gather supplies, construct bracelets, and fasten them on the wrists of elated children. At times, crowded, noisy conditions and limited supplies fueled almost a competitive zeal on the part of Warrior players to fulfill their mission and please their younger charges.
“The most amazing thing today was all the time we had with the kids,” said sophomore Ben Northrup. “I was surprised how easy it is to interact with them, even with the language barrier, and how easy it seemed to show the love Christ has for us, and just be a tool God uses for that.”
“The biggest thing that I’m going to take away with me is the presence of those children at the church,” said junior Lathan Alger. “Being around them makes me think I need to live my life with more enthusiasm for Christ.”
Corban players and children were not the only ones appreciating the moments. A Caimaneran young adult, having witnessed the events, echoed sentiments of other Cubans.
“I’m very happy to see that you can also be like children and share with them also. I want to tell you that you are now a part of the beautiful blessings that God has for us, and it has been an honor to have you here with us.”
That first Sunday set the tone for a week of endearing ministry among children and throughout the community. Over a four-day stretch, Corban participated in three children’s programs, with a heightened interest buzzing throughout the community at the introduction of the bracelets, further supported by an invigorating Sunday evening service where team members and leaders, as well as pastors shared greetings with the congregation.
It’s so good to be back here,” said a smiling Coach McKay in greetings to an enthusiastic Sunday evening church crowd. “Hardly a day went by back home when I wasn’t looking forward to seeing if God would bring us back with you. I bring warm greetings from Corban University, and I just have to say, I’m so proud and so honored to be back in your church worshiping with you. The Holy Spirit is alive here!”
Indeed, services and children’s programs were nothing less than emphatic expressions of hearts full of affection, gratitude and joy.
“This is an incredible place that God has touched, and it’s such a blessing to be back here again,” said sophomore Jarett Thoren to the congregation Sunday. Thoren and junior teammate Jackson Smith were also a part of the inaugural 2015 Cuba venture.
After just one full day, the 2016 tour already sensed the work of God unfolding.
“It was a grand slam, the impact was awesome,” Pastor Jay Velez said of Sunday’s invigorating services. “You see how passionate they are. You guys just came from the heart, and it was great how people reacted. I think God ministered through you to the people last night.”
“We hit a home run before we even got to the [baseball] field,” added Wilson.
Johnson, professor of intercultural studies at Corban, had visited earlier with the local church leadership and had gained a sense of the community’s excitement.
“The pastor’s wife can’t walk down the street without people coming out of their houses and saying ‘my daughter, my son or grandson didn’t get a bracelet,’” said Johnson. “The people really want to be a part and to have a bracelet.” As the team realized the growing interest and potential created by the children’s outreach, team prayers became focused on the opportunity to impact the community in in this strategic way.
Sophomore Austin Holmes gave prayer voice to many others, “Lord, we pray for this mission to these kids. I pray that those kids take those bracelets and really dive into what they mean, Lord. Really start to show their family and friends and community what those bracelets really mean. May your love really multiply through those children.”
“Father, I thank you for the restoration that is happening even in this generation with the children,” prayed Wilson. “You are working in this generation amongst the children right now, to bring a fresh awakening to this city, and from this city to the rest of the island, Lord God.”
Over the course of two more events geared for children, the team participated in worship times, prayed and lent support in numerous ways. Those hundreds of youngsters who attended listened intently to gospel presentations, recited the scriptural meanings of the colored beads, received bracelets, and danced, played and mingled with their Corban partners.
The attendance overwhelmed supply for the bracelets, and forced Johnson and church leadership to adapt a last-second alternative. No bracelet supplies could be found, even after a trip to Guantanamo City, so the team went with the next best thing – painting nails with the already familiar black, red, white, green and gold colors, finding a worthy substitute to continue spreading the good news of Jesus Christ through the wordless book colors. Children from very young ages to older girls stood in lines or formed huddles around church leaders fortified with polish and ready to paint the nails of eager participants.
The final children’s program held Wednesday, with its lively and heart-felt worship, spoken message, recognition to children who recited the wordless book colors’ meaning, and overall contagious spirit of joyous fellowship, touched a group of Caimanera people in attendance to the point that nearly a dozen children and adults gathered on the platform to listen intently as Pastor Saul presented to them a heart-felt invitation to join the fellowship of believers at Salt of the Earth Church.
“We saw how God touched those kids, and the parents of those kids,” noted Velez. “Just to walk in that church and feel the enthusiasm and excitement. It was so powerful even just seeing the joy of those children.”
“Right now we have created a need in the city for us [to be here],” said Wilson, reflecting upon the children’s out-reach efforts. “We have touched the hearts of children, and when you have touched the hearts of children, that is a tremendous place for God to put you.”
Coach McKay offered a perspective beyond the moment: “I was thinking of all those kids, and they’re going to be the leaders of this community in 20 to 30 years, and to have had the opportunity to impact them. You never know but the future mayor may have been here. To have had the possibility of influencing them in a spiritual way could be very significant.”
A rare but appropriate capper to the atmosphere of joy and celebration came in the form of ice-cream and candy shared with all the children in attendance. “Guys, many people in Cuba have never had ice cream,” Velez informed the Corban group. “That was like manna from heaven.” And the moment was not lost on the Corban visitors.
“We were in that service with the kids and I kind of started zoning out, being a typical American thinking about home,” admitted Thoren. “Then I realized, wow! This is such a special moment for these kids, and they just seized the moment and had the time of their lives. It really brings it back in focus. It re-focuses you on what the really important things in life are. What they’re (kids) looking forward to is hearing about Jesus and being with friends and having that passion in dancing with us. That’s where they get their joy. When I think of what I get my joy from it kind of embarrasses me.”
“What was amazing was what they were doing with their treats,” said Northrup. “Some of those kids Jarett was talking about were actually trying to give me some of the candy they had received. That really got to me. I know it’s pretty rare that they ever receive something like this, and they were offering to share it with me!”
LIGHT HITS THE STREETS As powerful as the programs proved to be, Warrior team members perhaps made even bigger impressions and opened ministry doors even wider by engaging with Caimanera youth in numerous informal street games, post-service dancing times and photo-sharing sessions.
Spontaneous pick-up games of soccer and a Cuban curb-side version of basketball drew large groups of native youth joining with the Corban team on the streets following meal times and in-between scheduled activities. Little did the American visitors realize how much fun and enjoyment could be had with next to nothing.
“All I heard was basketball,” began Acquazinno, “and when I looked over all they had was this little tin basket on the sidewalk, and they had this little rubber ball that doesn’t even bounce.” It took but a few moments and two vastly different versions of hoops merged, and a game broke out. And sports and fun bridged an ocean of cultural barriers that continued with gusto far into most nights.
“The first-world me thought, this isn’t basketball,” said Acquazinno, “but they ran around and threw it to each other, and I learned that their version could be pretty fun. I realized this is basketball to them, and they really have fun at it. And I found I had fun, too. It made me feel like a kid again. Here we were playing with a ball that doesn’t even bounce using a little tin basket (4-feet high), and that was enough for them to play. It really changed my perspective.”
Wilson reminisced about his childhood days playing in Caimanera. “We used to rip the heads off dolls and fill the heads with any kind of material we could fine, and that was our baseball,” he said. “Here they play sports with whatever they can get their hands on. And they’re happy playing and they enjoy doing it with whatever they have.”
Pleasing smiles, laughter, fist bumps, high-fives and innumerable photo ops signaled the obvious fun and camaraderie. Others reflected upon the weightiness these seemingly light-hearted games bore. One Caimanera adult saw more than mere child’s play involved: “I thank God because even though we don’t understand each other’s language, it makes my heart glad when you come out in the street and mingle with the children. We thank God for all of you coming to visit.”
Pastor Saul, having taken in most of the team’s street activities through the week, also valued these seemingly carefree experiences. “How the [Corban] players outside the ball field and on the streets would interact with the young kids and children and play their sports with them was very impressive to the city.”
Wilson put it in more missional terms. “This is the gospel, us being able to relate to them at their level. That means a lot when you guys get out there and play with the kids — that’s the gospel in action.”
LIGHT OVERCOMES DARKNESS There was a moment early in the trip when activity with the kids might have been the extent of the American group’s ministry. Monday morning, shortly before the team was scheduled to meet publicly with Caimanera’s civic leaders, a figure from the national level arrived at the hotel to deliver a sobering judgment, a telling reminder that life under authoritarian rule is constantly subject to change.
Pastors Wilson and Velez met with the government representative who told them the group was lacking the appropriate paperwork to, among other things, meet officially with local authorities. Furthermore, the national official told the visitors that they did not have clearance that allowed them to lead religious activity, or even hold competitive sporting events. The news was potentially crippling to the trip’s purpose. The team gathered and prayed as the meeting took place that would determine the opportunities and schedule for the week.
After their conference, Wilson explained what had been decided. “There was concern at the national level that our visas did not clear us for this kind of occasion,” Wilson said, referring to the planned audience with local officials. “We were also not aware of the need for special visas in order to allow sports competition, or to participate directly in religious activities.”
According to the pastors, an agreement not to meet formally as a team with the Caimanera city leaders and to refrain from taking prominent speaking/leading roles in church services gave the national authorities reassurance enough to allow for the baseball games to be held.
God had answered prayer in keeping most all of the major pieces of the agenda in place, while giving the American contingent a poignant reminder that life in Cuba is far from the freedom and liberties enjoyed back home.
“I think you got to see how the government here operates in Cuba,” Wilson said at a morning debriefing with the team. “They can change laws at any minute. You can clear customs in Cuba, and they can still come after you later and make you change your plans. The local government had no idea what was going on, but another government entity came in and threw out the whole plan. It’s good that you saw this happen so that you can know better how to pray. Thank God that we were able to overcome this and go on to the next best thing.”
The next best thing still included a modified meeting with the local civic authorities, and one that had all the indications that God was very much involved in spite of the human attempts to thwart spiritual missions. Soon after the Monday ruling from the national level, while team members stayed in the bus and prayed, the two American pastors and Pastor Saul met downtown with the local government dignitaries to offer an official written word of greeting from Corban President Dr. Sheldon Nord, and then to present leather-bound Corban portfolios and Bibles as gifts to each public official.
The combination proved historic, as Caimanera’s leaders planned to frame and display Dr. Nord’s letter. The gifts, particularly the Bibles, brought encouraging reactions, and moments for rejoicing from the team.
“They (officials) received their Bibles with a lot of enthusiasm,” said Johnson.
“One lady said, ‘Wow! I’ve never had a Bible before,’” added Wilson. “It was something to watch them walking down the street with their Bibles in their hands and people looking at them. That was just a beautiful thing to behold.”
LIGHT SHARED BETWEEN CULTURES Highlighting the week for many of the group may have been a Thursday evening sharing time, when nearly 20 Cuban young adults visited with the Corban members in an informal exchange of heart-felt declarations. For some, it was a surprising and memorable way to complete the journey. Many others dwelt on the deep gratitude for the acceptance and endearing manner of the Cuban people.
“Coming to church here has been so refreshing and such a joy,” said junior Jackson Smith. “And I just want to thank all of you so very much. You are amazing, and I love you as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“Last night was very unique for me,” sophomore Rilyn Lewchuk shared at breakfast. “We set up chairs, those of us from the U.S. on one side and the Cuban people sitting across from us, looking each other in the eye and telling each other how we feel, and what was on our heart. That was very powerful and special. It was super cool how we came together and shared how we felt, and for the most part there was no tension, we were all comfortable, and I would say it was beautiful at the same time.”
“I thank God because this has been a surprising experience being able to share with you,” said a Cuban attendee. “Years ago this would have never been possible, but we can see how the hands of God have dealt with the government, and has opened doors that years ago were closed. The church is very grateful, and it’s all because of the grace of God, for the government to have allowed this event that in other times would have only been a dream, today is a reality.”
“When we read the Bible we can see the God who answers,” noted another Caimanera guest. “A powerful and merciful God who works with those who trust Him, no matter how difficult times may be. When you trust God and cry out to Him, He answers. You (Corban) are the answer to that. And God is a great God, not only for your presence tonight, but also for what He has done in our lives.”
Johnson, not wanting to miss an opportunity to present Christ to an audience who included some who were not believers, gave clear insight. “Ask anyone who has, and they will tell you the most important and best decision you can make is to put your faith in Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness of your sins, then you will be blessed beyond all measure.”
Others speaking that evening noted personal, life-changing growth. Most all knew the evening to be a cherished blessing.
“I think I speak for all of us (Corban) in saying that no words can really explain how grateful we are for everything you have done for us,” began freshman Jessup Scott. “I grew up with stereotypes towards anyone but the typical American that were very negative and harsh. But they have been shattered by being here, and my heart leaps every time I’m in church with you or I see people on the streets. This is an experience I will never forget. The one message I’m going to take home with me is that Cuba is on fire for the Lord.”
“Lord, thank you that You have prepared this moment for us to share your blessing together,” began the prayer of another Cuban young adult. “Thank you for my brothers who have come across the seas to bless us with their presence. We honor them and we declare blessings over them and their families.”
“You guys have strengthened my faith,” acknowledged Acquazzino. “Because your love for God is infectious it really hit deep. God brought me here, I’m convinced, so that you could show me these things. I thank you so much. I know this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.”
PRAYER FOCUSES THE LIGHT Behind and bolstering all the Warriors’ activity, baseball, relationships and outreach on the ground in Cuba, labored yet another, much larger group of prayer Warriors back home who were contributing in significant ways to the group’s ministry of light.
“We could not be here if it were not for the support of people back home,” McKay reminded his team early in the trip. “What’s happening here has a lot to do with the part people played back home financially, definitely in prayer – really praying for the people here. This is so much bigger than Corban baseball, really. All those who have joined us – in giving and praying – have invested in these people too.”
“Yes, the people behind the curtain praying,” echoed Wilson. “They’re the ones responsible for all that is happening now. They’ve been praying for us even before we got here, and they prepared the atmosphere for us to be able to do what we do.”
Players and leaders alike sensed the difference prayer was making.
“You could really know that something is going on in Caimanera as far as God’s Spirit working,” noted Northrup, “because when we went to Guantanamo (City) there was a completely different feel – a different vibe. I think there’s something really special going on in Caimanera. I hope it moves to other parts of Cuba.”
“Thank you, Lord, because You have opened the door and provided for us, and you’re setting up things that we can’t even see,” Thoren had prayed. “And You’re using our families back home praying for us and the circumstances that will be all for Your glory.”
Wilson spoke of the old Caimanera friend of childhood who met the team upon arrival at the airport, and who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“Even that little guy at the airport. You know I hadn’t seen him in 40 years, and for him to be planted at that airport to help us,” said Wilson. “I could have spent thousands of dollars for things we brought in that we’re supposed to pay for at the airport, and God planted him at this airport to help us get important things into the country without even paying for them. That’s an answer to prayer! It’s just people praying.”
“When we came, one of our prayers was that God would bring favor to our trip,” Johnson said in a morning team reflection time. “I think back on the more than 400 kids who heard the gospel and who have really endeared themselves to us. I think about the council lady and people who received their Bibles for the first time in their lives and were grateful walking down the street proudly with them. And I think of one of the lady leaders publically saying ‘God bless you.’ In this atheistic country one of the leaders asking God to bless our team. Even handing out Bibles in a somewhat public arena, and to give Bibles to the players and have them receive them gladly shows us God’s favor. Things like that signify that God answered our prayers; He brought us favor.”
THE DIAMOND LIGHTS UP While ministry broke out on many fronts, baseball loomed as big as ever on the scene because, as people know, the sport is religion in Cuba. The 12-member Corban squad played games on four consecutive days, three against a prominent Caimanera team that had taken third place in a highly competitive regional league, and a final game against a squad of locals sponsored by the church.
With limited pitching arms, only 12 players, the rigors of high heat and humidity, and a hectic itinerary, the Warriors managed to win two of the four games. Yet the outcomes faded in comparison to the forging of deep bonds between teams, and with fans, umpires and dignitaries.
Corban team members gave Caimanera players their Warrior jerseys as commemorative gifts, and for a second-straight year the visitors left packed bags of baseball gear, clothing and a brand new chalk lining machine. As players and coaches gave hugs and exchanged jerseys on the field following Thursday’s game, Corban team members also presented each Caimanera player and coach with a copy of the New Testament in Spanish.
“After that game was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” said junior Austin Marsh. “It was amazing with the two teams, the fans, pictures being taken and the exchange of gifts and just being able to feel the passion on the field, and then come together and bond over baseball and Jesus, and to share that and have the impact with all the gear and the Bibles. To see us all come together as one and have that moment – that was incredible – just to see the joy on everyone’s faces. It was very impactful and a joyful time seeing God work.”
From baseball’s opening ceremonies Tuesday afternoon onward over four grueling days through dusty, sweat-drenched competition people took notice. In every facet of the long daily, heat-scorching duels on the diamond, including the very emotional closing gift exchanges, embraces and good-byes, Corban’s players gave unwavering testimony to Christ. So much so that Cuban players and fans, government officials, and even native pastors took notice.
Pastor Saul recognized immediately the palpable nature of the team’s on-field testimony. “The national team of Caimanera was very impacted by the style and excellence of the Corban University baseball team, especially how they treated one another, and how submissive they were to their coach and staff.”
“I heard a couple of the Cuban players say how they were learning from you guys,” noted Wilson. “How they were copying things from you and how much they wanted to be like you. Their coach even said there’s some things we need to learn (from Corban).”
“I ask the baseball players who are not Christians to learn from the baseball that they (Corban) play,” said a Cuban pastor visiting from a neighboring city. “Even when they (Corban players) strike out, they come back and tell their teammate how and why they struck out. That’s called unity. And they do it with joy.”
After observing Corban players handle themselves during the games, dealing with setbacks and miscues, fellow traveler, author, and church elder, Rick Young, a friend of Wilson, could not stay silent: “I really want to commend you guys – sort of as an outsider – to watch what you did yesterday literally brings me to tears,” said Young, a seasoned veteran of cross-cultural mission trips himself. “One of your own made an error and, back in the states, they would have beaten on him, yelling and screaming at him. You guys didn’t do that. You guys gave your teammate fist punches, greetings, looked him in the eye and let him know things were good. The sportsmanship that you displayed transcends anything I’ve seen. I’ve watched you with the fame you have here as American baseball players, and how well you have carried yourselves. You have demonstrated Christ in a way that moves my heart.”
“What we were not able to do just through preaching, Corban has been able to do through baseball in bringing people together,” acknowledged Wilson. One thing Cubans like more than anything else is baseball. Corban University has allowed the light to shine simply by playing baseball. They have brought a city together just to play baseball. But what will stay in everyone’s minds most of all is their witness for Christ. Not only how they play, but how they live out Christ on the field, and that is an amazing thing.”
THE LIGHT SHINES BRIGHTER IN CAMANERA
The trip lasted but seven days, and as a native Cuban and veteran of outreach to his own people, Wilson understood the role of patience. But he has also seen and heard enough to know the light is growing in the community of his birth.
“The lady sitting next to me [at the game] said to her friend, ‘Wow, once they leave, the city just dies again,’” said Wilson.
Sensing the disappointment and hoping to encourage, Wilson shot back, “We’ll be back again.”
“Yeah, but that’s a whole year away,” she mused.
The pastor knows the signs of light dawning in a place long in the shadows.
“Years ago when we came, it seemed that we were sowing in a drought that showed no results,” Wilson remembered. “But now, after many years we’re beginning to see the work of God in the people. Now they’re coming to us and saying things that are showing us that God is really at work deep in the hearts of the people.”
McKay joined in that assessment. “We just felt like the future of Corban baseball coming back to Cuba was about coming back to this city. I feel like God is saying to Corban baseball, ‘it’s about the people of this city. We feel like God is opening up something here in Caimanera.”
And Corban players joined in that chorus: “Lord, I thank You that we have the opportunity to take our gifts and talents, our baseball, and intertwine it with Your light and your glory, and that we were able to show it through that mixture of talent and Your light to the people,” Austin Holmes prayed. “And I pray that as we keep reaching out to these kids and we keep coming back and keep coming back to this city to see Your light grow until it bursts like a massive bomb of light. And all of Cuba will be taken over by Your glory and Your light, Lord.” Corban Cuba Tour, 2016 – Let there be Light — Amen!