July 25, 2006
Saturday, July 15
Saturday started off with another day of breakfast, with French toast, eggs, hash browns and mango juice. We knew we were going to be playing Korea that night at 7:00 p.m., so we had bible study in the morning and then had the afternoon off to get prepared for the game that night. We played the game and Korea was shooting threes all over the place. One of their players had five three-pointers in the first quarter, but they cooled off and we were able to come away with the victory.
Sunday, July 16
Sunday started off as a great day. We all went to church. We had three different churches that we went to. Coach Nelson, Josh Carter, and I went to a Chinese speaking church that was very interesting to go to. I had no idea that we were at the church when we got there. There was a large fence around the building. The pastor greeted us in the street as we walked up. He took us in to the church and the choir was warming up in Chinese. I knew that I had heard the tune before but could not understand any of the words that they were saying.
It was amazing to me to be a part of worship that was in a different language and reminded me of Romans 14:11 that says as I live says the Lord, to me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God. Coach, Josh, and I shared with the congregation what God had personally done in each of our lives. I shared the verse Matthew 5:14-16. It talks about having a light and shining it on top of a mountain instead of keeping it hidden. This tells a lot about me because I have always been a Christian, but did not used to share it with others and kept it all to myself. Now I have learned to live it out with my actions and let my actions speak for me. When all else fails, I will use words to tell others about my faith. Then the pastor gave a sermon that was a very good sermon. He talked about how we need to trust God with the things that we can control as well as the things that we can’t control. It is easy for us to give God the things we can’t control and go to him for that. But the things we can control, like our relationships, free time, and such sometimes we don’t trust him with. The pastor was talking about giving things up the same way that I have heard many times in American churches, but it takes a whole new meaning when you are in a church that is air conditioned only by fans and it is 105 degrees outside.
After church we had dinner with the people from church. Dinner was interesting. It was not exactly an American pot luck. There was rice, tofu, fish, spinach, and some other options. I had some rice, tofu, and spinach. It was a lot better than I had thought it would be. Kind of scary that I am getting used to some of this…I tried to use chopsticks, but after the little kids were all laughing at me for trying to put one chopstick in each hand and scoop the rice they decided to give me a spoon.
Afterwards, we all went back to the hotel and had a team time in the room. We all talked about our mornings in church. The others had gone to more contemporary English speaking churches and had spoken to them. Then, we rested up for the afternoon because we knew that we had a big game ahead of us.
The game that night was a lot of fun. The gym was packed and the atmosphere was great. The fans were cheering for every play, whether it be a rebound, assist, or a great hustle play. I think there were only a handful of people that were cheering for us. The Australian team told me they would be cheering for us even if no one else was. But there were also signs up in the stands for us. (They were the only signs we could read). There was a sign that said Moody number 10 and had some hearts around it. The great thing about the fans over here is they really respect people that play well and that play hard.
There was one play that really stuck out. One of our players Mark Schiavioni stepped up and took a big charge in the fourth quarter as the game had been going back and forth. He hit the floor very hard and actually when we tried to pick him up I thought he might’ve had a concussion. But all the fans stood up and cheered for him on the play. It is a culture that is full of respect. They did not question the refs call or the heart that Mark had on that play. The game came down to it and we pulled away towards the end of the game and ended up winning. It was great to win and after the game we were all pointing up, giving God the glory for the victory as that is what we were playing for.
Afterwards, we had pizza with the guys from Kazakhstan. There was a guy with Athletes in Action that had actually been playing with the guys from Kazakhstan for a while, Damien. Damien translated for us as we started talking to the guys. We were talking about the differences in our cultures. They go into basketball school when they are young, about 8 or 9 and they are in the school for the rest of their lives. We asked them if they had any idea about what they wanted to do after basketball or what they would do if they got hurt. They said that they don’t talk about it.
Then, they asked us about how our faith interacts with our basketball because they had heard about it from other people as well as Damien during the tournament. We told them that we were Christians that played basketball and not basketball players that were Christians and that our faith brought us together. We told them that for us basketball was a great blessing, but we knew there was more to life than that. It was a great talk, they asked us about how much help we got with school, and we told them we got tutors when we needed it. They told us that their school was kind of a joke; they said they got a lot of help.
The next day one of the Kazakhstan players came and told us that he decided to accept Jesus and believe in Him. It was awesome to see God’s saving power work. We were all very excited, but Damien was especially excited as he had been living over there to be able to show Christ’s love to these players.
On Monday, we had our first day off since we arrived. It was a little different. We left in the morning and went some natural hot springs way up in the mountains. We rode a bus for about two hours to get there. The mountains were beautiful to drive through, but the roads were definitely not made for two cars, when we met a car on the road the bus had to nearly stop to let the other vehicle through. We got to the hot springs and it was amazing how hot it really was. The water was boiling in places. There was a mountain that looked like a part had been cut out of it and smoke was flowing from the rocky area that appeared to have been cut away. Christian and I decided to go to the top of the hill. It took us a while to run up to the top, but it was awesome when we got up there. We then saw a sign that said something in Chinese that we couldn’t read, but we later found out that there was a sign in English that said the do not cross the line and the grass is very sharp, sharp enough to cut. We went before we knew that and the grass was almost as tall as our shoulders. We made it to a rock a ways across the hill and Christian cut his leg on the grass. It was great to be up at the top of the mountain and just admire the creation that God has made and see how amazing God is at being an artist.
Afterwards we got back on the bus and went to another hot springs resort area. The hot springs were flowing into what looked like oversized hot tubs and it was nice to get a little break after playing 9 straight games. After that we drove along the coastline for a couple of hours and ended up at the beach. It was the first time that I had been to the ocean since I was about 5 living in California, so it was great. We stayed there for a while and then headed back. We had bible study on the bus on the way back. We studied the book of Jonah on the way back and how it applied to our lives. I love studying the Word of God and learning how it applies to my life and knowing that tough times are going to happen it is what you learn from it that is the most important thing. Coach Jarvis said that the only time you don’t win is when you don’t learn. Then, we headed back to the hotel and called it a day.
Luke Zeller snaps a picture with a couple of the new friends he met in Taipei.
On Tuesday morning we had bible study. Then in the afternoon some of us took the subway and went to the zoo in Taipei. The zoo was huge and our translator told us the zoo was better than it was in the United States. We weren’t sure if that meant that they had no fences or what. We got there and they did have fences to the disappointment of some of us. Afterwards, we went to a school in downtown Taipei. They were having open gym with a bunch of people there and we played with them in open gym. It was a lot of fun. It is amazing how much of a universal language basketball is. Afterwards, a couple of us, me included, shared a little bit about our lives and the amazing saving grace of Jesus Christ in each of our lives. We had all that we said translated so the people could understand.
On Wednesday, we had our bible study in the morning and talked about having personal quiet time with the Lord. Then we all had time to ourselves to be able to spend with the Lord and study our Bibles. In the afternoon we went to get some gifts for some people at home. We went to a store downtown and then went to a Christian bookstore, which all you could see was the door from the outside and it went underground to get to it. The store was great though and I got quite a bit of stuff. Then we went out to eat at TGI Fridays as a team and went back to the hotel to talk about our experiences on the trip. It was interesting to see what people’s best moment was and also how God had personally impacted them on the trip. Then we stayed up most of the night because we were trying to switch our days and nights around again.
We got up at 6:00 a.m. for breakfast and that is where my long journey home began. We left the hotel at 7:00 a.m. Taiwan time, got to the airport had about a three-hour flight to Tokyo. Then we had a couple hour layover and flew to LA. We left at 10:00 am and arrived at 11:00 am. It was about a 12-hour flight. Then we thought that we had missed the flight from LA to Chicago because we got in a little bit late, but our flight was delayed for a couple of hours. Then we finally got to Chicago, but missed our connecting flight to Dayton (which is where my car was from training camp) because of the delay. We tried to get on a flight to Columbus and tried to get on a flight the next morning to Dayton, but nothing was available until Saturday afternoon. So, we tried to find a rental car and they said there were no cars available at O’Hare, so we went to Avis and finally found one. Then, Coach Nelson and I took turns on the five-hour drive to Dayton. We started at about 1:00 a.m. in the morning and got there around 6:00 p.m. I slept for a couple of hours at Coach’s house and then had to drive to Dayton to get my bags. The flight that had my bags on it was, obviously, delayed. I waited for two hours at the airport and finally got my bags and then made the four-hour drive home. The journey home for me ended up being a 45-hour journey. I think I set a new record!!
Well thanks so much for joining me on this trip. This trip was an awesome experience for me. I realize how many things I have taken for granted with the freedoms in this country especially when it comes to freedom of religion because the Taiwan people have a little bit of freedom, but all of them talk about the mainland and how it is lacking in freedom for that. In all I came out very close to the guys that were on the trip and look forward to what God is going to do in their lives. For me, the trip was awesome to see how God can use basketball to touch lives and change hearts. Thanks so much for joining me on my trip by reading. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers they are greatly appreciated!!