NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While most recent May 2018 graduates were beating the pavement hunting for their first jobs out of college, former Belmont University Women's Basketball player Sierra Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) took a trip off the beaten path. She spent nearly three weeks in Poland as part of the Athletes in Action program, playing basketball and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Athletes in Action (AIA) is a faith-centered international sports organization serving coaches and players. Originally founded in 1966 as a part of Campus Crusade for Christ, now CRU, AIA has been using the universal language of sports as a platform to help people answer questions of faith and to point them to Jesus.
"This trip was only two and a half weeks, but I could write a book about it," said Jones. "One of the best parts about the trip was the people that I had the pleasure to play with and grow with. It was awesome being around women who are all on fire for the Lord and my age, too. We got to grow on a deeper level. We played ball and shared God's Word."
Before heading to Poland, Jones and her teammates spent time in Xenia, Ohio, headquarters for AIA, getting to know each other through team-building exercises and fellowship. The group even had the opportunity to play basketball against a team at the local women's prison.
One of the major focuses of the trip for the group was training and competing against the U18 National Team in Warsaw. They also ran a basketball camp during their trip, traveling around Poland. Despite the language barrier, Jones and her AIA teammates were able to connect with many of the young people they encountered on train rides, while traveling through villages and towns and visiting schools through their individual testimonies about their relationships with Christ.
"Even with the language barrier, they could see there was something different about us. We got to be like Jesus and love on the kids through our camp. We had a chance to see history face-to-face in Auschwitz. That was a very hard day, but I'm glad I got to see that," Jones said.
One of the most impactful moments during some down time for the group was a trip to the site of the concentration camp at Auschwitz and watching a small group in Tarnów be baptized in a local river. The group returned to Warsaw to conclude the trip, hosting a three-day basketball skills clinic for 14-to-21 year olds, which included hosting a worship service for the attendees.
"Overall, I'm leaving the tour knowing I gained some more sisters," Jones said. "I grew more in my faith. I was able to do all of that in a different country which put more of a passion in my heart to continue to serve more where I am from back home. I'm excited to see what God has next for me."
To read the team's complete blog from Poland, visit https://goaia.org/basketball/teamblogs/basketball-poland/index.html
For more information about Athletes in Action, visit https://goaia.org