A SMALL STEADY STREAM
Two years ago, Heather Stevenson was in California when she received a text message from her friend, Sarah*, who finally wanted to surrender her life to Jesus.
A graduate of Trinity Western University (TWU), Stevenson has been on staff with Athletes in Action (AIA) in the British Columbia for the last two years. “Sports were really big in my life,” she says. “[Trinity] helped me realize how to integrate my faith and my sport and to be an influence on other people spiritually.”
Sarah grew up in Liverpool, England. She knew what Christians were all about. At least, she thought she did. She didn’t want anything to do with that lifestyle.
For some reason, when the opportunity came for her to play soccer at TWU, she accepted. That’s where she met Heather and an entire campus brimming with Christians who challenged and slowly eroded her assumptions of what that word meant.
THIRSTING FOR AUTHENTIC CHANGE
Carly* also thought she knew what Christianity was all about when she grew up in a culturally Christian home in Calgary, Alberta. In a lot of the Christians she observed, she saw a lot of hypocrisy and it turned her off. But somehow, she also made her way to TWU where she played soccer with Sarah and Heather.
Drawn to the prestige of playing against high-level international teams and to the appeal of doing humanitarian work for rural communities seeped in poverty, Carly went on two mission trips with AIA and the entire Trinity soccer team: one to Paraguay and Argentina, and one to South Africa.
Slowly, Carly began to seek God in a deeper way. Still she held back on committing her life because she wanted to be sure that what she did was authentic.
Time and consistency make the most powerful force in nature. A small steady stream given enough time can erode resistance and wash away some of the strongest structures.
Athletes in Action’s West Coast Retreat is an annual weekend usually held in March at Camp Luther in Mission, BC. It is a special weekend getaway for university and college athletes from campuses across British Columbia to come together, grow spiritually, be in community, and of course, play sports. The attendants are encouraged to bring non-Christian friends, but the spiritual focus is never concealed.
Two years ago, Sarah joined some of her teammates and attended the retreat. What she had grown up believing about Christians clashed with her four years experience of Christians at TWU.
“There was a lot of battling going on in her mind in terms of what it meant to be a Christian, “ Stevenson explains. “She had a lot of things she wanted to talk about.”
On the drive back from the retreat, Sarah asked her friends to pull over to a nearby Tim Horton’s, where she laid out every last question she had about Christianity.
At the end of the afternoon, she pulled out her cellphone and sent Heather that text message.
OPENING THE FLOOD GATES
That message was not the end of the story for Sarah. It was just the beginning.
A lot has happened since that afternoon. Though she wasn’t able to attend the retreat last year, Sarah grew spiritually in astonishing ways. She began to share with her teammates the power of the gospel and how her life had changed and even helped lead her team’s Bible study.
This year, Sarah was instrumental in getting Carly to the West Coast Retreat. Carly graduated last year. After returning to Calgary, she realized she wanted to be back in the community she had grown to love, so she quickly moved back to Langley, BC. Like Sarah, the retreat proved to be the catalyst she needed to bite the bullet and jump in.
On Saturday night, she took Sarah’s hand and prayed to accept Christ. “It was really powerful to have Sarah there,” Stevenson says, “because [she] had been pretty instrumental in Carly’s life and faith journey.
THE GREATEST TAPESTRY EVER
“It’s been so sweet since the retreat talking to [Carly] about how she’s growing,” Stevenson says. Carly works at a restaurant and is already sharing with her coworkers about her faith.
Heather. Sarah. Carly. The West Coast Retreat. All are but connection points that reveal the incredible tapestry God has woven of our lives. His glory shines through these stories that culminated at an altar in Mission, British Columbia.
For both Sarah and Carly, God used the retreat as the catalyst that sent them over the edge, just like He had used teammates, coaches, classmates, professors, and every life experience to shuffle them to the ledge. For anybody involved in the shuffle, it’s a remarkable picture. As Stevenson explains, “It’s just been so exciting to witness the way God has been at work in Sarah’s life. After not even knowing the Lord for that long, how she’s been so impactful in somebody else’s life.”