College of the Ozarks head basketball coach and athletic director Steve Shepherd and his wife, assistant professor of nursing Karen Shepherd, recently traveled with a group of student athletes to Guatemala. Their team included seven basketball players, a member of the track team, and a student assistant coach.
This is the third trip to Guatemala with students for Coach Shepherd, the focus of which is to share God’s story and love through the game of basketball and numerous other outreach activities.
The trip featured playing four basketball games against local teams, hosting basketball clinics for area children, and spending time at the Eagle’s Nest Orphanage.
“The games were well advertised,” said Shepherd, “and the community came out in full force to participate and welcome our College team.” During halftime of each game, one of the team members would share the about how God has been at work in their life. Shepherd noted, “We were blessed to see three men from the opposing team respond to the gospel during the last game.”
For some, like senior Lady Bobcat Maggie McMenamy, it was their first trip of this nature. “I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and share God's love with others. People have told me that taking the time to go is definitely worth it and fun. When I was given the opportunity to go, I was more than excited!”
For others, like the Shepherds and Bobcat Cameron Paschke, it was a return trip. “I absolutely loved my experiences from my first trip to Guatemala,” stated Paschke, “so when I was given the opportunity to go back, I couldn't turn it down. It's very impactful interacting with the people there, and I loved every minute of it.”
The clinics were very well attended with about 100 children and just two baskets! The clinics provided opportunities for the team to interact with the children of the area, whom Paschke noted, “…are always happy. Even though they probably don't have half of what the kids in America have, they are always so filled with joy. They are just happy to be kids.” McMenamy agreed, commenting, “The Guatemalan children are eager to speak with you and get to know you.”
The visit to the orphanage with children from two weeks to 18 years of age was a highlight for many. Track team member and former Bobcat basketball player Graham Gardner shared, “My favorite moment of the trip was visiting the orphanage and getting to interact with the children and see the smiles on their faces when we walked in.”
Paschke stated, “I will always remember going to the orphanage. Hearing all of the orphan’s stories of how they came to be there was pretty amazing. The opportunity to see that they're growing up in a place run by people who love Jesus makes me very hopeful for their futures.”
“This trip has been a great experience for all involved,” stated Shepherd. “The impact on the community was extremely positive, and our student athletes were challenged and blessed through their engagement with the people of Guatemala.”
Thank you to Outlook Staff Writer Madi Miller for her contributions to this article