ETBU Tigers Headed To Croatia On A Mission To Help

Some picture printouts, maps, and brochures have provided a group of ETBU football players with some idea of what their mission trip to Croatia will be like.

They do not know much about the area, but they do know they will come home changed young men.

"It is definitely more eye opening," said wide receiver Rodney McLain. "I know that I'm probably going to end up leaving there ten times more blessed."

The Tigers connected with the group Advancing Native Missions. When the idea for the trip was presented to Coach Mark Sartain, he saw the life changing potential for his players. 

"I'm not just a coach that happens to be a Christian," Coach Sartain said. "I'm a Christian that just happens to be a coach. It's through that occupation, that profession, that God wants to use me to help meet the needs of others. I'm trying to convey that to these young men."

"This is what we are here for," Coach Sartain added. "This is the kind of thing that God left us here to do. In doing so our life is impacted and usually it's impacted in a greater way than what we impact."

The team was willing to do what they could to help a country continue to rebuild from a war more than a decade ago. All of the Tigers helped raise funds for the $2,000 per person trip.

"A few of us thought it was a calling to go," said Evan Beaton of Whitehouse.

"It's a different mentality in the faith that they have in God," Rodney said of the Croatian people. "They're relying on God on a daily basis for food or for places to live."

The Tigers will help to rebuild a church in Pozega, damaged during the war.

"Prozega is about 80 percent unemployed," Coach Sartain explained. "When you say that the economic hub of your country has 80 percent unemployment, that tell's you a little bit about the economy and the way that people are living there."

"It's going to be overwhelming, but then you grow spiritually," Evan said. 

For the players it is not about being football stars but ambassadors for their country and faith.

"To them we're probably just some guys going over there," Evan said. "I'm not sure if they know what college football is at all. I'm sure we'll probably play some games with the kids and they're going to want to play soccer, not football," he laughed.

Whether it is teaching Croatians about an American game or about hope, the real lesson will be for the ETBU football team.

"It's not really about religion," Coach Sartain said. "It's not really about converting people. It's just about helping."

The group of Tiger players and coaches will leave for their mission trip Friday, May 30, and they are scheduled to return on June 14.