Former athletes explore how sport shaped their faith and ministry
By Kamri Alexandre | Journalist
Baylor University is known for its Christian culture, but how does this play out in sports? Athletes spend their time at Baylor giving their all to be successful in their sport, but some also actively fight to keep their faith first.
Baylor volleyball alumnus Braya Hunt said she knows firsthand that not only should your faith be brought into your sport, but also God come first in everything that happens on the pitch. . Hunt had a special experience when his coaches instilled a team culture that they themselves weren’t in charge, but Christ was.
“The staff used to say ‘We’re not the leader of this team, Christ is,’” Hunt said. “We just had a cool team culture that it wasn’t about [us], and I think that’s a lot what it is to be a Christian.
Hunt said it was already a divine thing that she was on the team because the coaches didn’t even come to see her play in high school, they just took a chance with her. She knew then that her volleyball career was not going to depend on her. Hunt saw God use her experience of striving to be a coachable player, a humble teammate, and a caring roommate to her teammates to transform her into the Christian she is today.
“[People] not have an opportunity like [Baylor] … Where your community… is just around the corner, ”said Hunt. “And it gets even more amplified when you’re part of a team.”
Hunt said God used his time on the volleyball team to make them look more like Christ. Hunt said that during his junior and senior years his main focus was to use his time on the team to bring Jesus to the lost. She saw teammates profess their faith, baptize each other, and experience what it means to be a community in the image of Christ.
“God can use sport… to have such eternal meaning,” Hunt said.
Hunt isn’t the only person who has seen God use sport to grow their faith. Joshua Ehambe, a sophomore at Truett Theological Seminary began ministering while playing football for the University of Kansas. While football was not an outlet for Ehambe to go pro, it turned out to be a step towards what God then had for him in ministry.
Ehambe said his Sports Department bases are in Kansas, where he has started to find ways to serve his team. While there, he would help start a group for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to encourage group Bible studies for his teammates and other athletes on campus.
His time in sport, however, was not without challenges. A series of back-to-back trials left Ehambe questioning his faith. He was brought up to believe that if he had faith God would move mountains – but what if God did not move mountains? Questioning God during his difficult seasons while playing soccer led Ehambe to find answers about who God was and ultimately shaped him into who he is today.
“I firmly believe that trials train you to become what God has called you to be,” Ehambe said.
Ehambe’s goal after college was to embark on athletic development to make a difference for athletes from marginalized and diverse backgrounds. He wants them to know that professional sport is not their only way to be successful. Ehambe said faith, family and education are his core values that fuel him today. When he got the opportunity to come to Baylor, and therefore postpone the start of his football career, Ehambe was at peace with his decision as he said it was God’s plan.
“Through one man’s disobedience came death and through another man’s obedience came life, so he’s bigger than me,” Ehambe said.
Behind every loyal athlete is usually an influential mentor. Baylor Baseball Chaplain and Recovery Support Coordinator for the Beauchamp Drug Addiction Recovery Center Stanton Corley is no stranger to taking an interest in athletes because, according to him, sport becomes a catalyst for their growth.
Corley played basketball for Appalachian State University and came to Baylor to pursue graduate studies in Sports Department at Truett. He was passionate about discipleship, so he went to the Student Life Center his first week as a graduate student to play basketball and get to know varsity athletes. It would be one of the first moments of Corley’s ministry at Baylor as he met a baseball player looking for a mentor.
Corley said it was no coincidence that he played SLC with these guys that day, as it would begin his journey of disciple with the baseball team. This led to him becoming their chaplain and Corely believes that was the reason he came to Waco.
“I’m looking here to connect with student-athletes… that’s what I’ve been called to do,” said Corley. “My wife and I left everything in Mississippi to come to Waco.”
Corely’s discipleship and mentorship has proven to be fruitful in his ministry at Baylor as he inspires athletes to pursue God and use their sport as a means to worship God. One of the challenges for Corley is that athletes often separate the “sacred” from the “secular”. Activities like prayer and Bible study are sacred to them and times to worship God. But there is a misconception that baseball, or any other sport, cannot be used to worship God either.
“What I’m trying to serve the players… is when you go there to practice today and play today… you go there to love it,” Corley said. “What I’m convinced is that athletes become better players…” No matter how I play, Jesus loves me. “”
Ehambe, Hunt and Corley were all asked what their encouragement would be, not just for an athlete but for anyone, and they all took this moment to show the gospel.
“God loves you,” Ehambe said. “Nothing can separate you from the love of God.”
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” said Hunt. “There will always be the ‘thing’ that seems most important in college … but seek its kingdom first.”
“Sports cannot and are not the most important in your life,” Corley said. “But I think it’s the most important way to display the goodness of God.”
During the hunt. Ehambe and Corley all come from different backgrounds, they all believe that God has used sport to change their lives and grow their faith, and along the way, they’ve invested in the faith of others as well.