CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Charleston Southern Men’s Basketball Team departed for the Dominican Republic on August 4 excited about the opportunity to make an impact on those less fortunate. Five days later, they returned energized and with the knowledge that they had accomplished their goal while also receiving countless life-long blessings in return.
“Our trip to the Dominican was life-changing,” said CSU Head Coach Barclay Radebaugh of the Bucs’ August 4-9 mission trip to Santo Domingo. “We went with three goals in mind. First, we wanted to have the opportunity to share God’s love and grace to as many people as possible. Second, we wanted to deepen our relationships and unity on our team. And lastly, to improve and compete on the basketball floor. I am confident all three of these goals were met.”
In addition to the growth and success experienced on the hardwood – three victories over talented and seasoned Dominican professional teams – Radebaugh, assistant coaches, players, and staff immersed themselves in the Dominican culture and struck a bond with the people. CSU’s experience was highlighted by a trip to a local church service, two thought-provoking and meaningful trips to the La Ramana Orphanage, and a food distribution journey to aid malnourished and poverty-stricken residents of a sugarcane farm village.
Exposure to the third-world culture prevalent in the Dominican, as well as interaction with the people themselves, fostered a stronger realization of the many luxuries of everyday life in the United States and in turn brought about an even tighter sense of team unity among the entire roster.
“The trip to the Dominican Republic was an amazing experience for us personally and as a team,” said CSU senior guard Jeremy Sexton. “It gave us an opportunity to grow as a family while helping the less fortunate families in that area. We began to realize just how blessed we are and how we take things for granted, but something as simple as an hour of attention made their day. Just seeing that we could put a smile on their face touched our heart just as much as we touched theirs. It was truly an amazing experience.”
Upon landing in Santo Domingo after a long flight from Charlotte, the Bucs rested and awoke refreshed on Sunday, August 5, ready for several days of activity which had a profound spiritual impact on every team member.
“We prepared all summer for the incredible opportunity placed before us by God to share his love,” said Radebaugh of CSU’s perspective heading into the trip. “The Dominican people are a people that are in need of aid in many ways.”
“Our first experience was at church on Sunday, August 5th. We heard, through an interpreter, an incredible sermon. While we were inspired and challenged as a team by the pastor, everywhere you looked, you saw need. Many of the children had not eaten in a couple of days. The church was a one-room, open-air church.”
“Over the next two days, we visited an orphanage outside of Juan Dollio. Again, we were confronted with need, but this time it was not physical need but emotional need. This beautiful group of children was starving for emotional touch, physical comfort and human support and love. Our team was beyond incredible. Each player gave and gave some more. And yet as much as they gave, each one left with much more than they gave out. It was truly an incredible sight to watch God pour into our team as our team poured out to a wonderful group of orphans.”
“Finally, we visited a remote village on a sugarcane farm. These Dominicans were beyond need as we know it in America. Most did not have shoes. Most wore tattered clothing, and all lacked proper nutrition and housing. We took the village as much food as we could afford and it was a blessing to be God’s hand of provision for a day. God amazingly used these experiences to teach different and unique lessons to each member of our basketball family.”
Radebaugh was not only touched by an up-close and personal view of the hardships many Dominicans struggle through on a daily basis, but was also thrilled to see the way his players came together in a selfless fashion.
“There really is some truth to the idea that getting away as a team will draw you closer,” Radebaugh said. “Our hotel was nice and the food we were provided was terrific, but my favorite thing about our accommodations was that the TV only had Spanish-language stations and there was no Wi-Fi in the rooms (only in the lobby). As a result, our guys spent time together playing board and card games and talking in groups in the lobby. We have a very unique group in that we all get along very well and we have strong team chemistry, yet this opportunity to be away from the barrage of media and information that plagues us in the USA was an awesome experience. Maybe we need to turn off our cell phones, computers, video games and televisions more often.”
Aside from the added sense of confidence the basketball-portion of the trip provided toward a 2012-13 season which features great promise, CSU will enter this academic year and the rest of their lives transformed.
“Our team represented themselves and CSU in a first-class way on the court with their unrelenting effort and confident attitude of success,” Radebaugh said. “The success, competition and extra practice will certainly help as we prepare for the upcoming season, but the attitude of thankfulness, learning to give with no chance of personal gain, the knowledge that there is a big and often desperate world outside of our personal and geographic borders and the unity and team bonding we experienced will benefit our players and staff not just this season but for a lifetime.”
“In closing, I want to thank the many people who made this trip possible,” Radebaugh continued. “Thank you to the numerous and generous fans, family members, supporters, alumni, and friends that selflessly gave to make this experience possible. You share eternally in the blessings that have come from our trip. And thank you to Dr. Hunter and Dr. Brewer for providing the educational foundation that not only supports, but also encourages CSU’s many efforts to expand the kingdom of God.”
View a photo gallery of the Bucs' Dominican Republic mission trip here.
Charleston Southern University is a Ministry Partner with the South Carolina Baptist Convention dedicated to Integrating Faith in Learning, Leading, and Serving.