By JIL PRICE
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Hannah Stewart joined the University of Iowa women’s basketball team she had more than playing for the Hawkeyes on her mind. The sophomore had visions of following in her parents’ footsteps with Athletes in Action.
The organization is a Christian sports movement that exists to help athletes grow in their faith during college and apply it to their performance on the field. Stewart meets weekly with the UI group during the academic year.
Members of Athletes in Action from across the United States share their faith and play basketball in different countries each year. Stewart will travel to Poland from Aug. 1-13.
“My parents traveled with Athletes in Action while they were in college and after college as well,” Stewart said. “They’ve told me it’s an eye-opening experience to go to these countries, experience different ways of life, and have the opportunity to teach people so much about faith and what you believe.”
Since signing on for the trip, Stewart has been receiving advice from her parents, preparing to embrace all aspects of the experience. Peter and Julie Stewart made several trips with the organization during their collegiate careers at North Dakota to places like China, Malaysia, and areas of Europe.
“(My parents) said to be open,” Stewart said. “It’s an opportunity to build awesome relationships and meet some of your best friends. They want me to take it head on and get the full experience. I don’t want to waste this trip because it’s such an awesome opportunity.”
Stewart is one of nine Division I basketball players, most of whom are recent college graduates, making the trip to Poland. There are a few juniors and seniors to be making the trip, but as a sophomore, Stewart is the youngest. The Minot, North Dakota, native is also the lone representative from the Big Ten Conference on the squad.
Members of the team, along with two coaches and two tour directors, will meet for the first time in Chicago and begin their trek to Poland. The group will spend the first six days of the trip ministering to and competing against a highly-ranked club team in Poland, before spending the following seven days working with an area church, running camps, and sharing the Christian faith.
“I’m excited for the trip,” Stewart said. “I feel like I’ve always been the one being discipled to. So I’m excited to take all the things I’ve learned and the faith I’ve built, and share it with other people who may not have had the opportunities I have had to get to know God and study The Bible.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking knowing that I could be going somewhere where people may not know about God. It’s going to take some prayers, but I know that God is going to be there helping us. It is his plan for me to spread my knowledge of him through this experience.”
To learn more about Athletes in Action and the organization’s upcoming trips, visit goaia.org.