Family helps spread faith through sports
By ANN PARKS
What do baseball and God have to do with each other? Plenty, if you ask Cypress resident David Raffield.
Raffield, who is the athletic coordinator and head football coach at Cypress Falls High School, and a group of 101 others just returned from a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. The trip was sponsored by Athletic International Missions, a nonprofit group that strives to teach the gospel through the use of sports.
The purpose of the mission trip was to hold a family vacation Bible school/mini baseball camp for Dominican Republic families.
We taught a regular baseball camp at seven different camps," Raffield said.
Other camps involved volleyball, softball and basketball, Raffield said.
We reached over 2,000 kids having basically three hours of sports and an hour of Bible study," he said. Our goal was to use athletics as a means to reach people for our ministry. By the end of the week, 500 kids came to faith."
AIM is the brainchild of Fred Billings, owner of Buds and Blossoms in Cypress. During this second year of operation, AIM increased by 85 the number of people who made the trip. And the Dominican Republic baseball sites or camps increased from three to seven.
Equipment donations reached between $150,000 and $200,000. Much of the growth occurred by word of mouth. Flyers were sent out by churches. A story was run in a Cy-Fair magazine. Much help was received through school Fellowship of Christian Athletes groups.
Visits were made to little league baseball tournaments such as Advantage Baseball and Baseball USA. Enough athletic equipment was received to outfit 22 baseball teams alone. All of the equipment was donated to the people of the Dominican Republic.
The biggest challenge we faced was getting a plane to make the trip," Raffield said. Each family that went paid for their portion of the flight. The rest of the money came in the form of donations to AIM and private donations. Enough donations were received to compensate the families' contributions to charter an American Airlines 737 to carry the missionaries and the multitude of equipment. It was a phenomenal task.
The next huge challenge was getting through customs. Everything had to be packed and bagged in the correct way and exactly the correct weight. It was crazy trying to load the plane with as much as we had to take."
Cathy Raffield's concerns were much more pragmatic than her husband's.
I was never worried about safety issues or about whether we were doing the right thing; our motives for going were pure. I was really concerned about whether we could afford it. Once I let go of everyday worries, everything fell into place."
Cathy said the island nation's people are beautiful inside and out.
The place is beautiful, but the people are surrounded by abject poverty," she said. It's a place you would never think you could manage or survive. And yet, when you look into their eyes, you don't see people who feel sorry for themselves. They're really a happy people."
Will Raffield, 12, gave his shoes to a 14-year-old boy who had never had a pair.
The trip was life-changing for me," Will said. How much we take for granted and how little they have makes you appreciate how much we have. The trip was worth it."
Jake Raffield, 8, said, he made some new friends.
I learned some new stuff about baseball, but I learned more about my faith," Jake said.
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