A High Point couple and their family will be the first full-time missionaries for Sports Crusaders when they leave this week for Merida, Mexico.
Mandy and Tyler Asbury met at a basketball game, and she continued to play through college. Now, the love of the game and a calling to share their faith have combined in this unique ministry opportunity.
"The thing that struck a chord with me is that when I was a high school and college athlete, I didn't use the sport to give God glory," Mandy said. "I played for my glory. I really felt like God was telling me that he was giving me a second chance to use the talent that he gave me to give him glory and further his kingdom. So I have been able to help teach the sport that I grew up loving and share Christ with people in the process."
The Asburys both grew up in Christian homes, he in Sedalia and she in High Point. They have been active members of Corticelli Baptist Church in Russellville, where Tyler is a deacon.
Tyler has felt called to ministry for a number of years, volunteering for construction and disaster relief missions teams in the past, including with World Changers. Both have served on church mission teams to Puerto Rico and Mississippi and have been Upward Basketball coaches.
Sports Crusaders was a natural fit for the Asburys, who have traveled to Merida, Mexico, with the last three summer teams, as well as supporting the local Sports Crusaders camps in Russellville.
The January following their first trip to Merida, Mandy said, "God really began to place an awareness for the need for Sports Crusaders to be in Merida full time."
"After praying about this for a number of months, the call from God felt very clear," Mandy said. "And the passion and the desire to go to Merida only grew stronger."
Both Tyler and Mandy have successful careers, so they didn't see missions as a full-time commitment, she said. She is president of the Missouri Baptist Credit Union, and he is foreman for a heating and cooling company.
But being obedient to their faith won out.
"It was a hard decision to leave (my) job," Mandy said. "We are also older than the typical missionary family. Most people our age are focusing on retirement and college funds. We know that God will provide for those things, however."
The Asbury family includes three children — Brady, 18; Porter, 13; and Owen, 9 — who have been involved in High Point and Eldon High schools, sports, music and FFA.
The oldest, Brady, will earn his associate's degree from State Fair Community College through online classes while moving to Mexico with his family. Mandy will homeschool the other two.
"Our lives will be much different," she said. "We will still have cellphones and Wi-Fi and things like that, but a lot of the things that we use on a daily basis, that we take for granted, may not be available to us."
From their High Point home, the Asbury family has three drivers who leave in three different cars. In Merida, they will have one, 12-passenger van, which also will serve the needs of temporary mission teams and local children attending clinics.
"We are very excited for our family to get a new take on life," Mandy said. "Here in the United States, we are always 'go go go' and working on our careers and buying a nice home and having a nice job, etc. We want to use this opportunity to show them what life is like in other parts of the world."
The move will provide more quality time together for the family, without so many demands, she said.
"We are also excited to learn a new language and new cultures," Mandy said.
Sports Crusaders has been sending short-term teams to Merida for 12 years, and the board set a vision eight years ago to send someone permanently.
"We have been able to establish a great relationship with the different sports programs in Merida, and Sports Crusaders is a recognized name," Mandy said.
The summer missions to Merida in 2015-16 helped lay the groundwork, including building friendships and contacts, Mandy said.
In Merida, the camps have been basketball and volleyball. But they hope to send an American football team soon.
The camps are similar to those conducted locally. However, instead of daily installments for a week, they are in one location for up to five hours.
"We try to do five to six clinics in the week that our mission teams are there," Mandy said. "Because of the popularity and demand for Sports Crusaders, sometimes we can only reach an area once every two to three years."
By being in Merida full time, Mandy said, she hopes they their contact with communities will be every few months, instead of years.
"Our No. 1 goal is to reach people for Christ, so we want to see them as much as we possibly can," Mandy said.
Merida is the 14th largest city in Mexico with a population of nearly 2 million people.
"That's a big change from where we currently live in High Point," Mandy said.
Asking for support, the Asburys request prayer for their family to do God's work. They also would welcome financial donations toward their goal of $4,000 per month.
In the future, special projects, such as a van, Bibles and clinic equipment, will offer additional ways to support this ministry.
The Asburys will work with local pastors and incoming mission teams to reach the people of Merida with the Gospel.
Sports Crusaders has been involved in planting a church in Merida, and the Asburys will be involved in helping with a second church in a nearby small community where no Protestant church exists.
"These two things will be our main focus, but as God opens doors we will seek additional opportunities," the Asburys' newsletter said. "Above all, we are devoted to serving the local people and developing relationships with them!
"This was Christ's model for evangelism, and we are excited to be a part of the Great Commission in Merida."
For more information, visitsportscrusadersmexico.blog.