Clarksville, Ark.-In what began as a basketball-minded trip to Germany for Andrew Cummings turned out to be a faith promoting experience.
Cummings, a senior men's basketball player at the University of the Ozarks, spent three weeks over the summer with a team full of collegiate basketball players for the News Release Basketball organization. News Release Basketball selects players from across the United States and travels through Europe to conduct basketball camps and gives its volunteers the opportunity to share their religious convictions. Cummings and his teammates were able to assist at youth basketball camps and participate in testimony meetings throughout the overseas journey. The team played in six games during a three-week span and went undefeated, but basketball became secondary once he realized his purpose there.
"At first, all I thought about was playing well and impressing the professional teams so that I could get picked up by one of them," said Cummings. "But then when I got to training camp, I felt like God wanted me to spread His word. I felt like He wanted me to be a servant. The trip helped me realize that basketball will come and go, but serving the Lord is our mission in life."
Cummings, who serves as President of Ozarks' Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter, was able to share his faith on several occasions during the trip.
"The local YMCA held a basketball camp and incorporated our team," he said. "Each player on my team conducted basketball training sessions and then we would share our testimonies. We also went to area churches and gave our testimonies. After the camp was over in the evening, we went into town to seek out service projects."
Cummings also grew close to his host family in Lörrach, Germany, where he stayed his first week. The Cremer family included his host parents Christian and Simone, and their sons John and Ronin.
"They treated me like one of their own children," he said. "Many host families were once involved with camps and now they want to be able to give back by hosting others."
Cummings, 6-foot guard from Mansfield, Texas, was named to the American Southwest Conference All-Defensive Team last season. He averaged 11.6 points and 1.8 steals per game his junior season. Cummings believes he improved his skills after practicing for three weeks against his teammates, many of whom were NCAA Division I players.
"The basketball was competitive," he said. "I was playing with NCAA I players and I think that made me a better player. In games, we played against true professional players that were getting paid."
Following a week in Lörrach, he and his teammates traveled to Munich and Vilsbiburg for more games and camp sessions. While his European trip was a bit of a culture shock, he would have no hesitation on volunteering for the trip again.
"Being in Europe was awesome," he said. "It was the first time I've been there. The lifestyle is different though. There isn't really air conditioning and a lot of areas do not have Wi-Fi access. Having ice with a soda is uncommon. But the food was one of my favorite things about being over there."
Cummings' trip also opened up a potential job opportunity with News Release Basketball.
"A representative with News Release Basketball offered me a job when I graduate," he said. "A number of cities want them to set up ministries, so I could play semi-professional basketball and serve in a ministry. I've always wanted to be a youth pastor and this may be a good opportunity to do that. I will keep that in the back of my mind after I graduate."
More information about News Release Basketball can be found at: http://www.nrbasketball.org/