Fresh from hosting its first-ever conference championship tournament game and scoring a victory over Barton College, the Erskine Men’s Volleyball team, winner of the Conference Carolinas Regular Season Championship, prepares to host the University of Mount Olive April 16, vying for first place in the Conference Carolinas Championship.
In addition to its winning performance in conference play, the team took on non-conference opponents, scheduling contests in California during spring break in March. They returned from their trip with more than reports of their wins over California Baptist University and Hope International University. They brought back memories of a mission experience that made an impact on their lives and the lives of people they served while working with the Dream Center ministry in Los Angeles.
Coach Derek Schmitt blogged about the team’s activities during the trip, from their first few days in California—playing volleyball matches, staying in a hotel, enjoying the beach—through their move from the hotel to the Dream Center’s facilities and service among people in need.
Team members unloaded trucks filled with food supplies, distributed food, cleaned up streets, plied their painting and construction skills at the center, built relationships and prayed with people they encountered, and took time for corporate worship as well as individual prayer and scripture reading, with periods set aside for quiet. That meant no talking, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or music.
Along the way, the players learned something about urban poverty when they worked in an area that contains one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the United States.
“As we arrived at Skid Row, all you saw was homes built on the sidewalk made of tarps, bicycles, suitcases, milk crates, and more,” Schmitt wrote in his blog. “This went on for several blocks in every direction. What is amazing is that Skid Row sits less than a mile from the skyscrapers of several major financial companies and yet poverty is so prevalent nearby.”
If Skid Row was something of a shock, there were also rewarding times at the Dream Center. Schmitt said “one of the unexpected highlights” came when the players attended a session promoting the Dream Center Leadership School.
The nine-month program for recent high school graduates features “an intense time of studying God’s word and involving themselves in the ministries of the Dream Center,” he said. “We have been able to build relationships with a few of the students in this school, which has been awesome.”
As the Dream Center experience came to a close, Schmitt and his players talked about “how we are different from when we checked into the Dream Center.”
“There were a lot of great things shared, including spending more time in prayer and in the Bible, having more of a servant mentality, being more appreciative of the things we have, having more faith in God and His power, and much more,” Schmitt reported in a blog post.
The team gave a slide presentation about their work at the Dream Center following a home match March 27, with players speaking about their experiences.
All in all, Men’s Volleyball has had a remarkable season, one that has extended beyond the excitement of athletic victories to embrace the joy of Christian service.
For Schmitt, “This entire season has been an amazing ride, since we started pre-season on New Year’s Day.”
He is proud of the team and sees its success as “a testament to the hard work and talent of the players on our roster.” The first match of the season at Loyola in Chicago inspired the men’s goal “to return to that court for the National Tournament at the end of this month,” he said.
“In order to reach that goal, we need one more win on Wednesday night, and we are facing a very good team,” he added. “I’m extremely glad we get to play this match at home. Should be an exciting evening in Due West!”
Whatever the outcome of Wednesday’s match against Mount Olive—and whether the team is playing before a crowd of college fans or working among the homeless on Skid Row—it’s really a win for Erskine.
After this story was posted, the Erskine College Men’s Volleyball team went on to win the Conference Carolinas Championship.