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Athletes for Jesus: DSU students headed to Uganda

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes from Dickinson State University sells Valentine treats during a vendor sale on Feb. 10. Standing are leader Tyler Doohen, Amanda Stradley, Shayna Tonderum, front row, Austin Stradley, Kaler Ray and Seth Moerkerke. (Press Photo by Linda Sailer)

Nine Dickinson State University athletes plan to spend their spring break in Uganda, where they will present a three-day sports camp while sharing their faith.

They will represent the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a nondenominational athletic ministry for coaches and athletes. As an outreach, FCA teams go around the nation and the world to reach kids through sports camps, said Tyler Doohen, the Dickinson State  FCA chaplain and leader.

“In camp, we’re not only learning sports, we’re learning about Jesus,”  Doohen said. “We will mix Bible studies with camp and worship together. They have worship leaders there, so we’ll sing songs in the Uganda language and in English.”

It will be a cross cultural experience.

“Everybody can relate to -- first, food; second, sports and third, Jesus -- we talk about Christ, we play sports together, we eat together, ” Doohen said.

The FCA team will be gone from March 10-20. The team includes leader Tyler Doohen, athletes, Brady Wilz, Marit Mikkelsen, Makenzie DiGesualdo, Jode Derby, Seth Moerkerke, Kaler Ray, Shayna Tonderum, Austin Stradley and Amanda Stradley. Also going are Courtney Williams, Nagi Williams and Ayla Williams.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Austin Stradley said. “It’s a good way to get out to the kids in Africa, to spread the word of Jesus Christ.”

Being it’s spring break, Kaler Ray joked, “We won’t be missing a single day of school. It’s to go and serve and love on the people, to have an incredible experience.”

The camp will be held at the Musana Camp, which is a branch of New Hope, Uganda. Likened to the Badlands Ministries at Medora, the Musana Camp is on the shore of Lake Victoria near Kampala, Uganda. The camp is a place for kids to experience “life transformation”  through games and activities in the outdoors, as stated on its website.

The sports camp expects 150 kids to participate. They will practice skills in volleyball, soccer, football, track and field.

“The Musana camp is fully staffed with its own church, pastors and a school -- we’re adding a little flavor for the weekend,” said Doohen.

The kids stay in cabins, but they are pulled from surrounding villages. The ages are around 15 and younger.

“I told Musana, if they can walk, they can come to our little kids’ corner,” he said.

Project New Hope – Uganda is a non-profit and volunteer-run organization dedicated to improving  the quality of life of vulnerable children in Uganda.

A contractor by trade, Doohen  visited missionary friends, Jared and Staci Sinkler last March in Uganda.

“We were over there working on the house they moved into -- we bat-proofed the house at the request of Staci. The last I’d heard, they haven’t had any more critters.”

While there, he realized the location was perfect for a sports camp. For months now, his FCA group has been raising funds for the trip.

“I think the way I try to live my lifestyle, I sold the kids on the trip,” he said. “They love the Lord, and this trip will not only bless them, but they will come back changed  -- you come back more mature.”

For most of the students, this is their first trip overseas -- 20 hours of air time. Aside from the travel and sports camp, they  will assist the camp staff.

Doohen  graduated from Dickinson High School, and was introduced to FCA when he played football at Dickinson State. In 2012, he volunteered  as a FCA transitional staff position and went on to the leader position.

After graduation, he started his own construction company -- Battle Cry Construction, which does residential and light commercial construction.

“My wife (Kelsey) hosts a women’s study, and I meet with the men. We have combined meetings Tuesdays on campus,” he said. “We worship, we have time for testimonies and we give a message. You need a safe place to come and vent if you need to.”

Probably the most difficult day for a FCA leader is saying goodbye to students when they graduate.

“You pour into them four or five years and then they leave you,” he said.

But he’s always there the next fall -- ready to greet the next crop of athletes.

To follow their journey to Uganda, visit their Facebook page, TylerandKelseyDoohen.

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