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Meeting on the Mat

Published on June 23, 2016

by Sarah Rennicke

"I am confident that our trip
was a success and pleasing
to the Lord."  -Messiah Junior Tag Wilber

God often uses the unexpected to shift perspective. Such was the case for Messiah College (Pa.) and their experience on the wrestling mat in Asia.

Their wrestling team traveled to South Korea for eleven days, to foster spiritual growth and team cohesion through serving and ministering to coaches, athletes, and the FCA Korea team.

havenertaereungLed by FCA Wrestling Pa. Director Mike Hojnacki, the group participated in wrestling practice, Bible study, and fellowship while connecting with East Asia staff and FCA Korea leader Joshua.  

The trip mainly revolved around training, with the team split into small groups to visit thirteen various sites around Seoul, from a middle school to the Olympic National Training Center, where they wrestled with the nation’s best athletes.

Hojnacki first went to Korea in 2014, after two of its sports leaders came to the Mid-Atlantic Region FCA Camp and connected with wrestling. The U.S. Mid-Atlantic Region is partnered with the East Asia Global Region, and Hojnacki and three others visited the country to participate in FCA Korea’s first leadership camp for their national team athletes and coaches.

Two years later, in conjunction with Messiah’s AROMA Missions Team, which provides service opportunities for student athletes, Hojnacki took a team of over thirty people across the Pacific Ocean.

In the beginning, there was a sense of questioning the purpose of the visit, wondering how everything would shape up, as it didn’t seem to fit the mold of a “normal” mission trip.

God appeased their worries as the next day Joshua explained to each small group where they were going, why they were going, ministry needs, and the spiritual climate of that particular place. Each individual group was then prayed over and sent out.

“That was the biggest answer to prayer I could ask for,” Hojnacki said, “because hanging in the balance were questions and all this anxiety over the team, and the very next morning God brought that to resolution.”

It was a two-way impact trip. Messiah’s group served and shared in sports ministry, but the team was also affected by the testimonies they heard and engaging in faith on the other side of the world and people of Korea.

munhyun4They encouraged brothers and sisters in Christ, and were themselves strengthened in their faith while experiencing firsthand how sport acts as a bridge between cultures.

“Seeing Christians who were just as on fire for the Lord as I am was an amazing experience,” junior Larry Cannon said. “I had an opportunity to train with one of the best guys in South Korea. Although we couldn't speak the same language, wrestling is a universal language that we both understood and were able to connect through.”  

Added sophomore Tag Wilber, “If we believe that God wanted us in Korea, and we believe that we acted according to His will while we were there, then no matter if we see the results or not, I am confident that our trip was a success and pleasing to the Lord.” 

FCA Korea and Messiah College are locking into a solid partnership through wrestling. This is one journey Hojnacki couldn’t have imagined.

“Had God not moved through FCA’s vision to have an international outreach, I never would have ended up in Korea,” Hojnacki said. “Now that it happened, I feel my heart is permanently set [there]. We’d like to be partnering with FCA Korea for the long haul and believe that this is the start of something special.”

Photos courtesy of Mike Hojnacki