Writer: Kevin O’Rourke, Assistant Sports Information Director, CSU
Charleston Southern sophomore forward Javis Howard is preparing for the 2015-16 season with an added sense of perspective. Howard spent 12 days in the Philippines this summer with Athletes in Action, and the experience impacted him both on and off the basketball court.
Howard and nine teammates from Division I programs around the country compiled a 7-0 record against a collection of Filipino collegiate and professional teams. It was moments aside from basketball, though, that stood out most to the Irmo, S.C. native on his first venture outside the United States.
“The mission work was amazing,” Howard said. “I was looking forward to the basketball, but the mission work really was great. We ran a couple of clinics and camps, and were able to visit a prison and orphanage as well.”
Led by Athletes in Action coach Morris Michalski, the group delivered compassionate aid in the form of shoes, sports equipment, medical supplies, games, and food. Howard and all of the AIA players handed out playing cards featuring their photo, a brief life story, and favorite Bible verse.
“The verse I used was “a father to the fatherless is God,” (Psalm 68:5) Howard said. “It explains not having my parents and that brings me to the orphanage. I was excited about the orphanage because I wanted to experience that and get a chance to see how they were living. Those kids were a lot happier than I would have thought. I talked to them, gave them my card and felt really connected. I was kind of like ‘that could have been me.’”
“That’s when I figured out maybe that’s what my life is all about,” continued Howard, who was raised by his older sister. “My parents were taken and I was brought through all those things, was able to come to a great school and environment to grow and flourish, and then be able to come back and show the kids it can be done if you trust in God.”
Howard’s takeaways are in keeping with AIA’s mission to provide a rich cross-cultural experience for each team member while bringing honor to Jesus Christ through sharing God’s love and truth with others.
CSU head coach Barclay Radebaugh was thrilled Howard took advantage of the opportunity.
“The experience Javis had with Athletes in Action was amazing,” Radebaugh said. “I am so thankful for Mo (Coach Michalski) and Athletes in Action. Their commitment to athletes and to using basketball to share the message of the Gospel has been a blessing to so many. We are all so thankful for the work that they perform. I am already excited to see who we can send with Mo next summer.”
Along with their playing cards, AIA players distributed salvation bracelets to inmates at the prison and children in the orphanage. Howard explained the significance behind some of the beads on the bracelets.
“We had these beads that pretty much explained the story of Jesus and how He works,” Howard said. “The first one is the black bead, which represents sin. We all come into the world full of sin. The second bead was faith – how we learn about God and accept Him. The third was love. He loves you and cares for you. The white one was cleanse – he’s cleaning your soul and renewing you. I know the last one was gold which means you’ve done everything, have accepted your sin and accepted the Lord as your savior and the gold is like the golden gates.”
In addition to the mission work, Howard observed different aspects of the Filipino culture – from fish for breakfast to interesting traffic customs – and played alongside athletes from several high-major and mid-major programs. The AIA team gathered for a four-day training camp in Dayton, Ohio, before departing for the Philippines. A set rotation allowed everyone on the 10-man roster to log an equal amount of playing time.
“I was able to take something from each of their games and personalities,” Howard said. “Winston Shepherd from San Diego State, his mentality. Andre Yates from Cleveland State, his leadership. Dre Wright, from Tulsa, he’s a quiet assassin. We had a training camp for four days and I just remember him coming in everyday and being consistent. It was a really great experience for me.”
Howard and the Bucs began individual workouts last week in conjunction with the start of the fall semester. CSU opens the 2015-16 season on Friday, Nov. 13, at Wichita State.