Four Spartans Work With AIA In Latvia

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Mark Janzen

July 23, 2013, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – Trinity Western men’s hockey coaches Barret Kropf and Chris Wiens helped lead an Athletes in Action team, which included Spartans captain Brad Bakken (Langley) and Josh Stephenson (Aldergrove, B.C.) on a missions trip to Latvia this past spring.

The team, which included university players from all over North America, spent 12 days abroad, from May 11 to 23, playing hockey and spending time fostering relationships in a variety of Latvian communities.

Along with playing four games against three different local teams, the AIA group had the opportunity to work in orphanages and schools and visit a number of churches in the southeastern part of Latvia.

“It was an amazing experience,” said TWU’s Bakken. “We experienced so much and I learned a lot about myself, about the people of Latvia and about my teammates on the trip. We had the chance to talk to a lot of people and talk about God. It was incredible.”

The AIA athletes not only had the opportunity to get to know the players they played against and the children they worked with, but it was also an opportunity to create lifelong bonds with each other.

“Throughout the trip, it was like we were brothers,” Bakken said. “The trip helped me grow in my faith and made me understand a lot more about my faith. It was incredible how we bonded in such a short time.

“Guys were able to look past any insecurity they had and talk about anything that was on their mind.”

Following on the heels of such a successful trip, Kropf, who has worked with AIA for the past nine years, plans to return to Latvia during this year’s Christmas break with the entire Spartans men’s hockey team.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to get back to Latvia,” Kropf said. “It will be a wonderful opportunity for players to be able to play overseas at a high level, and see how their faith gets stretched and then to see God shape and mold these men into the next generation of leaders.”