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December 13, 2013, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – The Trinity Western men’s hockey team will embark upon its first ministry and humanitarian trip abroad under coach Barret Kropf, as the Spartans, in conjunction with Athletes in Action, will visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over 11 days from December 25 to January 4.

While overseas, the Spartans will have the chance to play one game in each country while spending the rest of their time largely helping with hockey clinics and working with youth ministries in local churches.

“We’re hoping to help them continue to develop the sport in their country,” Kropf said. “We want to help them understand what we’re about as a hockey team and the things that we do to provide leadership on and off the ice. And I’m sure there will also be lots of things we can learn from them.”

On the ice, the Spartans will play a Lithuanian team from Elektrenai Dec. 28, a Latvian side from Ventspils Dec. 30 and an Estonian club form Narva Jan. 2. All the teams that TWU will play are from their respective country’s top professional league. Following each game, the Spartans will have a chance to meet their opposition over a post-game meal.

“I’m really excited to sit at the same table with the people we just competed against and talk about life and experiences that we’ve shared and what hockey has brought to our lives,” said Spartans captain Brad Bakken (Langley), who went on a similar Athletes in Action sponsored trip to Latvia this past summer.

“There are a lot of people searching for something bigger than themselves. They have a hole in their lives that they’re trying to fill. If we can come in and talk about how Jesus can fill that void, I think we can do a lot of good.”

While the trip is an opportunity to help serve abroad and minister through the language of hockey, it’ll also be a chance for the Spartans to continue to gel as a unit.

“The thing I’m most excited about is to see is what is going to happen amongst the guys on our team,” said the Spartans Josh Stephenson (Aldergrove, B.C.) who, alongside Bakken, was in Latvia this past summer. “It’s going to be great to see what we can give back to the people over there, but I’m also excited to see what we will learn about ourselves spiritually and how we will come closer together as group.”

Kropf added: “For our guys to be able to see firsthand that around the world we all breathe the same air. We’re all human beings and God has great plans and purposes for us all. It doesn’t matter what country you’re born in or how much money you have in your pocket, at the end of the day faith is at the core of it. I think our guys will be able to see that and experience some new things on and off the ice.”

The team will also visit the capital cities in all three countries, including Vilnius in Lithuania, Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia.

Click here to keep up to date with the Spartans throughout their trip.

The Spartans will return to Langley in the evening on Jan. 4. Trinity Western will resume its BCIHL regular season schedule Jan. 16 when it will host Simon Fraser at 7 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.