The BYU-Hawaii Seasiders men’s and women’s soccer teams were the featured speakers of an Oakland Stake fireside held on Sept. 19 at the California Berkeley LDS Institute of Religion.
Dan Dummar, head coach of both teams, said, “We wanted to do some service and build some camaraderie and build the spirituality of the team as well, but I had several of the youth who attended come up and thank me and tell me this was one of the greatest or the greatest spiritual experience of their life. That’s really special.”
Jaden Bybee and Griffin Garcia of the men’s team both had the opportunity to speak, as did Mackenzie Moore and Lillian Bradley of the lady’s squad. Over 90 youth and young single adults attended as well as several investigators and other members in the community.
Bishop Don Sherwood, who presides over the Berkley University YSA ward, said he was impressed by the athletes and coaches. “The student athletes from BYU-Hawaii are incredible,” said Sherwood. “They presented their message in such a positive way. One after another they spoke, and each story and all the experiences were so amazing.”
“It was an awesome experience,” said Bybee, a sophomore from Utah majoring in exercise science. “I think having the fireside at the start of the week was great. It brought our team together and set the tone for the rest of the week. We could be on the same page and feel the spirit together.”
For Bybee, being asked to speak was no surprise since he had served his mission in the Bay area. His story of perseverance and the service he rendered in Oakland was not forgotten. “I had a family that traveled from San Ramon about thirty minutes to see me,” said Bybee. “My mission president and his wife attended as well as several of the senior missionaries and a few of the elders.”
Bybee continued, “I spoke on focusing on the blessings you can receive by putting God first in your life. Deciding to serve a mission actually saved my life. I was diagnosed with cancer and I wouldn’t have found out I had cancer if it wasn’t for my decision to serve a mission.” He said his it’s because of his decision to serve a mission that he is able to play soccer with BYUH.
The team’s road trips are often busy with little room in the schedule for extraneous activities, but Dummar said doing firesides is one of the joys and perks of being able to play collegiate sports at a church university.
“I really think this university is a one of a kind,” said Garcia, a freshman from Utah majoring in business. “Just having the opportunity to be able to connect with the people and community when we go on road trips is a blessing, and we owe it to Coach Dummar. Coach is really trying to emphasize to us the importance of service this season.”
Garcia was invited to address the congregation and bare his testimony near the conclusion of the fireside. With his departure date for his mission to Peru quickly approaching, he said he was excited for the opportunity.
“They just called me up at the end, but I didn’t mind being asked because I could really bare testimony, especially to those on the team and those in attendance who aren’t of our faith,” said Garcia. “I focused it more towards my teammates and I think they really felt the spirit and I felt that was good. Not only for them but for the team as a whole.”
Sherwood said he wanted to have Garcia bare testimony in order to provide a role model for the youth. He said Giffith’s testimony was inspiring because he spoke of preparing to serve a mission.
Dummar contacted local LDS Church leaders about the opportunity to hold a fireside early in the season. Sherwood said he eagerly took the lead on setting up the event. “After we reached out, Bishop Sherwood really took it from there and set it all up,” said Dummar.
“It’s one of the beautiful things about athletics here, that you can have sports and be Christ-centered at the same time,” Dummar added. “There are some kids who are hard to reach but open up to the sports, and they can listen and feel the Spirit. That’s what we’re about at BYU-Hawaii.”