Women’s soccer Japan bound

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Women’s soccer Japan bound

Freshman Brianna Yarber displays her ball handling skills while taking on an opponent from Azusa Pacific University.

Freshman Brianna Yarber displays her ball handling skills while taking on an opponent from Azusa Pacific University.

Photo by Lehua Kamakawiwoole

Freshman Brianna Yarber displays her ball handling skills while taking on an opponent from Azusa Pacific University.

Photo by Lehua Kamakawiwoole

Photo by Lehua Kamakawiwoole

Freshman Brianna Yarber displays her ball handling skills while taking on an opponent from Azusa Pacific University.


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Last summer, Megan Gularte, a sophomore soccer player at Biola, was on a missions trip in Japan with Missionary Athletics International, which heads the local Seahorses soccer team. Gularte and a host of other local women – including two of her Biola players – started their trip in Iwata, just a few hours south of Tokyo.

The women hosted clinics and worked with young Japanese soccer players. After full days in triple-digit heat, they had an opportunity to share their faith and hang out with the boys and girls.

But no one expected anything like what would happen to Gularte.

Sometime between the players’ drive from Iwata to Osaka, which was their next destination, Gularte became ill – deathly ill.

She developed a fever that jumped to 104 degrees in just over an hour. After visiting a couple doctors, they found out her spleen was swollen and suspected possible brain damage because the illness set in so quickly.

She was prescribed the best medicine – it didn’t help.

Since Megan’s body was so weak, the pastor of the church the girls were staying at – a man Gularte had just met – carried her from place to place.

Gularte was eventually checked into an Osaka hospital. Her teammates and coaches feared the worst – that she might die.

“After four or five days of her condition not improving, we were ready to put her on a plane and send her home,” said coach Paul Gizzi, who headed the trip.

But that’s just when God started working.

There was one Japanese girl who had grown so attached to Megan and her teammates that she began hanging out with them. One night, the team went with her to visit and pray over Megan.

Christ used that gathering for his glory. The next day, miraculously, Megan began to feel better. Within a few more days, she was walking around outside on the way to a speedy 180-degree recovery from her unknown illness.

The young Japanese girl, sensing the women’s genuine heart for God, accepted Christ as her Savior that very night.

“It’s such a testament to what God can do,” Gularte said, “that we don’t matter and God will do his work.”

“Megan’s story reminds us that through a missions trip, there is spiritual warfare going on,” Gizzi said. “It’s remarkable how Christ can use one person through such suffering.”

A story like this is one of the reasons the women’s soccer team is so excited about going back to Japan this year. This time, however, the entire Biola women’s team will be going – something that hasn’t happened since 2004.

“We sleep on cots in churches, play soccer all day under 105-degree heat,” said sophomore Zoe Zappas, who attended last year’s trip. “It’s intense, but a lot of fun.”

Sophomore Cal State Bakersfield transfer Samantha Davis realizes the challenges the trip will bring.

“We learned that only one percent of Japan is Christian, so that’s intimidating, but I can’t wait for the challenge,” she said.

Sophomore midfielder Hollie Affentranger also realizes the lack of Christian influence in Japan.

“There’s a lot of spiritual warfare in Japan,” she said, “so we’ve been praying as a team for the words to say to them when we go.”

And in a supreme act of courage, Gularte will be joining her teammates on the trip again this year.

If you or anyone you know would like to help the Biola women’s soccer team raise funds for their trip, visit www.seahorsesoccer.com for more information and contact trip coordinator Paul Gizzi at [email protected]