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PRINCETON — It is becoming a tradition that football players at Princeton High will get the chance to go on a mission trip.
On June 7, head coach Travis Gaster will test new waters as he, his wife, his two children and another family of three will take seven senior football players out of the country to Nicaragua.
“It’s called Los Brasiles, flying into Managua — it’s a whole bunch of places that I’ve never been to and never heard of,” Gaster said. “There’s a comfort factor there that a lot of people I know and trust have been there several times and built relationships. I’m just really looking forward to getting the kids there and going to work for people who don’t have much.”
This is the third mission trip Gaster has led in his time as the head coach. The group will work with Imagine Ministries and Open Hearts Nicaragua to support two rescue homes, a school, a feeding program, a church and any other needs that need to be met in Los Brasiles and La Chureca.
The first trip was in 2017 to Lumberton, where the Bulldogs served with the Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief teams in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. In 2018, Gaster led a team to New York City to serve in various homeless shelters, boys and girls clubs and other ministry outreach programs.
The seven seniors going are Jacob Edens, Hinton Cox, Brady Mohiser, Blake Raynor, Caleb Jones, Scott Vollgrebe and Eric Chavez. The trip needed $28,000 to fund the eight-day trip for all 14 people, and they were able to do it through fundraisers.
“What holds you back from taking this trip is just money, and I didn’t think that was a good enough excuse for us not to go,” Gaster said. “I believe this is what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Gaster said the New York trip last year inspired his team’s 9-1 season. Gaster said there’s nothing they can do at home that can match the bonding of going into unfamiliar places and helping others.
“You can’t get together and go to Bojangles and eat, and have that same bond that you build when it’s night after night after night of being together,” Gaster said. “Getting on an airplane together, believing in one another that we can go and do good work, that we can come back safe and be better men and women — I think that’s huge.”
A devout Christian, Gaster wants to influence his player’s lives with more than teaching them about football. He said the one thing that all the trips have in common is helping people in need.
“There’s a need for love and need for work right here in Princeton, you don’t have to go to Nicaragua for that, but I feel like it gets us away from phones, away from technology, away from Wi-Fi and cell phones. When you go somewhere and people are living in playpens, and the walls are like road signs, I think it will be an eye-opener,” Gaster said. “If you look at their life (his players) as a huge puzzle, there are pieces to that puzzle that they have to find themselves. You never know what they have to do, or need to do, to learn those things, but when you can put those opportunities out there for the kids to go, feel safe, and do it with their brothers, you can overcome fear and let yourself loose to love on people that you don’t know.”
The Bulldogs are no longer taking donations for this trip, but have started accepting contributions for 2020.