"We still proceed here despite the travel warning given by the embassy in Manila to pursue our plans to share the good news of the Lord," said Greg Beacham, the team captain of the 10-member Australian sports ambassadors team.
The embassy, according to Beacham, has a travel advisory cautioning its citizens to travel in some parts of Mindanao.
It was Beacham's "great experience" in the island that dramatically convinced the other players to come and play friendship games and share the gospel.
"It's important we do come. It's safe to come over," said Beacham on his third visit in the island.
The Aussie sports ambassadors from Perth, Western Australia have played a series of friendship games in several towns in Bukidnon.
In every game they played, the sports ambassadors held Bible studies at half-time, an interval between the two halves of the match that usually feature dance or song numbers or other side events, "to give time to know God, read the Bible and study God's words that would change our lives".
"We have a wonderful stay in Bukidnon. We have experienced the Filipino hospitality in Bukidnon and here in Davao City," said Jeff Long, the team's playing coach, whose son, Kirk, is presently suiting up for Ateneo de Manila University’s seniors basketball team.
In an unconditional gesture of generosity, the Aussie sports ambassadors visited hospitals and helped build a home for the orphans in Malaybalay City, the province’s capital.
"We had a busy stay there. We played two games everyday and we mixed concretes for the orphans’ home," said Long, who was joined by Beacham, Hedley Taylor, Mike Valenti, Brad Potts, Giles Creelman, Danny Cook and Joshua Manthe in the team.
The Aussies swept all 14 games in Bukidnon, including the 79-58 win against Northern Mindanao champion Bukidnon State University.
"These basketball games make a difference in our lives," said Long.
The Australian sports ambassadors will also play a series of friendship games in this city against collegiate teams, barangay squads and commercial teams that include the City Mayor's Office squad, according to Pastor Gary Visitacion of Ventures for Victory.
"This is going to be tough but we look forward for the ministry side of our trip," said Visitacion.
Visitacion said the objective of this visit "is to conduct some friendship games against local teams, learn the local culture of the Dabawenyos, establish camaraderie, and share the love of Jesus Christ to the people they meet during the games."
"The last time this Aussie team was in the Philippines was three years ago. I will have the chance to work with 10 Aussies and play two games per day," he added. (Rico Biliran / MindaNews)