Teal Bunbury’s Servant Heart
never miss a play
Get weekly articles on sport culture, relationships, and identity.
In the year 55 A.D., Paul penned a letter to the Romans in which he wrote: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 ESV).
In this passage, we see two key players to the gospel message: the speaker and the sender. The passage concludes, “As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Now nearly 2,000 year later, pro soccer player and Nashville SC’s newest forward Teal Bunbury has taken these words quite literally. The 12-year MLS veteran and former New England Revolution standout is using the sport of soccer to reach, encourage and bless those within his own community.
But this initiative did not come about automatically.
“[Athletes in Action staff member] Walt Day was the opening door [to me getting involved in outreach], ” Teal said. “He opened my eyes to [the fact that] now that I am in this position, I have a platform, I have eyes on me, now is a good opportunity to share that light by going and either talking to a group of kids, going into inner city communities and kicking the ball around with some of these kids, kind of just being an example … they can see how your life is, and they realize why you are there and what you’re doing.
“I remember in particular just going down to a church in Newport and I was able to have a Q and A with Walt, and I realized I enjoy being able to share my testimony and also hang out with some of these families and kids.”
Teal and Walt serve as a beautiful example of God using speaker and sender to work in tandem for His greater glory and the revelation of His truth to the world.
Through their continued weekly meetings over the past seven years, Teal has been encouraged and really grown a heart for community service, starting a number of outreaches to reach the underprivileged and low income communities of the New England area.
The first of these is called “Teal’s Team,” an initiative which brings children from underprivileged communities to stadium games to watch the Revs play, after which Teal meets with the kids and talks to them about life and faith.
They have also started “Teal’s Turkey Club,” which raises money to provide Thanksgiving meals for those in low income communities in New England, as well as “Back to School with the Revs” in which Teal raises funds for school supplies for children and accompanies them and their parents in shopping for supplies.
In partnership with Providence Rescue Mission, Teal and the Revs were able to raise nearly $23,000 and provide food for over 550 families during the Thanksgiving holiday this year.
In my locker room, I try to be an example.
Teal’s faith, however, does not only impact his outreach; it also affects how he operates as a member of the team. Years ago, he began a Bible study on the team, which meets together and joins him in all his outreach initiatives.
Says Teal, “In my locker room, I try to be an example. Locker rooms can be tricky places … [but] being able to say no to things, having that freedom in Christ, has been so instrumental to the way I’m able to carry myself … people see how [I and the members of my Bible study] carry ourselves and respect one another, and I think it reflects well both on us and on the organization.”
“People see the love of Christ coming through him, they feel that, and they respond to it. … [They see] something different about him that is very attractive, and that pulls them in,” Walt says of Teal.
And while his orientation toward service is having an incredible impact upon his community, it also is profoundly shaping Teal’s life.
“We took the time [to do outreaches] because we just wanted to share God’s love with others. And I think that one of the biggest things that I’ve learned [while] doing these outreaches [is that] I get more enjoyment out of it,” Teal said.
“It ends up being something that I’m being fulfilled with – sharing God’s love and doing these outreaches and seeing the joy it brings others ends up making it more impactful to me.”
Supporting Athletes in Action isn’t simply supporting an organization. It is supporting stories such as Teal’s, stories of AIA staff members partnering with athletes to equip and inspire them to use their sport to make a difference in the lives of others and to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But no one has to be a pro athlete to make a change. Service, at any level, is impactful, influential and initiates change. Seek to serve your communities with your time, through your generosity, and be a light for Christ.