Southwestern Assemblies of God University alumna Rachel Ray pitched for Sweden's national pro softball team, the Skövde Saints, this past summer.
"It was an amazing experience," Ray says. "There were people from all over the world. It was incredible to bond with players who didn’t even speak the same language as me through the game of softball."
During Ray's last game as a pitcher at SAGU just a year ago, she knew that it wouldn't be her last time on the pitching mound. "I had no clue that I would get to play at a higher level for a national team – let alone for another country. This could only be God!"
This year, Ray was presented with the opportunity after the Saints' American pitcher was injured while still in the United States. In search of a new pitcher, they contacted former SAGU Softball Coach, Sarah Harman, and asked for recommendations. “Coach asked me if she could give them my contact information on Father’s Day. By the end of the month, I had landed in Sweden.”
The Skövde Saints ended up placing 4th overall in the European Cup while also taking home silver in the Sweden Cup. While these wins are a great achievement, Ray explained that the most rewarding part of this opportunity was the friendships she was able to build with her teammates. “Eventually your skill or ability to play fades away with time, but it is the friendships that will stay forever!”
Indeed, skills might not last forever but Ray has put in the practice to earn them. She originally started her softball career at the age of seven and went on to receive many awards before and during her time at SAGU including the distinguished 2018 Softball Game Plan 4 LIFE Character award her senior year.
While Ray's accomplishments on the field are noteworthy, the integration of her faith into all aspects of her life including her athletic career is her most impressive feat. Even in Sweden, she still sought out ways to share her faith with teammates and locals. She believes that her time at SAGU prepared and empowered her to be able to hold open discussions about her faith with nonbelievers even in a foreign environment.
"I wanted my team to see Jesus through me," she says.
“I am so thankful for all my professors who made me feel comfortable and prepared to have those discussions."
Ray pursued a Pre-Professional Degree with plans to eventually work with special-needs children in other countries. “What amazed me is that I was surrounded by people in Sweden that work with special-needs kids," she said.
“This experience has taught me that you never know when God will change your plans.”
Ray is still unsure about where her future lies, but she is confident that God will guide her through.
“I have learned that when there is the unknown-that is where God is working the most. You just have to rely on Him.”