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Sports and Spiritual Formation

César Rodríguez M.A. ’23

Words: Carolyn Waldee ’18
Photos: Courtesy of HoneyRock Center for Leadership Development

Wheaton College IL Portrait of Cesar Rodriguez at HoneyRock Center

César Rodríguez M.A. ’23

For César Rodríguez M.A. ’23, sports and spiritual formation have always gone hand in hand. In 1997, a U.S. missions team came to his home country of Costa Rica and shared a game of volleyball that would change his life.

“Growing up Catholic, but not practicing, I kind of believed in God, but I didn’t have a relationship, or strong belief,” Rodríguez said. “But after the game the volleyball coach started sharing about a God who has a purpose in your life.” Afterward, Rodríguez connected with another missionary, a basketball coach, who mentored him and met with him weekly to read and discuss the Bible. He finished his undergraduate program with a degree in physical education and a passion for sharing the love of Christ through sports ministry.

Now, over two decades later, Rodríguez is about to earn his M.A. in Outdoor and Adventure Leadership (OAL). He began his studies with a lot of ministry experience under his belt—he’s spent 14 years discipling young athletes across Costa Rica and Panama, including time at SportQuest Ministries, Inc. where he most recently worked as the Latin America Coordinator. Rodríguez made the big move from Panama to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to begin his studies along with his wife, Irela, and their two kids, Matías and Lucía.

Even though Rodríguez is in a very different season of life than the typical graduate student, he expressed gratitude for the way the OAL program has equipped him for the next steps in his ministry. As his final creative project, he’s designing a curriculum for fathers, using sports and adventure to train men in biblical leadership and encourage strong father-son relationships. He hopes to implement this program when he returns to SportQuest later this year in a global leadership position that will allow him to continue working in Latin America but also with new ministry partners in Europe, Africa, and the United States.

His continued focus will be reaching communities through a shared love of sports. “Most of the time, churches think that sports are for recreation or for competition,” said Rodríguez. “But I say no. They are a way that you can connect with people, a way that you can go  reach your community and share the love of Christ.”