At John Brown University, the Rugby club makes it their primary goal to make the words “Jesus” and “Rugby” practically synonymous.
The team, comprising over 20 male JBU students of all ages, learned how to demonstrate Christ through a rather violent game, according to rugger David Zamora.
“We’re honoring Christ and showing Him to other people by our actions, our attitudes and the way we respond to conflict,” Zamora, who plays hooker, said. “That’s what makes us different. The way that we see it as a ministry and as a way to glorify God and how it’s not about ourselves. We see rugby as a way to show Christ to other people.”
On and off the field, the rugby players try to exemplify the JBU principle of “head, heart and hand” by showing others Christ-like love through both action and example. Junior Marcus Ciccarello said the team works hard to exemplify what JBU stands for, particularly in fellowship with the opposing team.
“A big part of the rugby culture is drinking and partying afterwards,” Ciccarello said. “Any time some teams come, we’ll try to hang out with them and get some pizza or something afterward.” We won’t have any drinking. Even if we do go out with the other teams, there’s always a local bar that we’ll go to and get some water, enjoy some pizza and stuff like that. That’s about it.”
According to Zamora and senior Stephen Gilmour, immediately following a game, the JBU rugby club always circles up with their opponents, prays for them and sings the Doxology.
“We pray for their travels and for their other games,” Zamora said. “Sometimes you even get to share the Gospel. It’s just a great opportunity that we have here.”
On the backs of each player’s jersey, there are the words “Christ Over All” — something that has been noted by many opposing teams.
“We hear it talked about a lot — the other teams notice it, we talk about it when other guys get heated up on the field,” Gilmour said. “It’s basically the big thing that we talk about. When we’re playing, when we’re practicing, that’s basically the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
This mantra carries over from rugby to every aspect of the team’s life. Ciccarello said every semester includes at least one community service project performed by the team.
“My freshman year, we helped out a lady who needed help with her yardwork,” he said. “We all jogged to her house, which was about two miles away, worked for an hour or two and then jogged back to campus… It’s a great way to show Christ’s love and a great opportunity for the team just to bond and kind of grow together.”
Senior Karl Anderson, who plays both flank and lock, explained that while other colleges get the team aspect down, at the end of the day the difference between them and JBU is the standard to which they are called to as players. He said that the “Christ over All” theme even allows them to appreciate their team even more.
“Rugby is… a very team-oriented sport,” Anderson said. “As well as relying on your brother and knowing that he’s going to be there to support you and work together to complete the common goal, you also have the reputation of your school as a Christian to uphold and minister to the other teams and make an example of … you have a common purpose in life, so you form a stronger bond than at other schools.”
The team currently has two more games — both friendly matches — left in the season. No matter the outcome of those games the team expects to exemplify Christlikeness, both on and off the field.