Student athlete lives faith on and off the court
By Kara Witherow, Editor
If you look closely at Madie Bunge’s wrist you’ll likely see “P4:13.”
A reminder that she can do all things through Christ, who strengthens her, Bunge, a senior defensive specialist on the College of Coastal Georgia’s Mariners volleyball team, writes the verse on the inside of her wrist before each volleyball game.
It’s just one of the ways Bunge lives out her faith when she’s on the volleyball court.
She also prays for her teammates; invites them to worship services; and brings a positive, encouraging spirit to the team.
But she doesn’t leave her faith at the gym. Bunge lives out her faith off the court, too, leading Bible studies, organizing events for foster children, and worshiping in her local United Methodist congregation.
“She makes Jesus not just an aspect of her life, but He is in her life fully,” said Jacy Lassiter, Director of the College of Coastal Georgia’s Wesley Foundation.
A native Texan, Bunge left everyone and everything she knew to attend college and play volleyball 1,100 miles from home. It was through this separation, though, that her faith deepened and grew.
“I really felt God calling me away from Texas, which was the complete opposite of what I wanted to do,” she said. “I really started getting close to God and my relationship (with Him) grew a lot.”
Raised in church, she was baptized while attending youth camp at South Padre Island, Texas, but Bunge felt that, for her faith to mature, she had to leave her comfort zone.
“My comfort was my home, my friends, my family, and my two horses,” she said. “Everything I had known was separated from me, so I think that sparked things. God was the only constant thing at that point. That’s when my faith really grew.”
Bunge began attending The Landing, the Wesley Foundation’s weekly gathering and worship service, after a friend invited her. Last semester she joined the ministry’s leadership team and this semester was the first student to lead Bible study during the team’s weekly discipleship group meeting.
“When the opportunity arises to lead, she takes them without hesitation,” Lassiter said. “I’m really proud of how she’s balanced our leadership team as well as being a leader on the volleyball team. She’s really an incredible leader.”
Her teammates look up to her, too, and selected her as volleyball team captain. As captain, she advocates for her teammates, is a voice of encouragement and inspiration, and sets an example for others to follow.
“Madie has always lived her life very faithfully,” said Leah Mihm, head coach of the College of Coastal Georgia’s women’s volleyball team, who noted that Bunge also started a Bible study on campus and is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “Madie leads by example and is always the hardest working athlete in the gym. As I said to her on senior day, she is a quality person, and that is shown through her faith and commitment to excellence, but also through her kind and generous heart.”
Now that her volleyball season has ended, Bunge, who has played since the sixth grade, faces another tough separation. She’s had a whirlwind of emotions lately, she says, but remembers the verse on her wrist.
In August she will begin serving a nine-month internship with the Coastal Georgia’s Wesley Foundation. Even though she misses Texas and her family and friends, she looks forward to how God will use her and grow her.
“I’m excited to see what God is going to do and how He’s going to use me,” she said. “I’m waiting to see where the Lord takes me, because every time I have something planned it changes, so I’m waiting to see where He wants me, where He leads me.”
Lassiter is thankful that the Wesley Foundation gives students like Bunge the opportunity and safe space to ask questions, find their identity in Christ, and challenge themselves as leaders.
“We have a really sweet spot to impact this generation that will be leading our churches, to help them find out that it is Jesus who will satisfy them,” she said. “Madie is an awesome example of that, someone who is in the world – in the volleyball and sports world – but not of the world. She’s truly shining Jesus in that and also seeing the world as bigger than just herself and volleyball and how she can use where she is to shine God’s light.”
If you have a story of how God is using your local congregation to transform the community, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The South Georgia Conference Communications team wants to tell your story.