Bisons tennis team members travel to Mississippi for project
Friday, December 1, 2006

Dec. 1, 2006

Lipscomb tennis coach Lynn Griffith and members of his tennis team spent time earlier this month in Pascagoula, Miss., helping to rebuild part of the area damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

This was the fifth trip to the area for Griffith and his players. Eight members of the team were part of this trip.

This article, reprinted by permission, was published in the Mississippi Press. It was written Nov. 6, 2006 by Veto F. Roley of the Mississippi Press.

PASCAGOULA -- The NCAA Division I David Lipscomb tennis team made another trip Saturday to help in the rebuilding of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pascagoula.

Coach Lynn Griffith said this is his fifth trip to Pascagoula, with his first coming just after Hurricane Katrina struck. On this trip, he brought eight of his players, who helped repair damage to Pascagoula's Central Church of Christ and helped finish cleaning up a residence on Polk Street so it could be re-occupied.

"David Lipscomb is a Christian school," said Griffith. "And, one of the things that Christ came to do was to serve and not be served."

Griffith said he has taken trips to Haiti in order to help the poor. But, taking his team to Haiti was not a good option, he said. However, Pascagoula, following Katrina, offered him a chance to take his team to a place close to Nashville that needed help.

"What better way to serve is there than to serve," he said.

"I feel God is doing His work through us," said Andy Mizell, who is making his first trip to Pascagoula due to shoulder surgery that has kept him from making previous trips. "I felt like this was the right thing to do."

David Kilbern, elder at Central Church of Christ, said that rebuilding in Pascagoula could not be done without volunteers such as Griffith and the Bison tennis team.

"We've had about 3,000 volunteers come through the church," said Kilbern, who said Central has booked volunteers into Pascagoula through August, 2007.

And, while he said it was hard to put a figure on the monetary value of their work, Kilbern said volunteers that have come through Central have contributed about $10 million to the community and economy.

Kilbern said there is more work left to be done.

"As a church, we have adopted the 15 blocks around us, which is one of the poorest areas of town," said Kilbern, who said he has personally interviewed and counseled over 2,000 people since Katrina struck.

After Katrina, Kilbern said that Central put off repairing their building and concentrated on repairing the homes around the church. However, he said that the Central was starting to work on the damage done to its facilities by Katrina.

"For some of the older members of the church, we need to do the work," he said. "We need to start getting our church family back together."

Still, said Kilbern, Central will be changed by Katrina.

"We are not going to ever look the same," he said.

Griffith said he liked bringing his players to Pascagoula to work. For one, it gives him a chance to interact with his team on a level other than coach or professor -- as Griffith also teaches kinesiology at David Lipscomb.

"They get to see me in a different light, off the tennis court and outside the classroom," said Griffith. "And, that's good."

The trip down also allows his team to develop chemistry with each other. "They get to work physically together," he said. "They get to see what hard work will do."

But, more importantly, said Griffith, coming to Pascagoula gets his team out of their comfort zone.

"We are a private school," he said. "Many of my players come from more affluent families. But, here they have to take a shower after another group in cold water."

Mucking buildings, hanging dry wall, sanding a ceiling and other chores involved in the disaster cleanup forced his players to get outside of their comforts Griffith said. "And, that is good."

And, Griffith gets to spend time with his team without running the risk of violating NCAA rules. "The NCAA encourages teams to get involved in community activities," he said. "The NCAA wants schools to do things like this."

By spending time with his players away from the court, Griffith said he was able to teach them some more important things than tennis. "While I am trying to improve them as a tennis player," he said, "I am also trying to improve them in the game of life."

Reporter Veto F. Roley can be reached at vroley@themississippipress or (228) 934-1427.