Former basketball player Leah Church shared how she shunned her dream of becoming a part of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Women's Basketball team in exchange for living a life by her Christian faith.
In an article posted by The Gospel Coalition, Church decided to call it quits when she felt "expectations for her to participate in a party lifestyle" and "condoning things that didn't line with her biblical beliefs."
"It was everything I'd ever dreamed of," she recalled. She recounted the first time she walked onto Carmichael Arena, where the UNC women's team plays and the court where Michael Jordan played during his time at the school.
She was homeschooled and gained her experience of playing basketball in Forest Train Academy as she played for the Tar Heels from the 2017-2018 season through the 2019-2020 season. Then she was given a chance to play for UNC for a guard position.
According to The Christian Post, things had become difficult for Church after her Christian coach Sylvia Hatchell resigned after 33 seasons at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2019.
"I choose not to drink, and I'm choosing to save myself for marriage. I said no to a lot of things, which made team bonding challenging," she said.
After the appointment of new coaches, she said the other Christian girl on the team quit. "It was super lonely. I felt like sometimes I was singled out for my beliefs, which led to degradation," she recalled.
Church decided to quit after the new coach compelled the team to support causes that were against her biblical principles.
"I decided, in light of eternity, that basketball wasn't worth it," she said, without any regret. "I talked to my mom and dad, and we prayed and looked at every option. Ultimately, we all felt the peace that it was God's time for me to leave."
Her mom encouraged her saying, "Light and darkness don't mix. It's not you they dislike, but Christ in you."
In a Facebook post, evangelist Franklin Graham likened Church to Daniel in the Bible. "I like people who've got guts for Jesus, people who will stand boldly like Daniel. Leah Church is one of those people," he posted.
Though it was a difficult decision, Church was able to handle the disappointment. According to her, she found reassurance in James 1:12, which reads: "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him."
Church currently works as an assistant coach for her local high basketball team. "Life is not supposed to be easy for Christians," she said. "For me, it helped to think about eternity. And through this, I've had the opportunity to share my faith at churches and with teams. I've been able to use this to encourage others to stand firm because, in the end, that's what matters."