College gymnasts discover how to have a thriving Bible study

Photos by Ben Walton (Mizzou Athletics)

When Missouri gymnast Katelyn Trevino boarded the bus for an away gymnastic meet in Las Vegas and needed a place to sit, she spotted Becca Johnson seated alone. Both needed a “bus buddy” for the trip. They sat together, and though their conversation was more goofy than serious – Sponge Bob impersonations and laughter – their connection was instant. As weeks passed, they began to connect on a deeper level – their faith.

Over the past two years, Johnson and Trevino have developed a strong friendship, rooted in their faith, that has allowed them to relate their faith to their teammates.

However, their faith journeys and college experiences differed prior to meeting.

Johnson professes a strong Christian upbringing that she carried to Missouri. Her parents raised her in the Christian faith in Pewaukee, Wis. She came to faith around age six, and considered herself a “typical Sunday-school girl.” As she grew older, she decided to make her faith her own, instead of just going through the motions.

Trevino also grew up going to church, but in high school she decided to pursue “the popularity life” – friends, partying, gymnastics and unhealthy relationships. This continued into her sophomore year of college when all of her pursuits caved in on her, and she decided to return to that childhood faith.

“I had just broken up with my boyfriend, I didn’t really have friendships, the party life had come to an end for me,” Trevino says. “I felt like I didn’t have a single person to confide in.”

As the two grew closer as friends, they began to challenge each other to grow spiritually.

“That empty feeling, that aching, Jesus was what filled that. But [Johnson] was the person who encouraged that for me.”

“This is not our Bible study, this is God’s Bible study”

When they were selected as captains of the gymnastics team their junior year, Johnson and Trevino felt they had been given a platform to share their beliefs with teammates in the form of a Bible study.

College gymnasts discover how to have a thriving Bible study (side photo 1)

Because neither girl had ever led a Bible study before, they wondered if they were capable. Initially, doubt prevented them from moving forward.

“If we say the wrong thing, is that going to turn them off [to Christianity]?” Trevino had wondered.

“Immediately, when we started thinking that, we were reminded that this is not [our] Bible study, this is [God’s] Bible study.”

Since last September, their Bible study group has grown in size, and some of the girls have discovered that same fulfillment Trevino and Johnson share.

“We started out with just Katelyn and I [leading], with probably just two or three girls [attending],” Johnson says. “In the past few weeks we’ve had eight or nine girls, which is really cool because it’s not always that big.”

One weekend in particular stands out in their minds.

“There was one Bible study that was seriously amazing,” Trevino says. “There were two girls – one who came to Christ and one who recommitted [her life to Christ]. My roommate also -- it wasn’t at the Bible study -- but she committed her life to Christ, too.”

“That was one of the coolest experiences ever,” Johnson says. “That was also something that Katelyn and I have never done [before], leading people to Christ.”

“We’re able to reach different people on the team”

Their different upbringings and faith journeys help them relate to more girls.

“[We] are a really good balance when it comes to different faith [experiences],” Trevino says.
“We’re able to reach different people on the team.”

Johnson and Trevino describe their relationship in several ways: “joined at the hip,” “sisters in Christ,” “best friends.” One of their favorites is less common.

Alma gemela. It’s Spanish for soulmate,” Trevino says.

“We call each other soulmates because we’re complete opposites,” Trevino says. “I’m an extrovert, she’s an introvert. She’s the ‘to-do list’ kind of girl, and I’m the ‘Hey, let’s go get ice cream in the middle of a Wednesday.’”

Missouri AIA staff member Lisa Buxman has worked alongside the girls in their Bible study, and has noticed the impact.

“I've enjoyed watching [Johnson and Trevino] take what they're learning and turn around and share it with others,” Buxman says. “[They] have hearts for their teammates, and want to make Jesus known.”

“I’m a Christian who is also a gymnast, not a gymnast who happens to be a Christian”

Johnson and Trevino have also faced adversity together. In 2013, both experienced season-ending injuries. Trevino ruptured her Achilles tendon and later, her meniscus. Johnson tore her ACL and fractured her tibia, two days before the season-opener against Alabama.

College gymnasts discover how to have a thriving Bible study (side photo 2)

Johnson had never been seriously injured in gymnastics before.

“I had no idea how to deal with something like that,” she said. “I was really distraught by that whole experience, [but God] can knit us back together and make us stronger. I’m definitely stronger in my faith and a stronger gymnast as well. [God’s] plans are so much greater than our own.”

Trevino’s injury left lingering effects physically and emotionally. The rupture hindered her from regaining full speed and strength, weakening her vault abilities.

“Coming back and not being able to run as fast and jump as high . . . that was kind of like an identity crisis for me,” Trevino says. “That was the first time I really realized I’m a Christian who is also a gymnast, not a gymnast who happens to be a Christian,” Trevino says.

Trevino says this was the first time she saw a greater value in herself than her gymnastics abilities.

She cites Missouri’s Athletes in Action team as a great source of encouragement as she healed. “Those times of adversity are actually what brought me closer to the AIA staff,” Trevino says. “That’s what brought me to Bible study with [Buxman].”

Johnson and Trevino continue to impact each other and those around them. They have a new perspective on their plans and their purpose as gymnasts.

“We’re not just meant to be on this team to do gymnastics,” Trevino says. “We’re meant to be on this team to touch lives and help people.”