Indiana Wesleyan University’s athletic program has taken on an unprecedented task this summer as close to 200 athletes, coaches, and support staff travel to New Zealand for a massive 8-day mission trip in the city of Auckland.

The teams left on July 28 and return on August 6.

“This is a bold undertaking by our students and staff,” said Executive Vice President Dr. Keith Newman, who will accompany the Wildcats on their trip. “Athletic Director Mark DeMichael and his staff have assembled a remarkable group of young men and women to represent IWU through athletics. I know they will be excellent ambassadors for Christ during their journey down under.”

Though New Zealand is historically Christian, the number of devout believers has dropped in recent years, according to Bible Society New Zealand. Around 46 percent of New Zealanders profess Christianity, 15 percent attend church weekly, and around 10 percent read the Bible on a daily basis. The figures are even smaller among Kiwi youth: only 14 percent of New Zealanders between the ages of 15 and 22 profess Christianity.

The “New Zealand Sports Blitz” began on Tuesday as the athletic teams arrived in New Zealand to a welcome from Auckland Mayor Len Brown, followed by a downtown sports demonstration. The team will spend the next few days doing sports clinics in schools, competing with club and national teams, and visiting churches, after-school programs, and youth group meetings. They will participate in a citywide sports ministry event on Saturday and a youth rally for the entire nation of New Zealand on Sunday.

The Wildcats return home on Tuesday, August 6. To follow their progress during the Auckland adventure, click here.