For 10 days this July, Hannibal-LaGrange University athletic trainer Cherise Endres was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Athletes in Action.

Cherise Endres ventured to a foreign country surrounded by people she was still getting to know.

The Hannibal-LaGrange University athletic trainer was right where she wanted to be. For 10 days this July, Endres was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with Athletes in Action.

The sports ministry organization took teams to compete in the first annual FISU (International University Sports Federation) America Games, which pitted 20 countries against each other in an Olympic-like atmosphere for collegiate student-athletes. 

Countries represented included Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile and Canada.

Endres served as trainer for the United States women's volleyball team, which won a bronze medal.

“This was a great opportunity to go abroad for ministry and come back to use my job to keep doing more of the same for the athletes here in Hannibal,” she said. 

Endres' time with AIA has also brought her to France for women's soccer and Israel for volleyball in years past.

She completed a year-long internship with the organization at its headquarters in Ohio before accepting a job at HLGU, where she has worked the past four years.

The trainer serves as an affiliate trainer for AIA in the summer, when she has two months off from the university. 

“I commit every year to be able to go as a trainer wherever needed,” Endres explained. “I'm willing to fit in whenever my schedule allows.”

Her responsibilities at the FISU Games were similar to what she does for teams at HLGU.

Endres was present for every United States volleyball match and practice, providing medical assistance and helping athletes stay in optimal condition. 

She also assisted with the AIA men's and women's basketball teams, which swept gold.

AIA sponsored 70 athletes and four teams for the Games.

The athletes, coaches and trainers gathered for the first time July 14 in Ohio for an intensive five-day training camp. That's when Endres met all of them for the first time, including fellow trainers from universities in Ohio, Texas and Florida.

Once in Brazil, the AIA teams focused on more than just competing against high-level talent. 

The squads built relationships with participating athletes from around the Americas as they stayed in the same hotel.

The organization hosted chapel services, inviting participants from every country there. AIA facilitated “Little Cafes” in which athletes would discuss the intersection of faith and sports.

The AIA student-athletes also volunteered for several service projects, which included visiting a juvenile center, running an eye care clinic and taking part in an outreach called “Samaritan's Feet.” 

“We went into the slums of the city, washed people's feet and gave them new socks and shoes,” Endres said. 

Endres said the AIA teams also had a unique opportunity to share their Christian faith after each game.

“After we played each team, we asked the players and coaches if we could pray with them with a translator,” Endres said. “No team refused us.”

Endres formed strong bonds with athletes from different countries in addition to the USA women's volleyball team. 

“It was great to get to know the girls on a deeper level, not just volleyball,” she said.