Two-time NCAA national track and field champion and five-time All American in the 800m, Emmanuel “Eman” Bofa, is now using his athletic experience to mentor student athletes in his new role as a ministry intern at Whitworth.
Bofa returned to Whitworth this fall after graduating with a speech communications major and theology minor last May.
Bofa had planned on running for the Oregon Track Club after graduation, but Terry McGonigal, Dean of Spiritual Life, called Bofa during finals week of his senior year and asked him to apply for the internship.
“Who could be better for helping us with the campus athlete ministry?” McGonigal said.
Whitworth hires two interns at a time for a two year period and designs the internship so the interns live on campus and interact with the students.
Bofa lives in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes theme house with students and hosts a Bible study and dinner for athletes every week.
He enjoys living with the guys he ran with and the fellowship that comes from studying the Bible and engaging in issues athletes face, Bofa said.
The Student Athlete Ministry Effort (S.A.M.E.) is a part of Bofa’s internship. He gets to interact with people from other sports teams he never knew as a track and field athlete.
The experience is an open door to engage the great opportunity it is to be a Whitworth student athlete and encourage each other, Bofa said.
Bofa is also an advocate for multicultural programs, an extension of his Act Six participation during the four years he was in school. As an undergraduate he helped high school students of color work through tough issues and connected them with college mentors.
Bofa has a big heart for youth and experience in leadership as the track and field captain, making him a good fit for his ministry intern role.
“When he speaks about his relationship with Christ, people will listen because he has done what every student athlete at Whitworth wants to do,” McGonigal said. “He’s the living model of what every gifted athlete can do.”
Bofa feels God was already preparing him for this role while he was still in school. Bofa was encouraging his teammates as their peer, but now as a mentor he can be their voice of encouragement without having to worry about himself too.
“If you have experience doing it, you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, Bofa said. “You’re able to identify a need.”
Bofa learned from his communications major; if people can’t identify with you they don’t trust you. God has humbled him enough to see his own struggles and stubbornness so he is now free to speak the truth to others, Bofa said.
Bofa’s favorite part of the internship is it allows him to be right in the midst of the spiritual growth and see that God is doing his work. It’s dynamic and continues to grow and give him freedom.
His goal in doing the ministry is for the internship to sustain itself after he’s gone.
“I don’t feel like this internship is about me. It’s about the life it has in itself,” Bofa said. “If I do it the right way, God will take it where He wants.”
Bofa is not only doing ministry work right now, he is still an athlete. He has eligibility left to allow him to compete with the track and field team until the end of March.
Bofa recently competed in the FloTrack Husky Classic in Seattle on the weekend of Feb. 11 and now holds the current best time in the country for the 800m race.
The upcoming indoor nationals in March will be Bofa’s fourth and final trip to the championships. He hopes this year’s competition doesn’t turn out the way last year’s did. Bofa missed his chance to win the finals when someone pushed him a few steps before the finish line.
“God blessed me with another opportunity to get that race back and this time I guarantee no one will be close enough to touch me before I cross the finish line and bring it home to Whitworth,” Bofa said.
After March Bofa plans to continue to train and run freelance in invitationals. He also wants to pursue something in the future that will integrate youth, ministry and athletics.
“If God opens another door, I’ll walk through it like I walked through this one,” Bofa said.
Story by Jo Miller