Spring ball has finished and there are no coaches on the sidelines. Speaking tours are winding down, summer camps have ended, and even the Southeastern Conference summer meetings in Destin have passed.
With only seventy-five days until kickoff, it is the calm before the storm.
Most coaches use this time for vacation, passing the days at various resorts in the Caribbean or at summer lake houses on Lake Oconee and Lake Rabun. University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt, however, has a different destination this summer.
Richt, along with his wife, Katharyn, and children, Jonathan, David, Zack, and Anya, travels today to Guaimaca, Honduras, where they will reside for a one-week mission trip. Many fans in the 'Bulldog Nation' and around the country know of Richt's faith, and his desire to follow Christ's final commandment, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19)
"We believe it is important to serve the Lord whether we are here or overseas, but to take a trip away from this country is going to be very important for our children to see how other people live and that everyone does need the Lord," said Richt. "I have wanted to go on a family mission trip for the longest time, but we have always had our summers so busy we just never found the time. Knowing that this was my oldest boy Jon's last summer with us before he goes off to college, I figured this was our last chance."
Todd Unzicker, who has been in Honduras since the summer of 2005, said: "Well, I know for me, a one week trip changed my life totally. You may or may not remember but I came down for a one week trip in June, two years ago, and returned with a calling to quit my job (Rivals.com), sell my home, and move here. I've seen this with others as well over the past couple years that I've been here. Obviously, that is the most dramatic impact. For others, I've seen their attitudes totally change and they usually aren't the same again. For Mark and Katharyn, I think will be a good time for them to get away and simply be themselves without being "Coach Richt and the coach's wife". For other couples, I've seen this as a time of spiritual renewal, a refreshing of marriages, and an overall sense of what is really important in life. There is no reason one or all of these can not happen to them, aside from football, they are just life everyone else.
"For the children, it will give them a real sense of what others in the world live like. Actually, more people in the world live like those here in Honduras than folks in the U.S. Many other missionaries that I talk to while on the field say that it was a trip as a kid that sparked their interest in foreign missions."
Jon Richt (6-2, 185, 4.97) has verbally committed to Clemson, and plans to be learning the Tigers' offensive system during summer workouts a year from now.
The Richt family will be serving with World Baptist Missions, a ministry headquartered in Barnesville, Georgia. The ministry consists of a hospital (Hospital Bautista), a feeding program, a day-care ministry, and several other programs and services.
"We are especially excited to have Mark, Katharyn, and their entire family serving the Lord here with us in Honduras," said World Baptist Missions founder and President Sandy Cheves. "What a blessing it is for the University of Georgia to have a man like Mark who loves the Lord as their head coach."
Richt and his sons will be doing construction work around Hospital Bautista in the morning and having the El Campo de Futbol de Mark Richt in the afternoons--a ministry intended on sharing the Gospel with the men in and around Guaimaca. Katharyn and daughter Anya will be working in the day-care center, ministering to children in the feeding program.
"Guaimaca is a town of about 30,000. Running water and electricity work about half the year to about half the people,"
said Unzicker. "There is one paved road that goes through town but it is probably more bumpy that the dirt ones. Basic necessities are poor at best. The idea for the ministry here is that people will come for miles for food, water, and medical care; once they are here, we can tell them about Jesus."
Richt looks forward to what his family will come away with after a week in Central America, and he adds, "I hope God teaches our family that we are very blessed to be in our country and we are very blessed to have the family that we do have and also how important it is to spread the good news across the globe."
"Time together as a family is extremely important to me because we do get so little of it," added Katharyn. "So I think when we do get it, we try to make the most of it, and not let little things get in the way."
The last trip Georgia's head coach took overseas was to an orphanage in Ukraine, from where they adopted their two youngest children. While not having a lot of experience himself serving overseas, Richt's wife, Katharyn, has served in Jamaica and Haiti.
The Richts, who have been planning this trip for over a year, were praying about whether to go to Honduras or to a country in Africa.
"The main reason we are taking the trip to Honduras is because our church, Prince Avenue Baptist, has been sending teams for some time," said Richt, who will be entering his seventh season as the Bulldogs head coach. "Also, my good friend Todd Unzicker is there and that was instrumental knowing he was there and he would be able to guide us once we got there."
After an up and down 2006 season with the Bulldogs, Richt hopes to be able to share the experiences of the upcoming week with the team throughout the season.
"I would imagine I would share some things with our players from this trip," explained Richt. "Just again, to help them understand how truly blessed we are to be in this country and be able to go to college and be able to have an opportunity in life where a lot of people just don't have that opportunity at all whether it is in this country or out."
While the week promises to be a time of service, revival, and good quality family time, the Bulldog head coach does not intend to bring any preconceived notions or expectations. He will simply follow a formula that has helped him become one of the winningest active head coaches in the country, and states "I am just very open to hear what God has to say."
"I hope God blesses my husband and shows Mark how much He is using him for His Kingdom," said Katharyn. "Sometimes in this crazy profession when things seem to be going all wrong, it's hard to keep from getting tired and discouraged and wondering if what you're doing really matters. So I hope the Lord shows my husband His love for Mark and that Mark's heart for Him is good, true, and just."
Todd Unzicker was a staff writer and later managing editor for UGASports.com from 2003-2005. He currently serves as a missionary with World Baptist Missions in Honduras. For more in formation on how you can help or serve with World Baptist Missions, go to their website: www.wbmonline.org or to support Todd and his ministry, email firstname.lastname@example.org