The Sword Project: Blessing Athletes with Personalized Bibles

by Nathan Foster

Carrie Webber, Azusa Pacific University’s head softball coach, was on a mission. She walked onto the field with a stack of thick leatherbound books in her arms, knowing that this moment meant more than any win ever would. These were no ordinary books; in fact, they were copies of the bestselling, most read book of all time. Titled the Sword Project, APU’s Athletics Department gives personalized study Bibles to all incoming athletes.

For Webber, the inspiration for the Sword Project came from former player Becca Jewett ’21. While Jewett was an upper-division student at APU, she went into her own pocket to buy Bibles for the freshmen on the team. “Becca would have dinner with them and present them with a Bible with their name on it,” Webber said. “It was awesome watching the impact that had. It definitely meant a lot to them.” Webber began to notice that many incoming athletes didn’t have Bibles. “I think that one of the best things that we can possibly do for our athletes is to put a Bible in their hands,” she said.

As Webber began to look for the right study Bibles, she encountered a problem—the Bibles weren’t cheap, and the cost added up quickly with the large number of athletes. This problem was solved thanks to a generous donation through a foundation by Jamen Wurm, CPA, MS ’98, a member of APU’s 1998 NAIA national-championship-winning football team. Wurm, a partner at Goehner Accountancy, is a big believer in giving back to the program that helped shape him into who he is today. When APU announced the closure of the football program in 2020, he asked former football coach Bo Beatty ’94 if he had any ideas about where the funds he had donated could go. Beatty told him about the work Webber does and got them in contact. After talking with Webber, Wurm knew he wanted to be a part of the Sword Project. “I’m very excited to know that this is going toward such a great cause,” Wurm said. “It is a blessing to be a part of possibly providing a student-athlete with their first Bible ever.”

The Sword Project’s name comes from a hand-engraved sword on the cover of each Bible, referring to the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Inside the sword, Webber can inscribe up to 12 characters, which athletes choose. Many ask for their names or the Scriptural location of their favorite Bible verse. Webber has received lots of encouraging feedback from the athletes. “One girl had wanted a Bible for years, but cost was always an issue. She was so excited to receive one,” Webber said. “Another girl had an old hand-me-down Bible. She said it was hard for her to open it, for many reasons, but this Bible is her own and has given her the newfound motivation to open it and experience God’s Word.”

APU athletes have a unique opportunity to grow in their faith, according to athletic director Gary Pine ’84, who conducted a survey on their spiritual growth. “While Bible classes and chapel are an integral part of APU’s Christian education, the resounding response from athletes was that they saw the most spiritual growth from meaningful conversations with their teammates and coaches,” Pine said. “The beauty of athletics is that when you’re on a team, you develop a bond that allows for vulnerability. People feel comfortable asking deep questions that they might not feel comfortable asking elsewhere.”

In academic classes, APU faculty find ways to integrate their faith with the subject material. On athletic teams, coaches model a Christian lifestyle and walk alongside their players. “We want to impact our athletes beyond the four years they’re here. Nothing can impact your life greater than the Word of God,” Pine said.

“When our student-athletes walk across that commencement stage, they’re no longer a student and no longer an athlete. We hope to pour into them enough so they know their identity is not in academics or athletics, rather it is in Christ. Now they’ll have their own Bibles, and it’s a book they’ll continue to use long after they graduate.”

Each coach has their own ways they pour into their players—some do Bible studies, others have team movie nights featuring Christian productions such as The Chosen, and others pray with their team before and after practices. All APU coaches are available to talk to their players when deep questions arise. “I had a player call me recently and say, ‘Coach, I know God’s real, and I don’t know much more, but I really want to know. Can you sit down with me and tell me more?’” said Webber. “I told her I absolutely could. I live for those moments. Wins are pretty cool, but the joy from those moments lasts way longer. I don’t always get to be there for that moment when they say yes to their faith and yes to God. But while I might not get to see that moment, I definitely notice how they’ve been transformed at APU. That’s very special.”

Support the Sword Project here (designate your donation to the Sword Project).

Nathan Foster ’20 is the public relations manager in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement.

Originally published in the Spring '23 issue of APU Life. View all issues.