Alexis Davis Chooses La Sierra University Over UNC, Howard, to Honor Sabbath Commitment

For most ambitious basketball-playing high school seniors, scholarship offers from top-tier universities would be a dream come true.

But for Alexis Davis, the golden opportunities with Princeton and Rider universities in New Jersey, the University of North Carolina, Howard University in Washington D.C. and others had one major drawback – their basketball teams played games on the Sabbath which she and her family had faithfully observed all of her life. Davis declined the offers.

Davis is now a freshman business management major and legal studies minor at La Sierra University as well as a member of the Golden Eagles women’s basketball team. A high-achieving high school graduate with a 3.8 grade point average, Davis has received sports and leadership scholarships and is the recipient of La Sierra’s $15,000 Presidential Scholar award.

At 6’3”, the 18-year-old serves as a valuable center forward for the Golden Eagles. La Sierra University is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and its teams participate in the California Pacific Conference. On the court, Davis loves to drive to the basket, her skill at dribbling evident as she controls the ball like it is a part of her. Her talents helped the team gain the advantage in a Jan. 17 conference opener against long-time rival Pacific Union College during which Davis scored 11 points.

“It’s nice to be at a place where basketball is a ministry. Sometimes you’re the only Bible they [non-Christian competing teams] will ever see. When you’re kind and respectful is shows a lot,” she said.

Brianne Carroll, new head coach of the women’s basketball team, said student-athletes have a unique opportunity to extend La Sierra’s strong spiritual emphasis to others. “It’s important that others see Christ through our team, whether it be in the way we react to a bad call on the court, or winning or losing with grace,” she said. “I want spectators to come up to us after a game and say, ‘your school seems different in a positive way, what’s La Sierra University all about?’ That opens the door to discussing our beliefs and I believe it’s a great way to witness.”

Regular church attendance was important to Davis’ parents, William and Paula Davis as they raised Davis and her brother, Justin. The family drove an hour to Capitol Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington D.C. every Saturday morning from their home in Stafford, Va. “My family always wanted me to be involved in Sabbath School, church choir and plays,” said Davis.

Davis’ values, work ethic and faith are also rooted in her upbringing. “My dad played a huge role in my development as a player by encouraging me to glorify God through playing, and spent almost all the free time he had helping me improve my game,” she said.

Davis played basketball in the Amateur Athletic Union in her area from the age of 13. Her coach was familiar with Adventist beliefs through an Adventist friend, and tried to accommodate Davis. “My teammates were also very understanding of my beliefs and always asked me questions about Adventism,” she said. “I felt like God placed me on that team so that I could witness to them and show them the type of Savior he truly is.”

The AAU is comprised of top players from schools in the region. The organization attracts the attention of university basketball recruiters and coaches who fill courtside seats during games to identify and evaluate potential recruits. The universities that offered Davis scholarships first attended games for about two years to watch her play. “If they like what they see, they contact the coach, then the university sends letters or makes phone calls [to the players],” Davis said.

A couple of the universities that were interested in recruiting Davis agreed to accommodate her Sabbath beliefs. But such an arrangement might have caused tension among her teammates. “ I had no doubt that there would be plenty of peer pressure from my potential teammates, classmates, and coaching staff to play on the Sabbath if they needed me,” she said. “If I chose to go to those schools, I wouldn't want to let my team down by not playing, and I wouldn't want to slip into any habits of playing on the Sabbath after spending my entire life observing it.”

“It was kind of discouraging. I felt like [basketball] was something I should be doing in college,” said Davis.

She next researched Seventh-day Adventist higher education institutions and discovered La Sierra University’s comparatively strong athletics program. She enrolled last fall and aims to attend law school after completing a bachelor’s degree.

For Davis, remaining faithful to her beliefs brings rewards that exceed immediate opportunities and desires. “When you have that type of relationship with God, you realize He’s not taking things away from you, but allowing you to receive blessings when you listen to him,” said Davis.

“I’m extremely happy with my decision to play for La Sierra, and if I had to go back and do it all over again, I would make the same decision every time. I’ve already found a family through this basketball team and made memories here that will last a lifetime.”

Photo Credit: Natan Vigna / La Sierra University.

Darla Martin Tucker is Director of Public Relations for La Sierra University in Riverside, California. This story first appeared on the La Sierra University Website, and is reprinted here by permission.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7332
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I respect people’s right to choose how to practice their faith. But would she have even been noticed by the church had she accepted a Princeton scholarship for her unusual athletic ability? What does that say to the few students that are accepted by such top-rate universities? Could she not have witnessed with her work ethic and faith that are essential Christian virtues? Making Sabbath the sine qua non of religious beliefs gives the impression (true or false) that Sabbath observance is the most important doctrine of one’s faith, just as it was for the Jews when strict observance was required.

A brilliant nephew was accepted for full, 4-year doctoral scholarship at Princeton in physics, where he excelled after skipping several years in SdA academy and before graduating from the U.of Washington. Excellence should be recognized.

When one’s Christian faith depends on correct behavior on one point, the emphasis is clear to worldly observers: the Sabbath is first and foremost above all other Christian beliefs.

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Way to go, Alexis! If you happen to read this, know that there are many who admire you for following your conscience.

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Yep 6 likes = 7 clues

Did the American Jewish University in Los Angeles feature in the choice? What about closer to home at Baltimore Hebrew University? Or Yeshiva University? What a splendid chance to worship with those of the Jewish faith and talk of Christ and live the Christian witness at the same time.
Was her choice based on any paramount Christian values such as Christ-focused teachers, classes that honoured Christ, opportunities to make life-long Christian friendships and join a Christ-centered worship community?
Did Christ feature at all in the options or was it simply about Saturdays?

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“If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

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Although I love the Sabbath, I have to be honest with Scriptural language.

“You have six days each week for your ordinary work… On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.” Ex 20 NLT

Does the 4th Commandment turn a blind eye to slavery? It seems so, in that it does not forbid or condemn human trafficking. Although it was good for slaves, giving them a day off.

The Sabbath is broken when a spouse or living relative staying with a believer does “any work.” It seems they must be constrained, difficult when there is religious division. Does this restriction extent to all business or properties one has partial ownership?

The Sabbath vision was agrarian in nature where “livestock” consisted in horses, cows and sheep and goats were used to food, clothes and selling.

The commandment says “Remember.” It does not say, “Thou shalt not.” It is the spirit, the symbolic idea of Sabbath time, not the letter that counts today. Is this not how the majority of Sabbath keepers keep it? I can think of hundreds of examples where SDA’s are required to do occasional Sabbath work to keep their employment.

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Herbert Blomstedt the SDA conductor had an interesting way of handling it…he wouldn’t practice on Sabbath but would play/conduct.

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You have my deep admiration and enthusiastic support Alexis! Jesus declared Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath and any genuine understanding of it, something you obviously have that enables you to honor its sanctity at no small personal cost, begins with recognition that the holiness of the day is grounded in Him. Holiness in Scripture is a quality imparted by divine presence. What makes the Sabbath holy then is the presence of the Lord of the Sabbath in its hours. Even the fourth commandment in both of its versions does not call for Sabbath observance as an act of obedience. God does not say, “keep the Sabbath because I say so.”

One is called to observe the Sabbath because it is holy, not because God commands observance. Sabbath observance is first and finally recognition of the fact of its holiness and only secondarily and penultimately obedience. The Sabbath is a gift of God’s own self to us within the limits of our time. It is holy quite apart from anything we do or think about it. While I have no doubt that our denominational teaching and practice desperately needs better theology regarding the Sabbath, it is nothing less than thrilling to hear of your choice to accept this gift of God. Great blessing is yours as you have chosen to accept His invitation to come to Him and find rest for your soul.

I can’t speak to this young woman’s particular experience, environment, collegiate goals, family situation, etc., etc., etc. Where you go to college is a very personal decision.

That said, if I’d applied to, and gotten accepted at, Princeton University, plus a four-year scholarship, there ain’t an Adventist college or university that could tell me nothin’.

Not clear on this.

That is, had I children, I’d want them to go to church, too. But somebody’s gotta tell me: If you’ve lived a good example on these matters on front of your children, from birth through high school, do your children typically stray in college?

Well, suppose they hold on to it through college. Might they waver in grad school? So, should they go to an Adventist one? Or when they get their first post-grad position, with its inevitably heavy demands? Maybe they should go to an Adventist one, too. Or, how about their first job? Maybe they should get one at an Adventist site. In other words, at what point do you say, “Let them go”?

Put another way, this young lady says, “I wouldn’t want to slip into any habits of playing on the Sabbath after spending my entire life observing it.” If that’s an actual, real risk, then, wow: She should definitely be at an SDA college/university, because she may need some more hand-holding.

Again, I don’t have children, and it’s a decision to be made by a family, and especially by the prospective student.

But it seems at some point, one should say, “Going to a non-SDA college/university will teach them what the world is like, and will enable them to sharpen—as steel against steel—what we’ve been teaching them all the years.”

I’m just wondering at what point that becomes—not just a good, but—a necessary idea.

HA

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