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Allegheny East Gymnast Witnesses by Honoring the Sabbath
Story by LaTasha Hewitt
Reyna Patterson, a member of Allegheny East Conference’s Pine Forge (Pa.) church, performs a gymnastics routine.
Since the age of six, gymnastics has been a part of 14-year-old Reyna Patterson’s life. As with any Seventh-day Adventist Christian athlete, Patterson, who is a member of Allegheny East Conference’s Pine Forge (Pa.) church, has had to face the challenge of her gym practices and meets being scheduled during Sabbath hours. Some gyms were totally unsympathetic to any religious convictions and others allowed her to participate, but did not allow her advance to the next level.
After some time, Patterson’s mother suggested she just try tumbling for fun, without a thought of competing. Patterson agreed that was a good idea. After some time of recreational tumbling, one of the coaches at the gym approached her about joining their team gymnastics program. She was eager to do so, but she was nervous about addressing the Sabbath issue with her coaches. Based on her previous experience, she knew some practices and meets would spill over into Sabbath hours.
However, she was pleasantly surprised. Not only were the coaches supportive, they were also accommodating. They worked with her practice times to avoid Sabbath conflicts, and one coach went so far as to conduct their own research on Seventh-day Adventism.
Patterson’s first year of competing was relatively seamless and her team placed first several times in local competitions. In 2011, her team was doing so well that they qualified to compete nationally. Patterson was anxious to travel to California for the meet but then she discovered her team was scheduled to compete at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. She was unable to compete, and her team did not place.
Patterson’s coach was so disappointed for her that she vowed that in the future, she would do what she could to make sure their meet was not held during Sabbath.
And that she did. In the fall of 2012, Patterson’s team traveled to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to compete in the nationals. This time, Patterson’s team meet was scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday morning. Her team placed third.
Patterson’s resolve to honor the Sabbath over her beloved hobby has allowed her to minister to her friends. “Because I stuck to my beliefs, I have been asked several times about my religion, and I can witness for Jesus,” she says.
This year, Patterson’s team will be competing in Los Angeles, and once again, she will be able to compete. “I found out at a very early age, if you stand up for what you believe and become a living witness, God will open doors,” Patterson says.
Reyna Patterson, who is pictured with her teammates and coach, says by keeping the Sabbath she has been able to witness to others.
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