Racquetball champ, 78, found gospel through sport

Christine Stephens, 78, loves racquetball.

It helps her control her diabetes, it keeps her feeling young — and it led her to the gospel.

Sister Stephens, a lifelong resident of East Texas, is not your average racquetball player. She returned from the National Senior Olympics in Orlando, Fla., with a gold medal recognizing her as the national racquetball champion in her age division.

Sister Stephens began playing racquetball about 10 years ago after her doctor diagnosed her with diabetes. He told her that diet and exercise would be the best way to control the disease.

"I started walking but soon got bored with it," she said. "One day I passed a racquetball court and thought that I could do that, and that's what got me started."

Sister Stephens started competing in the Senior Olympics several years ago and has been the Texas champ in her age division (75-79 years old) the past five years. Her first national competition was four years ago, but she placed seventh last year.

Three years ago, while competing at a tournament in St. George, Utah, she met Sylvia Sawyer of Orem, who recently retired as racquetball coach at BYU.

"We developed a friendship and would look forward to seeing each other every year at tournaments around the country," Sister Stephens said. "During one of our visits she told me she was going to send someone from her Church to see me."

About three months later, two sister missionaries knocked on her door in Lumberton, Texas.

"I let them in, they taught me about the Church and soon invited me to be baptized," Sister Stephens said. "I told them I had already been baptized once before [in another church], but they were persistent and encouraged me to pray about it."

After studying the Book of Mormon and praying about it, Sister Stephens said, she realized she needed to be baptized. She contacted her friend from Utah and told her the good news.

"She is such a loving person, and that's why I'm a Mormon," Sister Stephens said.

Sister Stephens, a member of the Beaumont Ward, Beaumont Texas Stake, where she serves as an assistant librarian, recently received her temple endowment and was sealed to her husband, who died seven years ago.

"My experience at the temple in Dallas is one of the highlights of my life," she said, "but winning the gold in Orlando is right up there, too!"

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