Sisters unite passion for field hockey, missions
Thousands of miles and an ocean separate Lurgan, Northern Ireland, and Lynchburg, Va., but three sisters made the journey and currently play field hockey at Liberty University.
Older sister Natalie, along with twins Bethany and Serena, are the three Barr sisters of the Liberty field hockey team. Natalie Barr is a sophomore co-captain who leads the team in points through its first seven games, while Bethany and Serena Barr are the only freshmen to start each of the team’s first seven games.
Last season as a freshman, Natalie Barr led the Lady Flames with 40 points and 16 goals. Her contribution helped Liberty make its first appearance in the NorPac Championship game against Stanford in the team’s second year playing in the NCAA.
Not only do the Barr sisters make large contributions on the field, they have also made sizeable contributions off the field.
The Barr family has been involved in mission work in Uganda since 2008, when they initially went to do AIDS prevention with their father, who is a doctor. Charlene Barr — one of seven Barr sisters — was particularly touched by the Ugandan people and felt a strong need to give back to the youth of the nation, according to Natalie Barr.
“In Uganda, we were all impacted, but Charlene (Barr) especially, because she knew if she lived in a place like Uganda, she wouldn’t have survived to the age she (did),” Natalie
Afflicted with cystic fibrosis, Charlene Barr started a charity called “Charlene’s Project” to educate Uganda’s children. But her health took a turn for the worse just a few months after the family’s visit. Charlene Barr lost her battle with cystic fibrosis in 2010, but her charity has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. The family has already built two schools in Uganda with the funds, according to Natalie Barr.
While the Barr sisters were making an impact in Uganda, Lady Flames Head Coach Jodi Murphy was at work using sports as her drive.
Murphy is the founder and president of Pathfinder Hockey, an organization whose mission is “to use field hockey as a means to help young people around the world and within the U.S. find the path that leads to good health, positive change and hope,” Murphy said.
Oddly enough, the foreign country in which Pathfinder does a majority of its ministry is Uganda.
Murphy was originally targeting a different player from Northern Ireland
after a tip from a coaching colleague, but when that player found out about Murphy’s mission trips to Uganda, she immediately redirected Murphy to Natalie Barr, who had just begun her first year of college in Northern Ireland.
“Natalie (Barr) and I shared a far greater common thread than just (field)hockey,” Murphy said. “So that was a big piece of why she came over — so we could partner in ministry.”
Once Natalie Barr became a Lady Flame, the door was opened for her sisters Bethany and Serena Barr to make the journey across the Atlantic to play on the team as well.
“We came out to visit Natalie (Barr) and had a look around the university, and we (Serena and Bethany) looked into the thought of coming (to Liberty),” Bethany Barr said. “Then we came out on our official visit and we loved it. And we’ve always … enjoyed playing together. So it was an opportunity to get to play together again.”
The sisters are part of a young core of talent for the Lady Flames. Natalie Barr is the program’s all-time leading scorer, totaling 20 goals and 12 assists through 27 career
“I think (the sisters’ chemistry helps on the field),” teammate Hannah Doherty said. “They know where each other (is) gonna go on the field. And off the field, we are able to joke around because they love each other so much. They’re all best friends.”
Best friends, teammates and ministry partners, among other things, the Barr sisters are bonded by much more than just a