John Mosley expected a life-changing experience when he visited Brazil in the summer of 1996. Just not one quite like this.
Fresh off his senior basketball season at The Master’s University, Mosley was touring the country with his teammates, playing a string of exhibition games and putting on youth clinics. The team’s goal was to share the gospel. But Mosley says his focus was on parlaying the trip into a professional basketball contract.
God had other plans.
After his teammates went home, Mosley stayed in Brazil and waited several weeks for an opportunity that never came. Instead, God used the alone time to prepare Mosley for his current mission, as the head coach of one of the most recognizable community college basketball programs in the country. At East Los Angeles College, Mosley works with young men who are looking to get their lives, educations or basketball careers on track.
His goal is to help players reach their potential — all the while planting seeds for Christ.
“God used that mission trip to Brazil to help me see what He’s calling us to do,” Mosley says, “and that’s to minister, to seek holiness and to dig deeper into His Word.”
Global Outreach teams play a key role in the mission of The Master’s University. Every summer, students at TMU travel across the world on short-term trips — experiences meant to create a global mindset and to raise interest in working with missionaries abroad.
In 1996, Mosley was making his second visit to Brazil. And this time, the venture held special importance. After completing his senior season as a talented guard for the Mustangs, Mosley was hoping to extend his playing career.
During the trip, Master’s played exhibition games against various pro teams, sharing the gospel with fans during halftime. For Mosley, the trip’s turning point came during intermission of one such contest. Mosley had previously been hesitant to share his faith, but, urged by teammates, he gave in.
The story he shared that day went something like this: Mosley and a friend grew up in the same Los Angeles neighborhood. They were close. But as the years passed, they drifted apart — Mosley staying on the college track and his friend immersing himself in drugs and crime, eventually joining a gang.
One day, a rival crew cornered Mosley’s friend in an alley and threatened to shoot him. Then out of nowhere, a stranger sprinted toward them and stepped in front of a bullet.
Mosley’s friend escaped. The stranger died.
“I said, ‘Do you all know who that stranger was? That was Christ. For every sin you’ve committed, He’s taken the bullet. And what you must do is receive Him,’” Mosley says.
The crowd listened with rapt attention. And many of Mosley’s teammates later affirmed his ability to communicate the message of Christ’s sacrificial death.
“That’s when it was pressed on my heart: ‘I can do this, I can minister for the Lord,’” Mosley says. “And then God isolated me.”
As his teammates flew home, Mosley hunkered down in a dorm room, hoping he’d soon catch on with a professional team. He took part in two tryouts, but mostly he waited. And waited. And waited.
At first, time passed slowly. Mosley didn’t speak Portuguese. His friends were thousands of miles away. “No noise. I was isolated. I was alone,” he says.
What Mosley did have was a Bible. So, he began to read. First for 30 minutes, then an hour. An hour soon turned into two, and two into six. For weeks, Mosley couldn’t get enough.
During the two years he had spent at Master’s, Mosley grew in his knowledge of God and Scripture through classes and chapel. But now — without distractions from his personal reading — the text was jumping off the page.
“I was reading the Old Testament, reading about Yahweh,” Mosley says. “I wasn’t just reading the stories anymore. I was reading who He is.”
Mosley never did sign a professional contract in Brazil. But it didn’t seem to matter. He returned home with a fresh passion for God’s Word and for using basketball as an avenue for the gospel.
In 1998, Mosley received a phone call from longtime TMU men’s basketball coach Bill Oates. Oates had an offer. He said he’d pay for the final class Mosley needed to graduate if Mosley returned as an assistant. Mosley was in.
For the next eight years, he worked alongside Oates, watching as the TMU hall-of-fame coach used adversity to refocus the Mustangs on honoring Christ. Mosley also saw how Oates met his players where they were at spiritually. Oates didn’t preach at them, instead coming alongside them and urging them to follow Jesus.
In 2006, Mosley applied those lessons, if more subtly, to his new role as an assistant coach at NCAA Division 1 Cal State Bakersfield. He relished competing at such a high level, but the job had its drawbacks. As the recruiting coordinator, he was often on the road finding the next wave of talent.
That’s when East Los Angeles College, where Mosley played his first two years of collegiate basketball, entered the picture. He loved the idea of coaching without sacrificing so much time with his wife, LaShaunda, and their three children.
The situation has been mutually beneficial. Since taking the job in 2012, Mosley has led East L.A. to 189 wins and eight straight state playoff appearances. And Silver Waves Media recently named him one of the 50 most impactful coaches in community college men’s basketball.
Still, what Mosley’s most proud of is helping dozens of players transfer to four-year universities, opening the door to a lifetime of new opportunities. One key to that accomplishment is that Mosley can challenge his players and hold them accountable because they know he cares.
That connection has also created opportunities to witness for Christ, says James Mosley, who played alongside John, his cousin, at TMU.
“He’s always had that heart of, ‘Hey, because of the truth of God, I can meet you where you’re at. I can serve you and give you the truth,” James says. “And we know God’s Word doesn’t come back void.”
For John Mosley, this plays out in a variety of ways.
Before games, he prays with his team. At practice, he’s loud and demonstrative, but he carefully guards his language (something that stood out in a raw Netflix documentary featuring the Huskies). When Mosley’s players ask, “Coach, what are you up to this weekend?” he tells them he’ll be at a church activity and that they should come. On road trips, he gives players free rein over the music playlist. But no matter how many songs they choose, Mosley gets an equal number. And his picks are often spontaneous worship tracks that can last up to 10 minutes — each.
Most importantly, when players come to Mosley “lost” and looking for peace, he tells them he has no answers in and of himself. All he can tell them is where he goes for comfort.
“In those moments, they may be looking for me to pump them up,” Mosley says. “But that’s not what I have to offer. What I have to offer is the way that I attain peace. And that’s through prayer and through connecting with my Lord and Savior.”
After those conversations, he tells his players they can text him if they want to know more about the God who isolated Mosley in Brazil and set him on a mission to reach these men for Christ.
To learn more about athletics at The Master’s University, visit gomustangs.com.
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