God is moving!

We have so enjoyed our time here in Ethiopia. One of the things we prayed for, we have seen play out in many different ways, namely, that God would work in us and through us. We’ve loved spending time with children at multiple different schools, running clinics, playing games, but I believe something that has had one of the most profound impacts on each of our staff and players have been the spiritual conversations that have taken place.

It’s also amazing to see what God can do with the simplest of tools that we use on tours. Over the last couple of weeks, we have played a “game” with most of the teams we’ve competed against called Soularium. This is essentially an interactive game with a deck of picture cards that people use to tell about their life, what they’re going through, searching for, etc. As our players led these discussions, some really cool things happened!

Over the last week, an Ethiopian coach and player have sat down at different times for conversations with two of our girls and accepted Christ! We couldn’t be happier to see this take place, and we are rejoicing to know that the Lord allowed us to be used during our time here to bring people into the kingdom.

Jackie and Lexie share more about this experience in a video that is on our Facebook page. Click here to hear their recap!

https://www.facebook.com/aiabasketball/videos/10155870803613051/

"The happiness that came onto their faces was something that I will never forget." - Hannah

Yesterday, June 7, we were able to go to Yehiwet Birhan School in Addis. Here we were able to put on a basketball clinic for the basketball team and some other kids around the area. So far, this has been the most exciting but tiring day for most of our team.

It took us around an hour on the bus to get to the school, and these long bus rides have become some of my favorite memories. Being Americans, people on the street stare at us as we drive by. I love to make eye-contact with the people and give them a big smile and wave. Most of the time they smile really big back or give a quick eyebrow raise. We may not speak the same language, but we can communicate with a smile.

When we first got to the school, there was just an abundance of children. My heart instantly became filled with joy, I love kids!! At first, the kids were very scared to talk to us, but they were definitely curious about who we were. One by one, we were able to break down the barriers by asking their names and how old they were. You could see their faces start to light up, and the joy began bursting out of them. It was amazing to see how entertained the kids were by just making a pass and then going to the end of the line. While some of the older kids were passing, there wasn’t enough basketballs for all of the kids, so I took a group of little kids over and just began to run in a circle with them. The happiness that came onto their faces was something that I will never forget. It was in those moments that I experienced the pure joy that Jesus Christ brings.

Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Traveling Through Addis

The last several days in Addis, we have played two games and run several clinics around the city. We’ve loved every minute of getting to sit down with teams and hear about their lives and share our faith with them. Everyone has been beyond welcoming, and we are so grateful we’ve had the opportunity to serve and share our love for Christ and knowledge of basketball, while learning so much from them at the same time.

Pictured above are some of the girls before our clinic at Bingham Academy, a local Christian school here in Addis where missionaries from all over the world who serve in the area send their children. We were amazed at the amount of cultures and backgrounds represented in their school!

Half of our group ran camps all day in the gymnasium, while the other half went from classroom to classroom sharing testimonies and answering questions that the kids had. Some were silly and fun, like, “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” while others from older students went a bit deeper… If we go to a Christian college in America, does that mean all the students are Christians? How do maintain our faith when we move away and go to school?

We couldn’t have asked for a better experience there, and we are looking forward to what the rest of the trip has in store! Thanks so much for your prayers!

"Overall, our experience has been absolutely life changing." - Lexie

Athletes in Action has made it to Ethiopia! We packed our bags and left training camp at 2 AM Friday morning. We made it to the Cincinnati airport and took of to Canada and then from there we began our flight to Ethiopia. Travel took mostly all day with a total of around 15 hours of fly time. Because there is a 7 hour time difference in Ethiopia, most of us were pretty exhausted by the time we landed. The first day we arrived we got to catch up on some lost sleep, but we also spent the day touring Addis Abba. The culture shock many of us experienced was eye opening and life changing.

Life on the streets of Addis Abba is busy. People were everywhere, selling goods, asking for money, or simply just walking from one place to another. I think it really hit a lot of us very hard experiencing children and adults coming up to us asking for money. It hurt our hearts to see people in such need. We also saw kids in the streets finding so much joy in kicking an old soccer ball, or pushing a beat up rubber hoop for entertainment. It really made us reflect on our own childhoods, and how many of us truly didn’t understand how we could find joy aside from our fancier toys. Not only was the city crowded with people and children, but also with cattle, dogs, donkeys and many other animals that roamed the streets freely. Many of us were amazed at how free roaming animals in a city could be portrayed as normal every day life. The first day of our city tour we also got to stop by a church that was praising Jesus with a worship band. It was amazing to see how even from one culture to the next, we ultimately still love and can praise the same God.

The following day we got to play our first basketball game against an Ethiopian University team. What an incredible experience that was. The gym was old, the courts were wide and not properly marked, and the bathrooms were practically unusable! But none of that seemed to matter after the game when we got to interact with the team. We got to experience an amazing group of girls, who value friendship and relationships with others. Some of them already followed Jesus, but others simply believed he existed. We were all fascinated by the way they already showed loved and wondered how much stronger their love could grow by accepting Jesus into their lives. We were also fascinated by the level of education many of the girls had. Several were studying difficult subjects such as engineering, architecture and law. I think all of us were able to gain a new perspective on how we viewed Ethiopian culture from interacting with such an amazing group of girls.

Overall, our experience has been absolutely life changing. We are all growing significantly in our walks with the Lord and learning how to share our love for Christ with others. Even though their is a language barrier, we are still planting a seed for those who may never encounter another Christian. We are learning that simply through kindness and loving those around us, we can be a witness for Christ.

"We Found a Commonality in Our Brokenness." - Aysia

5/31 was the last day in Xenia, Ohio before the team had taken off and headed for Ethiopia.

We had a practice that morning around 10am and we had been preparing for our Prison Game that night. The prison game would be the first game we would play a game together as a group. For being in an unfamiliar environment and practicing a total of 4 times, we did alright! The prisoners played really well! They made us pay with lay ups, played tough defense, and hit many 3 pt. shots. Some of us were challenged with our own sociological perspectives of the women from the facility because of the stigma that the world places on convicts. It was amazing to watch the sport of basketball break down barriers and allow us to share the gospel with a group of women that are often shamed and/or feared by society.

To close out the first half the opposing team scored and were up by 2. The crowd was going wild. The second time that the crowd went wild was when AIA athlete Imani shared her testimony of viewing the Lord through a lens of faith and love rather than viewing God as an authoritarian that keeps tabs on your every action. You could see the Holy Spirit working in that moment to tug on the hearts of the members of the audience. We continued to play a very competitive second half. The score wavered back and forth by 2’s up until the last 3 minutes of the game. Following the game we broke off into 2 small groups and the women shared their thoughts with us with a game called solarium. We got to hear about their lives now and their hopes for the future. A couple of them had felt comfortable enough to share their testimonies with us and challenged us to think in such a way where our humanity was the great equalizer. We found a commonality in our brokenness We had given each other hugs and some had even stick around to really words of encouragement to others.

They had challenged us to play better basketball and to dream big dreams.

We then attempted to get back to the AIA campus so that we would be packed and ready to head to the airport at 2am the following morning. We’re grateful for the work that the Lord has done with this group on U.S. soil, but we are well prepared and excited to see how the Lord has been working in Ethiopia and what He is going to do with our time there.

As we travel, it would be greatly appreciated if you kept this group in your thoughts and prayers!

  • Aysia Shellmire