"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.

Risks

There are risks and there are RISKS

We started the day off like everyday this week with breakfast at 8:30 but for me that really means rolling out of bed at 8:30. After that we had our daily devotional talking about risks, the theme for Camp today. The Pastor told us there are risks and then there are risks some risks can be used to glorify the kingdom and others should never be taken. Since this was the theme for camp it was not the last time we would talk about risks, Coach J talked later to the campers about the feeling out of your comfort zone and into the risk zone and those feelings you get. I immediately thought of this trip, how uncertain I was that I would raise the money, how nervous I was to meet new people and how unsure I would be able to share my faith effectively. But after getting out of the risk zone and those feelings fade you get into to the box of this is where he magic happens. If that doesn’t describe everything this trip has been for all of us I don’t know what does! I have grown so many relationships, and have grown in my faith so much in a few weeks, it’s been sensational. I’m loving the risk taking life.

"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

Cięzka praca i fontanny (Hard Work and Fountains)

It is so difficult for me to sum up any single day in Warsaw. But here it goes…

The theme of Day 2 of the clinic was Oneness. Since Day 1, meeting in Xenia, Ohio our team has organically learned the value of being together pretty quickly. It has been really cool to see how God has just knitted our hearts together like sisters. I’ve grown so close to these girls and the Poland team and the beautiful people I have met along the way, I am already uneasy about saying goodbye.

We opened this morning with a team devotion from Philippians 2:1-9 led by Pastor Ralph and prayer and headed out to meet the campers for Day 2. The first session focused on sharpening some individual skills and we added some tricks to our b-ball repertoire. With the grace of God and a little rhythm we successfully managed to get 55+ people to jump over a single jumprope together at own time. I call that a successful day. Took a break to enjoy some subs for lunch, a little taste of home from Subway. Went back at it with Coach Kyle to strength/conditioning and agility. I just feel like God would accept sweating together as a spiritual act of worship. We finished with part 2 of the clinic with team oriented drills. The best moments to me have been when you get a chance to relate to a camper through the love for basketball even though you may not be able to understand each other. I am certain I have said a lot of silly things trying to cheer them on in Polish. I am inspired by their love for it.

Transportation or any transition in general is a bit different in Poland. One, they just walk a whole lot faster here than in America. I do not know if any of us have mastered the European pace- it is NOT a stroll. So we took a light jog to OldeTown Warsaw, catching the bus, then the metro, before getting to dinner. I felt like I was in the scene of a movie as we walked between these colorful beautifully crafted, intricately designed buildings, with the sun setting in the shadows. Stopping for ice cream… 3 scoops, added to that. I highly suggest blueberry ice cream in Poland! Walking, we met crowds of people who had gathered like us to admire the Fountain show. I’ve never seen anything like it. Lights and water and sound all blended together displaying a movie in a fountain. That was sooooo cool. After a brief shop at the souvenir shop, we would also get a little fountain from heaven and have to make a run for it back to the metro and hotel. The rain helped us to get a little better at the European pace of things. RUN! (Lol)

Tired, a little damp, and hearts full of wonder we retired for the night. I for sure set a record of the least amount of time between your head hitting the pillow and actually falling asleep.

I’m am so thankful. I am blown away. I am in love with Jesus even more. I am missing my girls already.

–Megan

Today was a very eventful day! We had our second day of camp and it was another success. The theme of today was oneness. We started off with stations then some competitive skill challenges. The afternoon segment we focused on team drills. This made the players really think about how teamwork makes the dream work. After camp we went to explore old town Warsaw. It was beautiful!! We went to a nice dinner that had air conditioning!!! Then we saw a light show which was awesome because it was on a fountain. After that we had to get home but we faced a monsoon. All the transportation over here is mostly through trains or buses so it was quite an experience! Tomorrow we have our third day of camp and we are very excited to keep seeing these players grow.

Love,

Amanda

Run in Such a Way

— Jackie Stewart

On Monday, May 28th, we arrived on campus for training camp in preparation for our tour to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia!

We kicked off the day with some fellowship at Denise’s house over a home-cooked meal and a few fun volleyball matches.

The next morning we dove right into team time led by Holly. We learned about the importance of sharing our testimonies and how it is Gods story that He wrote for us and it is worthy to share!

Our first team practices have been going really well! Coach Plett spoke on our mission statement as a team for this tour - to “Run in Such a Way” - referring to 1 Corinthians 9:24. As a team, we are to run in such a way that is glorifying to God, despite the outcome on the scoreboard.