Welcome to the Urban Project – Los Angeles!

Welcome to the blog for the Urban Project – Los Angeles (UP-LA). We invite you to visit this page daily to follow the events and course of the Urban Project.

After their arrival on June 1st, students (and perhaps a few staff) will use the pages of this blog to share stories, updates, and write (or video!) about the events of the Urban Project from their various perspectives. We believe you’ll see the brilliance and leadership of this generation of student-athletes as they serve and experience and engage and learn from some of the marginalized communities in South Los Angeles.

In addition to encouraging and teaching these phenomenal students to continue honoring and upholding the testimony of Jesus Christ in their athletic and personal lives, UP-LA staff and students together will tackle the concepts of culture, ethnicity, class, power, poverty, privilege, race, responsibility, and justice, as well as what the Gospel of Christ has to say about these ever-relevant and important issues.

Again, bookmark this page and visit daily to keep up with what’s going on at Athletes in Action’s 2019 Urban Project – Los Angeles. Thanks for checking in. Feel free to share this link through your own social media accounts.

Sports and fun at nickerson gardens

On Saturday, students, staff, and friends of the Urban Project went to Nickerson Gardens to conduct sports clinics, a craft table, face painting, and then have lunch with the community. If I could describe the day, I would have to say it was a blessing.

Nickerson Gardens is a housing development located in Watts area of Los Angeles, California. There are 156 buildings which add up to more than 1,000 units. It is the largest public housing development west of the Mississippi River. Nickerson is also said to be the birth place of the Bounty Hunter set of the Bloods, a well known gang. Being there gave me an opportunity to see, in a very small, limited way, what life in the projects could be like.

Our day started with us preparing to arrive at the park. Teams were split up to do a different task in preparation for the day. One team helped with cooking and getting the food ready, another was in charge of arts and crafts, and another in charge of sports activities. Everything was decent and in order before arriving at Nickerson Gardens.

When we got there, anticipation was in the air as the Project crew prepared the grounds to receive the kids of Nickerson Gardens. I was tasked with handing out flyers to community members to spread the word about the sports clinics. Basketball, volleyball, kickball, soccer, dance, and arts and crafts were offered to the kids.

My station, kickball, was lively and fun! There was a group of kids who were so energetic and excited to launch the kickball as far as they could into the outfield. All of the kids were great, but one you man stood out to me. He was about to finish middle school, was there with his cousin, and both were excited to play kickball. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was not afraid to talk to people. He had just met us and was already so willing to have a conversation with me. He was very polite and it was fun getting to talk to him for the short time he was there. I pray for him and pray that he does is not limited by where he is from, and that he feels empowered to conquer the world and go after his dreams.

The day was truly worthwhile because we got to see so many kids outside enjoying the sunshine and just playing. They enjoyed the lunch of hot dogs, chips, and an abundance of Kool-aid. The day ended with a game on the Nickerson Gardens basketball court. Usually the Project team would play a Nickerson Gardens team, but due to another community event, that did not happen. UP-LA ended up just playing each other, with one teammate from the community, but the competitiveness was certainly still there.

I am glad I had the pleasure of serving a part of that community for a short amount of time. It gave me a chance to see and be a part of something greater than myself. I really discovered the power of listening to people speak about their experiences, especially kids. Kids need to be listened to and nurtured. I know this memory will be with me the rest of my life.

Zoie Campbell

University of Northern Colorado

Estonia 2019: The Final Stretch in Tartu!

Greetings once again from Tallinn. Our time as a team is Estonia is quickly drawing to a close. Just over two weeks ago we entered Estonia for the first time, now we are sad we have to leave so soon. We have seen God work in so many ways in our short two weeks in this beautiful country. We have been blessed to spend time with Estonian believers as well as form relationships with not-yet-Christians.

Our last few days in Tartu were quite busy. As mentioned in the earlier blog we had a Bible and sports camp for kids ages 5 to 12 in the mornings for three days and we held a training clinic for distance runners and coaches during the evenings. The kids camp was very successful. We had about 40-50 children there each day. We would start our time with a song, in Estonian, so we attempted to sing along and do the hand motions which accompanied the song. After the song our group led a Bible story and skit. For the last two days we did the stories of David and Goliath and also the story of friends who brought the paralytic to Jesus. In both of these stories we were able to keep the kids entertained and able to present a Biblical truth to them. For some of them this might have been the first time they have ever heard a Bible story or about Jesus. After the Bible story we would go outside for some drills and games. Wednesday we were able to run relay races in the ruins of a cathedral. On Thursday we were trapped inside due to rain so we did the best we could and made stations of games for the kids to play. At the end of the week it was hard to say goodbye to the campers.

In the afternoon each day we would try to catch our breath a bit before the training clinic began that evening. The training clinic in Tartu had less people attending it, but we held it in a cafe which was much more confined area which provided more opportunities for interaction. Also in Tartu many of those who attended were college aged, so that gave us younger team members many opportunities to interact with the athletes. On Thursday the spiritual aspect of training was covered as we did in Tallinn. So this provided us an opportunity to talk about how our faith in Christ gives us value and hope outside of our sport. Tiidrek finished the clinic by giving his testimony which was powerful for us Americans, but we pray it also resonated with the people from his own country. After a short hill workout people stayed and talked in the cafe until 11 PM, about two hours after the structured clinic was over. Pray that God would bless the conversations we had and that many seeds would grow from our time at the clinic and the camp.

On Friday we had a much needed rest morning. Some of us ran with a new friend we met from the clinic. However Friday evening was very exciting. We were able to experience two Estonian traditions with some of our Estonian family. The first was a sauna boat. This is exactly what is sounds like, a boat with a sauna on it. We would alternate from cold lake to hot sauna, which seemed more like a punishment to me, but we enjoyed it nevertheless. Next we tried out an Estonian swing found at the local park. It looked like it belonged at an amusement park not your local park.

We are beginning our journey home in the coming days and we will debrief the trip on Sunday. Be in prayer for safe travel for all our team members as we return home. Also be in prayer that God would work in the hearts of those we came in contact with in Estonia. Many of those we connected with had never been exposed to spiritual ideas. Some were interested and others were not, but be in prayer that God would reveal Himself in both situations. Thank you so much for your support before, during, and after our trip. We have felt your prayers and support from halfway across the world. Our whole team is so thankful to have been apart of this trip. We hope that this trip lays the groundwork for future trips and future spread of the Gospel to the people in Estonia. We have faith that our God is a mighty and able God to do a great work here!

-Jordan, for the team

Estonia 2019: Off to Tartu!

Greetings from Tartu, Estonia. This is the second stop on our team’s tour of Estonia. But first let me catch you up on all that has happened in our last few days. As I mentioned in the last post Thursday was the last day of our clinic in Tallinn. This was the day we talked about the “soul” portion of the clinic. Coach Mark and Tiidrek both explained why the spiritual aspect of being a competitor is so important and they also shared about their testimony. During this night of the clinic there was a short athlete panel in which some of the members of the team answered some questions. Those of us who spoke talked about how we place our value and worth in things that are greater than our sport and how we can find satisfaction outside of our success and failures in running. After the theoretical talk we headed outside for a short hill workout.

Friday the team was given the opportunity to go back to the track and meet with the club we met with on Monday. It was a beautiful sunny day and the kids had a great time and got a good workout in. It was great to get to connect one more time with these kids.

Saturday was a travel day. We had a relaxed morning and then drove two and a half hours to Tartu. After we arrived we met Herman & Kristel who lead a college ministry called Agape. Herman & Kristel then took us to the Song Festival which only happens once every four years. It was incredible! Estonian people love singing, and it also has historical significance to them. So, to celebrate they hold a massive concert with hundreds of people on stage singing. It was amazing to be a part of a major holiday here in Estonia.

Sunday was church as usual. This week we attended Tiidrek’s home church Kolgata Baptist. The pastor gave us the opportunity to share about our ministry and how faithful God has been to us. After we shared the church prayed for us as a team. Sunday was also the longest day of the year, here the sun rose at 4am and set close to 11pm. We celebrated with the Church family in the traditional way of a massive bonfire. It was the biggest fire I have ever seen.

Monday was a relaxed day, we spent the day walking around Tartu and planning out the upcoming week.

Tuesday was the first day of the Children’s camp and Coaching Clinic. The morning started at 9:30am and the kids arrived at 10am. We played games, did drills, ran relays and shared a bible story with the kids. It was a lot of fun and most importantly no one got hurt! In the evening we had the first Coaching Clinic is Tartu and it was a big success! We had about 20 people show up. In Tallinn we met in a Sports Clinic and the environment was much more academic. This time in Tartu we are meeting in a Café so the environment is much more relaxed. This meant great conversations long after the clinic was over.

Wednesday and Thursday will be the same as Tuesday, kids camp in the morning and Coaching Clinic in the evening.

Thanks for reading and following along! Please pray for energy as a lot of the team is starting to get a little tired. God Bless!

-Kevin for the team

Estonia 2019: Training begins!

Our team is off and running with our activities in Tallinn! After a few days of getting acclimated to a new country and culture we have finally began some of the training we have had planned. Monday we were blessed with the opportunity to run a club practice for two youth track clubs in Tallinn. The kids we were coaching were anywhere from 14 to 19 years old and they competed in a variety of events. At first everyone was a little timid as we led them through some warm up drills and strides. Then we moved into the sprint worked we had planned for them. It consisted of four 150 meter sprints and four 75 meter sprints. As we started the workout the kids started to lighten up, and we were able to encourage them as they were doing the workout. Many of the kids commented that the workout was much harder than what they expected from Americans. After the workout as the kids cooled down and were getting water, we were able to start many conversations with them. It was fun to connect with them on a more personal level. Some of our team members were able to have spiritual conversations, so be in prayer that God works in the hearts of those athletes. As we were leaving the coaches invited us back for training on Friday morning. All of the team is very excited to return and meet up with those we connected with on Monday. Be in prayer that our team would be able to have more spiritual conversations and that God would touch the hearts of many athletes there.

On Tuesday the three day training clinic began. This clinic is for coaches, recreational runner, or professional runners who are looking to develop as runners. The clinic is focusing on the body, mind, and soul of a runner. On Tuesday Coach Misch began the “body” portion of the clinic by introducing some of his training principles and drills. We were even able to get out on the track to try out some of these drills. Some of us even made an appearance on Estonian national television. (You can even check it out here: https://sport.err.ee/953902/usa-treener-doha-mm-on-tiidrek-nurmele-suureparane-voimalus) On Wednesday the focus was the “mind” portion of the clinic. Coach Mark and Tiidrek explained the importance of being a mentally strong runner. For the practical portion Tiidrek showed some simple stretching techniques. Thursday will be the “soul” portion of the clinic. Be in prayer that this part of the clinic would open up opportunities for us to use our sport to share our faith in Christ and the hope we have.

Not only have we been busy with trainings, but we have also been getting to know each other on the team. We have been sharing our “I am from” poems to get to know each other more on a personal level. We have also been growing spiritually while we have been in Estonia. Each day a different member of the team gives a short devotional. This has been encouraging to hear from the Word each morning. Ben has been doing a stellar job leading us in a worship song each morning. Pray that God would grow the unity on our team and that it would be used to share the hope that we have with other.

Thank you so much for everyone who has been supporting and praying for this team. God has blessed us so far and we pray much more is still to come.

-Jordan for the team