That's a Wrap

With Xenia in our rear-view mirrors, a time of reflection is needed to remember the events and effects of the summer. How fortunate to have 13 peers to do life with, learn from, grow in knowledge of the Lord with, encourage, and cultivate deep friendships with. So many thoughts are present – thoughts of thankfulness, joy, sadness, anticipation, expectation, and fullness. We leave this summer with a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s love, kindness, provision, strength, glory, and holiness, a greater appreciation for God’s work through sport, a deeper understanding of the power found in community. Memories abound and friendships for a lifetime are a highlight of nine weeks spent in Xenia, Ohio. The challenges we faced personally this summer were met with open arms, wisdom, and support from brothers and sisters in Christ, known by God to become a family.

We wrapped the final weeks up with a few more get-togethers and an outreach to the homeless in Cincinnati, having conversations and praying with them. It was a needed time of learning more about them and taking time to understand their situation. We were all blessed by one interaction in particular. We had split up into groups around the downtown area and planned on meeting at a local restaurant for supper in the early evening. Shortly before meeting for the meal and debriefing, we met a man who greeted us, saying “The Spirit is with you. I can tell.” This, of course, sparked a conversation and we were able to talk about what he was dealing with in his life right then. He asked for prayer and we were able to buy a bus ticket for him to see a family member who was sick. When all of us gathered together for the meal, we discovered other groups had talked with this man and prayed with him, each group trying to figure out a way to give a tangible gift in the form of a ticket. The group before ours had run into different stores and even the police station, asking if they could use a printer to print a ticket. After not being able to produce a ticket, the man reassured the group that God would provide. Little did we know that God would fulfill that man’s statement of faith through us within 20 minutes. This is not of ourselves- one of the members of our group simply followed God’s prompting and bought a ticket on the spot. To some, it probably sounds strange. Why buy a ticket for someone you just met when you don’t know if they’re telling the truth? But whether or not the story was true- whether or not the ticket was actually used-is of no relevance to us. In James, it is written, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” We are commanded to give physical evidence of our faith. In this instance, physical evidence came in the form of a bus ticket.

Our last gathering as a full group was breakfast at Chick-fil-A, where we were able to wrap up some last-minute responsibilities and share prayer requests going into the school year. Our final week in the office ended with a baseball game, exit interviews, and conversations with our supervisors about our development this summer. With one intern already home for a family commitment, we officially ended our time together with a farewell banquet, a celebratory event centered around encouragement – from our supervisors, for our supervisors, and for each other. The goodbyes were drawn out even longer, as Saturday morning found us together for breakfast before heading out. Hugs multiplied and thank yous resounded in Coffee Hub, a local place where we had found much-needed caffeine and relaxation throughout the summer.

“Though our internship with AIA is complete and we don’t know if we will all be together in one place again until heaven, the work and the investment that started in Ohio is just the beginning. The joy and intentionality we experienced this summer is only a small piece of what the Lord has planned for us. Being able to see others on fire for the Lord has fanned our small flames and inspired us to begin to catch fire. No matter where the Lord calls us after this summer, this journey has been one to remember. Xenia will always have a special place in our hearts and this summer will always be a continual connection point between the interns. This summer will be looked back on as a time of growth and huge influence on our faith walks. This summer will be a reminder of just how good God is and how great He’ll move when you give him your time.” -Ali and Josiah

Written by Heather, X Project intern

Provision

I have learned many things this summer but one thing I’ve learned that continues to be an ongoing theme is God’s provision. A year ago I knew I would need an Athletic Training internship to graduate, so I began looking. I had intentions of going back to my hometown and working at a division two school to fulfill program requirements. However, those plans fell through nine months ago and I was back to square one in searching for an internship. Within the same week, a good friend of mine mentioned a previous dream I had shared with her two years past. The dream was to do a summer mission with Cru. This lead to me researching their opportunities and eventually stumbling across X-Project, which was ideal.

After a phone conference with my now supervisor, my program directors gave me the green light. I applied, had two interviews, and two months later received an email confirming my spot.

The months leading up to the project were very hectic as I was trying to wrap up the semester on top of raising support. Despite getting sick and starting support raising late, God’s plan for me prevailed. In less than three months, my entire support was raised. I was also lucky enough to meet one of the other interns on the trip prior to coming as our schools were 15 minutes away from each other. Leading up to our coffee date, mutual friends spoke highly of one another, which calmed my nerves and allowed me to have at least one familiar face the first day in Ohio.

God also opened doors for spiritual conversations through this experience. My professors started incorporating the topic of faith into my simulations and I was able to start a conversation with a family member with different views on spirituality. In that conversation, I was able to explain what I would be doing this summer and share a little bit of my heart with her. Though I was nervous of support raising, God used it to open many doors and rely on his faithfulness. Someone once told me that if it’s God’s will then it’s God’s bill. Never did that statement become so real to me than in the months leading up to my project. Coming into this summer I had hoped to learn how to combine my major and my faith. Every experience has provided a better picture of what it looks like to bring God into the sports performance field.

This summer I’ve had the opportunity to witness and help others combine their sport and ministry through the various camps that AIA has put on. I’ve gotten to visit different businesses that welcome spiritual conversations and incorporate faith into their training/rehab. This led me to pray with a woman while shadowing at a physical therapy clinic. One of my main responsibilities is working with the Xenia Scouts baseball team and it’s been amazing to watch them pray before games and use their sport as a platform to witness to the other teams over a meal after the game.

The experiences have helped me see how God works not only in this field, but also in those I have gotten to work with. The preceptors I’ve had the privilege to work with are some of the most intelligent and servant-hearted people I have ever met. They’ve shown me what it looks like to give grace in every moment and how to care for athletes not only physically, but also holistically, making sure to take the psychological, social and spiritual factors into consideration as well.

Though this summer started off as a means of meeting a graduation requirement, it has become so much more than that for me. He has shown me ways to bring him into every part of my life, not just my work. He’s given me resources to keep growing. He’s provided an amazing group of people to work with this summer who inspire and challenge me daily. And He’s given himself completely that I may love and serve in whatever capacity he calls me to.

Written by Ali, X Project Intern

As His Daughter

My time here at X Project thus far has been so influential in many ways. Immersed within an environment centered on Christ, it’s almost as if by interning at Athletes in Action’s headquarters the Lord has confirmed to me that athlete ministry is the career path I should follow after college. On our first day, an AIA staff member gave us interns a tour around headquarters. I remember getting butterflies in my stomach hearing about AIA’s history, mission, and vision, its various projects and ministries around the country, and the impact it has had on the lives of athletes and staff members. The butterflies have only intensified throughout my time here. Having project dinners, spending time in the office with my fellow interns, and helping lead at the high school Ultimate Training Camp has shown me that working for AIA truly is a life goal of mine.  

 However, while submerged in this ministry “bubble” I have still struggled. I consider myself to be a fairly honest individual and I will state that there are aspects of this internship that have not meshed well with my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and struggles with anxiety. For those of you who may not know, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a psychological disorder in which an individual partakes in compulsions to ease anxiety brought by excessive and intrusive thoughts and obsessions. This disorder coupled with stress usually does not mix well and unfortunately, I have not made the greatest decisions because of this conflict in my past.

 I want to say that these issues haven’t affected me here at X Project. I so desperately want to believe that because I anticipate a career in athlete ministry, these problems will not persist. But I am human. Even though I know my transgressions are wiped away because of Christ, I still let unnatural, unholy thoughts and impulses weave their way into my life. They persist even when I have access to the support of loving brothers and sisters in Christ. They persist even when I know that God is reaching out to me, telling me that I am accepted and worthy and loved as His daughter.

The ironic thing is that being surrounded by loving Christian friends is what contributed to my recent struggles. This may appear incredibly confusing- and possibly the opposite of everything I understand about the Christian faith- but let me give you some context.

 

Last week for Independence Day, we interns enjoyed a day off from the office. To celebrate, a few interns organized a classic American cook out. You know, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, eating refreshing and juicy watermelon, and simply enjoying each other’s company. Yet I knew something was off that day. Something within me was saying You don’t feel right, Olivia. Granted, the night before I had a huge anxiety spell but I prayed over it with the Lord. I was anticipating spending time with my friends and relaxing while celebrating good ole American freedom… but my OCD had other plans. Later that afternoon, when we were all hanging around, a wall of anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to leave the company of my dear friends for an extended time. It’s a scary feeling, not knowing why you feel this way, not knowing why you absolutely must get away from people who could actually help you and pray with you.

 

I won’t go into too much detail. Even though I am comfortable with being vulnerable about my experiences, there’s too much to unpack for one simple blog post. What’s more, everything I felt that afternoon likely cannot be expressed in words. I will say, however, that I spent a good hour in prayer. I read Scripture and knew that I needed His love and grace. What’s more, I needed to spend time with my brothers and sisters who were celebrating the holiday two floors below me. A fellow intern sought me out that afternoon and we conversed about the whole situation; what she said stuck with me. She made the point that right now, I am closer to the Lord than any other time in my life. I am immersed within a ministry bubble so expansive that I have a better understanding of His Spirit. Yet because of this, Satan has been doing everything in his power to pull me from the Lord. He knows that God has already won, but he also knows that my struggles with OCD can break me and make me contradict my own faith. This internship, though beautiful and indicative of God’s grace and truth, is simultaneously challenging me in my struggles with self-worth, self-harm, anxiety, and beliefs about myself as a competent young Christian woman.

 

The good news about this experience is that it doesn’t diminish my desire to come on staff. If anything, I want to join AIA more because I know that this sort of environment will be good for my struggles. When things get rough, I know I’ll have loving Christians surrounding me who will support and love me. Plus, as an added bonus, I potentially have the opportunity to counsel other individuals going through similar situations using Scripture and prayer, aspects of the faith that greatly ease these burdens.     

 

To my fellow interns, I simultaneously thank you and apologize for everything. There have been times this summer where anxiety has obviously made it difficult for me to be around you but you have shown nothing but love and patience. You have shown me what true Christ followers look like, and for that, I thank you.

 

Written by Olivia, XProject Intern

 

Land of the Free

4th of July: Land of the Free

I have never sweat more in my life than I have this past week. Our group of interns just finished up with a rigorous 6-day long camp with high school athletes and today we are relaxing, enjoying community under the hot sun, grilling burgers, and celebrating the day of independence for our great nation in some red, white, & blue! We could never do it justice, however, to celebrate in a way that is truly worthy of our independence. Independence is so much more than grilling, fireworks, or colors on a flag, but an innate identity so many of us are born with that we lose sight of the significance behind what it really means. It is getting to wake up every day and not be afraid, getting up every day and deciding whether or not we actually want to go to school or go to work, posting whatever you want on social media because no one can control what you say, getting to travel wherever, make friends with whoever, and believe in whatever you want… because someone fought and died for us. Someone put their life on the line so that we could have our life in the comfort that we do. How do you actually celebrate that? How can you respond in a way that gives enough thanks for someone doing something like that for you? We can’t really.. we can try and this is important, but we should and hopefully will never reach a point where we are finished celebrating, finished praising, finished remembering. I was able to get a deeper understanding of this during our camp with the high schoolers a few days ago. The camp was called UTC, short for the Ultimate Training Camp. This is a camp that is designed to push athletes to their limits, test their strength, and lead them to a point where they cannot succeed on their own. In that moment where they are at their weakest, where they are at the end of themselves, they need to rely on God. In our modern day view of sport, however, we teach something quite different. It is all about the athlete, you, playing the best you can, being the best you can, and making it as big as you can. Sport has become an industry where we glorify and pour overwhelming amounts of praise on athletes and teams who play the best. They adopt this lavish lifestyle full of money, fame and anything they could have ever dreamed of and we have set them as a standard to blindly follow and do the same because that is what we have led people to believe that they want and that it is fulfilling. But with our camp, we are trying to set a new precedent and raise up a new generation of athletes who can lead the way and point the world to something bigger than themselves. In that moment in the camp where the athletes do come to the end of themselves, where they do have to rely on God, it is the most beautiful thing you will ever experience. Every athlete, one by one, you see be overcome with such an amazing joy that they realize how weak they are and how strong their Savior is, they realize with a deeper intimacy what Christ did for them and how much he loves them, they realize that they are not expected to be anything more than they are, win or lose.. and they are set free. Set free from the pressure of performing, set free from the pressure of being perfect, and set free to experience that they can play sport for the sake of worshipping their incredible God that has done so much for them and let this fuel them to play. This is independence. This is someone dying for us, defeating sin, and finishing everything on the cross so that we could live in the newness of life. And I am so selfish sitting here thinking that I wish I could have experienced what they experienced, wishing I could have been through it versus witnessing it. But on the day of our nation’s Independence, I am reminded of an even greater independence that I do not need to work for, that I do not need to “experience” like those campers, because every day I open my eyes and breathe is a moment where I can get to live out the unending grace and mercy bestowed upon me. For I was declared free from the very beginning.

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Thank you Jesus.

Happy Independence Day

Written by Matt, XP Intern

All The Time

This past Sunday we began welcoming high school students from all over the country to Ultimate Training Camp (UTC), a high intensity sports camp that blends faith and sport together. These high school kids are between 14-18 years old, coming from all different family backgrounds and life experiences to meet up at HQ here in Xenia for a week of intensive athletics. Their focus is learning the AIA Principles to help guide them in bringing their faith and relationship with Christ into their specialized sport.

I really didn’t have many expectations coming in as a leader for UTC, as I had never been involved with any sort of camp ministry before. But wow, has God blown my expectations completely out of the water. I didn’t anticipate how much I would grow to love the girls I have been set over for the past 4 days. Going into the evening before camp started and the day that our campers would arrive, we all spent time in prayer over the seats the students would be sitting in throughout the week. I took time to pray over the names of my assigned girls before they arrived, asking the Lord to prepare their hearts for this week and draw them closer in their relationship with Him, teaching them to be vulnerable and not rely on their own strength. Praying over people that I have never met was something new to me, but it is such a blessing to me as I have seen these 4 beautiful girls begin opening up to us as leaders, processing the implications of what they have been learning, and taking bold steps of faith throughout the week.

This week I can say that I have cried every single day I have been here, but the tears are not of pain and sorrow. I have learned to cry out of the gratefulness God has placed in my heart for bringing these girls together as a group. I have cried joyfully over the privilege that God has given me to invest in four fearfully and wonderfully made young women. I have cried over the suffering and pain I witnessed while working during the 17 hours of continuous exercise that our students endure. The pain that our students fought through was such a clear image of the suffering that Christ himself endured to allow us an opportunity to draw near to him and enter into an intimate relationship with him and the Father.

UTC has been an experience of bonding, tears, laughter, and challenges over the span of 6 days that I will cherish long after today. Our group of 14 interns were blessed beyond expectations this past week, and for that I cannot give God enough praise.

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Written by Lindsey, XProject Intern