Our Fearless Leaders

Tim, the director of AIA Track & Field, is returning to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the third year in a row. He is looking forward to, “the opportunity to travel with our project athletes and see them step out in faith to connect with the athletes training there in St. Moritz, which is one the best places for distance runners to train.” He asks for prayers for Vinci & Regi Carrillo who are AIA Switzerland staff members as they make preparations to receive a team. Please also pray for spiritually open hearts of the athletes in St. Moritz.

Sue is joining her husband for their third trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland. She enjoys the unity the small team brings and the team Bible studies. She asks for prayers for this team’s unity and for good connections with the athletes at the track, who will be from all around the world.

Staff Fellowship and Preparation for TUFF

The last few days getting prepared for TUFF Camp have been amazing so far. All of the counselors met up at the AIA headquarters in Xenia, Ohio where we got to meet each other and get an insight as to how we were all feeling going into camp. This is my first year coming to TUFF camp, so coming in I was nervous about what to expect, but I can honestly say that the last few days have been so fulfilling and amazing. The counselors and staff have all been so welcoming and open with sharing their backgrounds, journeys with faith, and their struggles as they are all continuing to navigate through the process of being collegiate athletes.

One of the days we were all on campus, each counselor participated in team building activities at the ropes course in Xenia, where we learned about communication, teamwork, and trust. Completing challenges allowed each one of us to rely on one another to complete difficult tasks, while also understanding how we can use those skills to interact with the campers at TUFF, while also using the Lord to guide us through the next week. It was so helpful to see how God works in every scenario of our lives and puts obstacles in front of us to not only humble us, but to help us face adversity with grace.

One of the most special moments I have experienced in the last few days though was when all the counselors and staff members met up and went over the “Four H’s” (Heritage, Hero, Highlight, Heartache). This activity allowed me to understand each person so much better as it gave me a glimpse into their spiritual journey and the difficulties they encounter. Going over heartaches was one of the most powerful experiences I have witnessed from this group of people over the last few days. The vulnerability, strength, and bravery each individual had completely blew me away. The stories people had and the adversity they have faced throughout their life made me quickly realize that I am beyond lucky to be surrounded by such strong believers who put God at the center of everything they do. This activity helped put things into perspective for me, as I began to realize how much God works in our lives to challenge us, but to also bring us out of those hard times as better people. After a long time of prayer and loving on one another, I felt so much closer to everyone around me.

All of the staff and counselors have arrived in Holland Michigan and we have spent the afternoon preparing for the campers to arrive tomorrow. I am getting so excited to meet and interact with so many athletes as we get to train, learn, and grow together. I am already seeing God work in so many ways as the staff members and counselors have been so open and honest with one another. All the preparation for the next week has been coming together nicely, and I know we are all eagerly awaiting the camper’s arrival tomorrow. I can’t wait to watch God’s love multiply over these few days. Stay tuned for more updates as we kick off TUFF Camp 2018!

Jordyn, for the team

Best Birthday Yet!

 Our ‘Merry in Canary’ team is a true family.  I woke up this morning to our room decorated with balloons and a big “Happy Birthday” sign.  The girls had gone to Walmart while we were in the States to buy decorations to surprise me on our last day in the Canary Islands.  It was so unexpected!  The time and dedication they took to plan ahead with the decorations, set them up while I was sleeping, and keep it a surprise the whole time made me feel so loved.  And this was just the start to an incredible day.

     After going to a fun birthday breakfast, we came back to our hostel to find Joanna there with a chocolate cake, a crown, candles, and temporary tattoos to continue the celebration.  It is so awesome to me that the Lord used not only my new friends on our team to make me feel loved, but also the staff with our partnership organization in country.  The Lord really used this day to teach me that as followers of Christ, we are truly family.  It does not matter how far apart we live or how long we have known each other, we love each other the way Christ loves us.  

     Now, to my favorite part of the day- practice!  We had spent two weeks forming friendships with our teammates and using atletismo (the Spanish word for track & field) to connect with them.  Today was our last day with them so we thought, now is the time to be bold.  The wonderful girls from Stephen F. Austin brought with them supplies to make these awesome bracelets that allow us to easily share the Gospel with the people we meet. 

At the end of practice,  we all got out our bracelets and shared.  One girl that I shared with who really stood out to me was Emma.  When I shared the Gospel with her and told her that I loved her and Jesus loved her, and that I was praying for her, she tackled me with a big hug and said “I love you too!” She was so touched that we came all the way to the Canaries to show them God’s love and share with them the hope we have in Jesus.  I was able to give her the New Testament in Spanish as well and a daily devotional for athletes called Corazón de Campeón (Heart of a Champion). 

At the end of our sharing we got together and Samantha prayed for everyone in English and sweet Emma prayed for everyone in Spanish.  It was an incredible way to end our time there and truly the best birthday present Jesus could have given me.

-Lauren, for the team

Best Spiritual Conversation in Four Years

Have you ever stayed overnight in a European hostel?

It functions like a hotel, but it is set up like a dormitory. There is a small receptionist desk, and then a short hallway with rooms of various sizes. In each room is at least one bed, and down the hall are bathrooms. Across the hall from the bedrooms is a large common area, with a small kitchen. This room is not just the place for meals, but the place to hang out, have conversation, and make friends with the other guests.

In this common room are banners on the walls with photos of past AIA teammates, with a description in Spanish of what Athletes in Action is. For the other guests staying in the hostel, it is no secret that they are sharing a living space with American athletes who are followers of Jesus.

Guess what? We could have stayed in our hostel most of the day and still had opportunities for spiritual conversations. Fortunately, that was the case with one woman from mainland Spain.

This woman checked in to the hostel a couple of nights before our team’s departure. She didn’t speak English, but she noticed the banners hung on the walls, which have Spanish written on them. Each banner reads, “Followers of Jesus, in every city, sport, and nation.”

This lady, who had a spiritual hunger, was curious about who our team was. But she felt bad that she couldn’t speak with us because she didn’t speak English. And we had no idea what she was feeling until Joanna, who lives and works in Tenerife, was able to have a conversation with her.

The woman shared that she had an interest in studying the Bible, but had never done so before. When Joanna finished talking with the woman, she said it was the most spiritual conversation she had had in her four years of living there. That statement helped me realize the spiritual apathy that most Spaniards and Canary Islanders posses.

But God is living and active, and He reveals Himself to those who seek Him. In His sovereignty, he placed that woman, our team, and Joanna in the right place at the right time.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Life Is a Like Bead on a Necklace...

Our last day in Tenerife was so bittersweet. Of the two weeks we spent there, God gave us the prettiest day of all. It was actually warm and the sun was out all day! We celebrated Lauren’s birthday and then went up to a place called Mesa Mota to debrief and talk about what the trip meant to all of us. It made me realize how blessed we were that the Lord brought us all here, specifically, to know and learn from one another. The time that we spent together, with the Lord in prayer, and then overlooking the city of La Laguna together was so sweet. I was seriously trying to cherish every second!

That evening we headed out for our last practice with the team. We prayed for boldness, that we would be able to share Jesus with them and what He has done for us. I immediately knew that had something special in store because every time I looked around, there were more and more people who were showing up to practice. After the actual practice, we handed a bracket to everyone and explained its significance-

It’s just a simple bracelet- one piece of yarn with a tiny bead, but with a greater meaning. The line, or the bracelet itself, represents our eternal life with Jesus once we have accepted Him. It’s never ending, there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain,” and it will be spent in pure joy of glorifying the Lord! So the line is good, and long and something we should focus on instead of the tiny bead, which represents our life. When we have a bad day or a season that is tough, it doesn’t even show up on the tiny bead and much less on the line. In the grand scheme of things, it’s so small that you can’t notice and so we shouldn’t get caught up in it! Instead of worrying about the world (the bead), we should focus on and press towards our life with the Lord (the line).

The best part was that they were all so sweet, thankful and receptive to the message of the little matching bracelets from us! The coach came up to us and told us that he was so glad we could not only teach them about track but about life too! And whether he meant that in a spiritual standpoint or not, at least he noticed that we weren’t just there to physically train but to show them love! Some of our new teammates explained that they believed in Jesus too, which makes leaving a little easier because we are bonded not only through track but with Christ too! Some of the girls and I circled up to pray in English and then they prayed in Spanish & you could just feel God’s presence all around us! That night, they even posted different things on social media about our AIA team and thanking God for bringing us together! It was so special to see!

For the majority of this trip, I have sort of felt guilty in the back of my mind because I felt like the Lord was working on my heart more than working through me to help others. Obviously, it was exactly what I needed and I am so thankful, but I had assumed that this trip would be all about sharing the gospel with everyone around us the whole time. But in reality, we couldn’t just do that. We got to know them and show them that we cared about them, and then the Lord was able to make Himself known in a big way. It wasn’t just with a few people on the team, but with everyone! I know with my whole heart that He was with us at practice and in our conversations! My prayer is that something would spark the hearts of those who have yet to make the decision to follow Him. I believe that we did what Hid had in store for us and that He is faithful to continue working in the hearts of our sweet teammates.

I don’t think that I doubted God and what He was doing, but I was beginning to wonder if there would be an opportunity to reach our amigos. Over the two weeks, we were in prayer for them and obviously the Lord was working on our hearts, so at just the right time we were able to speak His name boldly. I am so thankful for the friendships that we created on the track and everything we learned from them! They work so hard and seriously enjoy every second of being at practice. They were always so relaxed instead of focusing so much on being competitive and getting discouraged after a bad rep at practice. I know that this is something that God had for me to see, because it’s something that I have to work on! Jesus was also there to teach us that everything is perfect in His timing, not ours! He is the same God in the Canary Islands as He is at home, and I know that He is working in the hearts of those on their team.

THIS TRIP HAS BEEN SUCH A BLESSING!

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what he has done.” [1 Chronicles 16:8]

-Sammi Jo