The Story of Creation and Volleyball

Summertime, with its warm weather, longer days, and time off from school, is one of the perfect seasons for kids of all ages to be involved in sports. Every year, Athletes in Action (AIA) takes advantage of a great opportunity to reach out to kids through a variety of sports camps, not only developing their skills, but also sharing the message of Christ. Sometimes, all it takes is one incredible camp experience to have a great impact on the lives of kids, their families, and the athletes who serve them. One such experience was an overnight volleyball camp that took place in Summer 2013 in Winnipeg, recalls Dallas Williams, Director of Manitoba Sports Camps. Every year, he organizes around 40 volleyball, basketball, and mixed sports day camps in the region, and just one overnight volleyball camp. Initially, numbers were so low that he considered cancelling the camp. “But then I looked carefully at the budget, and decided to follow what Christ said in Luke 14:23: Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’” After Williams contacted many people and lowered the cost of the camp, God opened the doors. Twenty kids (boys and girls, ages 13 -17) came from various parts of the city for five days of fun, learning, and transformation. The camp attracted a mix of Christian and non-Christian kids, many of whom were searching in their faith. Because of the ideal ratio between coaches and kids during the day, this allowed for an optimum learning experience. “They were ecstatic,” Williams states. “The kids had such an amazing time and the staff were fantastic as well.” In the evenings, volleyball continued, but there was time for coaches to share their stories and testimonies with the kids. One speaker brought a unique message that weaved the story of redemption through the lens of sport. Dave Johns, AIA Teacher and Trainer who researches and teaches on the integration of faith and sport, played volleyball in university, making him an ideal speaker for this young audience. Each night, Johns described what he calls the “theology of sport,” taking the kids’ love of volleyball through the Genesis story of Creation, the Fall, man’s reaction to the Fall, and God’s redemption. One talk focused on the significance of Creation – how God created everything we see around us, and how this constant awareness should make us more thankful for what He’s created. “One of the applications was about having an attitude of gratefulness – creation is so fabulous and we have such a good time playing inside of it,” Johns says. By the last evening, the kids heard more about other key elements such as the Fall of Adam and Eve and the effects of sin in relation to sport. “Why people cheat, why people hurt one another on the court, why they don’t let certain people play…all the bad things about sport that people don’t like about it, we can take back to the Fall,” Johns explains. Then came the story of redemption and God’s promise to defeat the evil one and send Christ to cover our shame and restore us – just like giving us brand new uniforms. Upon hearing the message, kids were encouraged to make a personal commitment to Christ. But it’s not only the kids who were impacted by the camp. Johns managed to get two members of the Women’s National Volleyball Team to speak and share their stories as well. Not only did they relate to the kids from an athletics perspective, but also conveyed their own personal struggles and how they came to know Christ. “They were so excited that they wanted to come every night,” Johns says. “They were starving for fellowship and looking for a way to minister to the kids.” Upon hearing Johns’ talk on God’s Creation, the women were encouraged and challenged to apply the message of thankfulness in their sport. The attitude of thanking God caused other teammates to ask what they were doing. The women shared what they learned and it seems their gratefulness rubbed off on others in their team as well. Among all the camps he organized this summer, Williams emphatically says that the overnight volleyball camp stood out from all the rest. “You could just sense from the kids and coaches that something really, really special happened that week.” Clearly, a camp experience like this goes far and beyond in impacting not only the kids involved, but the leaders and coaches too. It’s just one of the outcomes of AIA’s goal to build the Kingdom through evangelism and spiritual movements in the world of sport. Have you been inspired by this story? Maybe you should help start a camp through your church in your community? Click here to get more info on how AIA can help you reach your world. Maybe your an athlete or know an athlete who needs to hear more about integration of faith and sport. Have them sign up for Total Athlete Academy or go to our university age National Training camp.