Earlier this year, a team of 12 AIA staff members and volunteers traveled to Kenya for two new, and dramatically different, outreaches – one to launch a golf ministry to reach out to business professionals, and the other to build into the lives of children living in a slum.
The first annual Athletes in Action Golf Classic was held on January 13 in Nairobi, Kenya. The event, inspired by the vision of Kenyan Director David Nyamu, marks the first time AIA Kenya has conducted an outreach focused on golf.
According to AIA staff member Gordon Volkman, golf was a strategic choice.
“AIA exists to help reach every aspect of society. Golf takes us into working with leaders and decision-makers in the country. Many of the elite people in Kenya are involved in golf. They may not be that interested in golf as a sport, but it is a good forum for networking,” says Volkman.
AIA staff members hoped that this inaugural event, which also included a golf clinic, would help build connections between Athletes in Action and Kenyan leaders, ultimately influencing the country for Christ.
“When we went over there, no one in the world of golf really knew who AIA was,” says Volkman, “But as a result of the classic, AIA really became known.”
The classic attracted around 100 golfers.
“We were surprised by the number of people who responded. There were even a couple of prominent businessmen who drove up to the club that day and wanted to golf in the tournament when they found out what it was,” says Volkman.
The golf clinic, held the morning after the tournament, also garnered a favorable reaction. Four young golf pros traveling with the AIA team and a female Kenyan golf pro together led the clinic, which targeted younger and less-experienced golfers. AIA Kenya volunteers were there to engage the participants in spiritual conversations.
“One of the purposes of this tour was to expand the network for AIA Kenya to develop local resources for the ongoing ministry in their country,” says Eric Nelson, the AIA global sports director. “It was also to begin a golf ministry to the elite business community and youth. On both fronts, the project was very successful.”
“We just wanted to help the girls to see that God is good, and give them hope that they can get out of the slum.”
The compassion aspect of the trip took place the next week, on January 17, as the AIA team hosted a field day for children living in Kibera Slum, in Nairobi. The children who participated in the field day attend Soweto Academy, a nearby school that AIA tours have visited and supported over the past six years.
The field day was held at Nyamu’s church, which is also where AIA teams have built basketball courts on previous tours. According to AIA staff member Katie Campbell, the field day was a realization of Nyamu’s longtime dream of using the courts for outreach.
“We’ve had relationships with both the school and the church from past trips, but this really brought everything together for the first time,” says Campbell.
Of the 40 students who attended the field day, only six had gone outside of the slum before. The participants, all female, competed in relay races as well as basketball and soccer games. They also enjoyed a ‘pampering station,’ where they were invited to color pictures and have their nails done. Before the girls left, the youth pastor from the church, who grew up in the same slum, told his story of how he came to faith in Christ.
“Here he is, a nicely dressed pastor, from the very same place as these girls, talking about how the Lord is the one who brought him out of that. His testimony was awesome,” Campbell continues, “We just wanted to help the girls to see the world, see that God is good, and give them hope that they can get out of the slum.”
One of the biggest highlights of the time with the students actually came the day before the field day, when the AIA team had the opportunity to speak to all of the high school girls as well as the junior high boys at Soweto Academy. After hearing the gospel and the faith story of an AIA volunteer, seven of the girls accepted Christ.
Both the visiting and local AIA teams came away from the tour with a sense of hope and excitement over these new outreaches. They believe the impact of this trip in Kenya will be felt for years to come.
By Katie Neff, AIA Communications