Underfunded Projects

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Underfunded Projects

Sport has the power to change the world.

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Katie Neff

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Nelson Mandela once said,Sport has the power to change the world.” He described the unique power of sport to unite people across cultures and classes, as well as its ability to bring hope where there is despair. 

At Athletes in Action® we agree that sport has a unique ability to open doors and build bridges, and we are passionate about using those pathways to bring the life-changing news of Jesus to athletes and influencers around the world!

There are many strategies in place to support this goal. Unfortunately, some of our most influential projects are currently underfunded. As 2021 comes to a close, we are trusting God to provide what is needed to enable ministry in five specific ways: 

  1. continue sports performance camps 
  2. accelerate international missions 
  3. produce the International Basketball Coaches’ Academy 
  4. distribute Bibles, and 
  5. grow AIA wrestling

Consider the story of Baggi, a junior world bronze medalist in wrestling from Mongolia, where less than four percent of the population are Christians:

“I first heard about Jesus at wrestling camp. There I accepted Christ into my heart and received a gift of a Bible,” he says. “I took my Bible home to my family, where my mother read it and also became a Christian.”

Baggi was an athlete in need of training. He connected with AIA® wrestling, who was hosting a training camp in his country, and ended up gaining more than he could have imagined. 

AIA wrestling regularly sends teams around the world to host camps, like the one Baggi attended, where wrestlers are able to hear the gospel as they learn how to improve in their sport. 

This year, wrestling teams traveled to Moldova and Ukraine. In Moldova, athletes trained and shared their faith with local wrestlers. The team also visited a juvenile prison. As the first visitors allowed in since COVID-19, they were met by an eager audience receptive to the gospel. 

In Ukraine, the team hosted the AIA Wrestling International Training Camp in partnership with an AIA volunteer in the country. They had 100 wrestlers and coaches from Moldova, Ukraine, Ireland and even Turkey at camp! Each day of camp included morning workouts, Bible study, meals, wrestling practice and nightly programs featuring games, testimonies and gospel presentations. 

“I was able to see how my relationship with God and wrestling went hand in hand, and that by strengthening one I was also strengthening the other.”

The impact of these trips is felt by both the local athletes attending training and those traveling as a part of the team. Ethan had this to say about his wrestling tour experience: 

“Before my trip, I was a devoted Christian and wrestler but saw the two as separate. My trip left me with numerous lifelong memories, unforgettable experiences and a network of other great Christian wrestlers. More importantly, I was able to see how my relationship with God and wrestling went hand in hand, and that by strengthening one I was also strengthening the other.”

In 2022, AIA wrestling is hoping to send teams to Ukraine, Mongolia and Central Asia. They will host about 250 wrestlers and coaches at camps in Ukraine and Mongolia, and look to hold a third camp in Central Asia or Eastern Europe. 

Plans are also in the works to begin an online Bible study for wrestlers in Central Asia in the new year. This is in addition to ongoing online studies for wrestlers in the U.S. (including groups for high school, college/post-college and a team study with the University of Minnesota), Chile and with coaches from the former Soviet Union. 

Across the organization, athletes are finding meaningful places of connection where they have the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. Whether it’s through the International Basketball Coaches’ Academy, a sports performance clinic, the gift of a Bible, or as in Baggi and Ethan’s stories, an overseas wrestling camp — athletes are coming to know Jesus and choosing to follow Him! 

Your gifts are what make these outreaches possible. Thank you for helping us build unity and connections through sport and Jesus Christ. Click here to give to one of these critical outreaches before the year is over! 

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