A Jumpstart into Ministry



Jhamani’s jumpstart into ministry. 

Katie Neff

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When Jhamani arrived at the University of California Irvine on a track scholarship, he had no idea his life was about to change

It started when a teammate invited him to come to an Athletes in Action® meeting on campus during his junior year. Although Jhamani had grown up going to church, he’d viewed it primarily as a social event.

“I always knew about God, had a belief in God, but just was never really serious about my faith and never took extra steps to building a consistent, solid foundation in Christ,” he recalls. 

Jhamani considered turning down his friend’s invitation, as it had been a long day, but the friend insisted, “You have to show up, they have food!”

So Jhamani went, and what he experienced set him on a path that would eventually impact his entire life. That AIA® meeting connected him to a community of Christian athletes, and even more significantly, caused Jhamani to consider that knowing God might change the way he lived his life and competed in his sport.

“Seeing people who were serious in their faith … displaying the fruits of the Spirit … I’d never really seen a group of those people, and it was cool that they were just taking things from the Bible and applying them to sport,”  Jhamani says, “I slowly began to learn what God has to say about leadership, wisdom, love, finances, anxiety, depression and mental health.”

“The food got me there, but the Word of God kept me there,” he says.

As Jhamani became involved in AIA, attending meetings and being mentored by leaders on his campus, his faith grew substantially and he was invited to take on a leadership role in the ministry. 

As graduation neared and Jhamani continued to feel unsure about what he wanted to do with his life, an AIA staff member suggested he consider an internship. 

Jhamani was immediately interested, as he was already heavily involved in AIA and interning would allow him to build on relationships he had built with underclassmen. But, when he learned about the requirement to raise financial support, he was discouraged. It felt impossible.

Gus, Jhamani’s mentor with AIA, sympathized with his concerns and explained that he wouldn’t have to do the work alone, thanks to Jumpstart.

Jumpstart is an initiative created to bring more young men and women of color onto the staff of AIA, so that more athletes see themselves represented there. This means that collegiate athletes — a third of whom are ethnic minority students — can experience the love of Jesus in a familiar and welcoming community. 

Rather than leaving interns like Jhamani on their own to develop their funding, Jumpstart gets the ball rolling by providing one third of the support needed for them to engage in full-time ministry, reaching out to their peers on campus. AIA asks Jumpstart interns and their local team to raise the remaining two thirds together.

“[Jumpstart] was a huge reason I joined, because I knew I was going to have a huge amount of support,” Jhamani says. 


“[Jumpstart] was a huge reason I joined, because I knew I was going to have a huge amount of support.”

The partnership provided through Jumpstart is especially impactful, as many interns face significant obstacles in developing their financial support. They may come from communities where other religions are dominant, resources are scarce or where asking for a financial commitment is viewed as unusual or offensive.

“I don’t know if that’s just a thing for the Black community in general, or people who don’t understand ministry, but Jumpstart gave me more time to get in touch with more and more people,” Jhamani says. Jumpstart literally gave me that jump start. It gave me the confidence: ‘I can do this!’”

AIA is trusting God to provide the financial foundation for six Jumpstart interns for the coming year. Beyond that, the dream is to see many interns of color leading across the country. Your gift toward Jumpstart accelerates AIA’s efforts in pursuit of this goal, so that every athlete has the chance to hear the gospel and know Jesus

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