It had been three days since Amir* had eaten a proper meal. But that wasn’t unusual in the Riverdale neighbourhood of Hamilton, Ont. With the largest proportion of new immigrants in the city, many families in this area are without work and the children are often hungry.
So when Amir received daily snacks and lunches at an Athletes in Action soccer camp hosted by Lightway Baptist Church this summer, it was no small matter. “Our neighbourhood is crawling with kids who love soccer and are looking for things to do in the summer,” says Pastor Ian Havercroft. “Kids ministry has been a big thing for us, but we just haven’t had the capabilities or the resources to do a camp like this.”
An Athletes in Action sports camp provided a natural way to serve the children of the neighbourhood and allowed Havercroft and his congregation to build trust as they developed relationships in the community. Two single-mom families even attended several Sunday morning services following the camp, and many families have continued to engage with the church.
“There are very few churches who are ministering directly in big cities who have resources and volunteer power to run a soccer camp,” Havercroft says. “It really lifts a church like ours when a donor or another church who has the means comes in from the outside and says, ‘I want to help you do what you do better.’ It made me feel like, okay, there is someone else who is as concerned about this as I am. It made me feel like God was giving this to us through Athletes in Action.”
In 2015, Athletes in Action sports camps reached into some of the most marginalized communities in Canada. From hockey to volleyball, basketball and soccer, these beginner to high-level sport development camps welcomed kids of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to physical training, kids had the opportunity to hear the gospel and received spiritual care and mentorship from their coaches and volunteers.
*Name changed for privacy.