Four members of the Virginia women's basketball program, Chelsea Shine, Telia McCall, Kim Kastuk (also a former member of the UVa field hockey team) and manager Rachael Cho, are spending three weeks of their summer on a mission trip in Los Angeles, Calif. The trio are serving in the inner city communities as part of the Athletes in Action Urban Project. Shine, McCall, Kastuk and Cho will be adding blog entries to share their experiences during the trip.
For more information on the Athletes in Action Urban Project, click here.
For week two's blog entries, click here.
Saturday, June 16 - Kim Kastuk
What's up Wahoo fans?!
Today we woke up around 7:00 a.m. with severely hurting bodies. As highlighted in yesterdays blog, we all just completed the "special", a 20 hour competition which attempts to break you mentally and physically. The muscle soreness that everyone seemed to share today was a strong reminder of the physical challenges we had just endured. It's safe to say that I personally wasn't as sore as the majority of the athletes here. The reason I'm confident of this is because I was limited throughout the "special" due to the fact that I'm 7 1/2 months out of knee reconstructive surgery and I was not looking to jeopardize the progress I've made during that time. On the other hand though, I've never done so many push-ups and planks in my entire life! Waking up this morning it felt like my upper body was hit by a truck. It took me a couple attempts before I was able to fully lift my arms above my head... Not a pretty sight.
After breakfast our entire house, comprised of about 60 people, headed over to Nickerson Gardens Rec center to prepare for "sports day". Nickerson Gardens is the largest housing project west of the Mississippi and is also home to a large sect of the Bloods known as "the bounty hunters". Sports day consisted of food, music, arts & crafts, dance, and any type of sport you could possibly think of. A large number of kids came out to participate and they all really seemed to have a blast being active with different college athletes from all over the country. It was a great way for us to get the kids in the area to come out and enjoy themselves and gave us an opportunity to serve the community as a whole.
I spent most of my day rotating between basketball, football, and soccer with an 8 year old boy that I met. He was a very sweet kid and I really enjoyed my time with him. He opened up to me a bit about his life and family situation and it broke my heart to hear some of the really tough things that he had to go through and endure on a daily basis as an 8 year old child. He also inspired me because in spite of his difficult circumstances he was still able to maintain such a kind temperament and really seemed to enjoy himself throughout the day. I'm thankful and feel privileged for the time I got to spend with him today and hope I get the opportunity to invest even more within the next two weeks.
Sports day ended with a basketball game between Nickerson's best and AIA's best with everybody else looking on . Chelsea and Telia both represented AIA's best along with about 8 other athletes. It was a high-paced physical match and in the end Nickerson got the best of us. It stunk to lose but I was proud of the effort that was put forth on the court by both teams and it was really fun to watch.
The day ended at Dodgers stadium where we got to witness LA face off against the Chicago White Sox. Being from New York and a Yankees fan I really didn't care who won I was just hoping for a high scoring, exciting game which is what I received with a 5-4 White Sox win. All in all, it was an enjoyable, relaxing way to end a long week. Now, it's time for bed so I can catch up on some much needed sleep! Thanks for reading!
Friday, June 15 - Chelsea Shine
Hey Cavalier Fans!
Ask just about any Division I college athlete what the hardest part about their season is and they'll probably tell you...preseason. Between the early morning lifts, the insane conditioning workouts that never seem to end and all the individual skill work, preseason, at least in women's basketball is a tough gig, no matter what year you are. Well here in LA at the Athletes in Action Urban Project, we've just experienced something far more difficult. "The Special."
The Special is a 20 hour competition that is designed to be extremely difficult so that athletes are able to practically apply the 5 AIA principals. The point of the special is to push yourself to your absolute maximum ability while glorifying and worshipping God through every step. The Special started yesterday at 7:30pm on the University of Southern California's Track and Field. We were divided up into 6 teams and did a variety of sprint relays as well as other relays such as carrying one of your teammates on your back for 100 meters. After that we headed to the pool and did more relays. Then we went to the basketball courts. At this point everyone is pretty tired, but I must say...this is the point where many of us really got pushed over the edge. With exhausted legs and tired bodies we played 5 games of basketball, and I must say it was a grind. If your team wasn't on the court playing, you were doing wall sits, planks, squats, push ups or anything else the staff member could think of...in other words, there was no resting. We had no one else to turn to but God, we relied on his strength entirely as we continued to battle through each game. We finished out basketball session with a few suicides which is always just icing on the cake for us basketball players :) Concluding night one we finished with a push up relay and a team test on the principles. The staff scored the points and depending on where your team ranked determined how early you had to wake up; the higher you placed, the later you got to sleep. My team was in second at this point so we got to sleep in until 5:10am!
After 3 hours of sleep, my alarm went off and I was back in the competition. This time we had an obstacle course to complete around the USC campus. Then we hit the beach...but not with a bathing suit and towel, rather we had whatever energy God provided us with and a pair of sneakers. We continued with ultimate frisbee and relays in the sand before running the final "Golgotha." At this point, we had been reading about the final day of Jesus' life before he was crucified. Golgotha was a very steep hill we ran up carrying a 2x4 piece of wood over our shoulders symbolizing that of a cross. It was one of the hardest and most humbling runs (and walks at some points) that I have ever had. Thanking God for who He is and the strength He provided me throughout the Special reminded me that He carefully created me and gave me the gift of basketball that I love so much, and it's one of the many places I have to worship Him. After rounding the hill and coming down the other side out onto the beach again it was just me, God, and a straight away, and a group of amazing athletes, friends, and encouragers waiting for me at the end. It was so special falling in to Kim and my brother who were there at the end, amongst other great friends and mentors from UVA.
Barely able to feel my legs, it's one of the greatest feelings of "sore" that I've had. Knowing that I left everything I had out there, drawing my strength from the Lord, I saw Him work through me and through everyone else to reveal His almighty power. It's created quite a scene around the house here...people are limping around with sore and tired bodies but it's so much fun reflecting on everything we went through together. Needless to say...this has been the hardest competition I have been a part of so far...even harder than preseason! (let's just hope the coaches don't get in on this :)
Thursday, June 14 - Rachael Cho
Greetings from Los Angeles, Cavalier fans!
Each day at Urban Project - Los Angeles has been packed, and yesterday was no exception. We ate an early breakfast at our house on USC's Frat Row and then continued to learn how God, Life, and Sport are intertwined. Specifically, we focused on the fourth AIA (Athletes in Action) principle: how God uses pain and trials to deepen our character. We learned that even though trials in life are inevitable, often mysterious in nature, and we naturally ask "why?", these experiences not only reveal, but also build character and ultimately reflect God's greatness. While trials, like the individual ingredients in a baking recipe, are rarely pleasant to taste by themselves, these experiences mixed together and baked under high heat pressures in the oven of "life" are capable of yielding a final product that is good, such as a cake.
Afterwards, we headed to the volleyball courts, where we practiced applying the principles that we have been learning throughout the week; we were put through challenging and competitive situations, during which we faced and dealt with adversity. After our volleyball matches, a group of us met the director of Hoover Recreation Center, where we have been playing volleyball all week. Despite never having played a sport (like myself!!!), the director has led the transformation of this park from a dirt lot into an incredible place. People can play basketball on the outdoor courts, run around the track, play on the grass field, and exercise with playground-style fitness equipment for adults; in addition, children can develop their artistic abilities and potential through art, drama, media, and photography programs and classes that the center offers. It was inspiring to see that the director changed what used to be nothing more than a plot of dirt with shards of glass into a beautiful and vibrant place that serves the greater community of Los Angeles.
My team and I then headed to our assigned ministry site: Central City Community Outreach, which is located in the heart of Skid Row. Skid Row is a portion of Central City East and is a ten square block area of Los Angeles, where the homeless population is intentionally contained to limit the homeless in a central geographic area. While there are many resources and groups that serve the homeless population in Skid Row, homelessness has continued to grow and diversify over the years in Los Angeles. Families and children are the fastest growing population in Skid Row, and my ministry site, Central City Community Outreach, is a Christian non-profit organization that serves this population through after-school care, tutoring, summer programs, and other services. Each afternoon, I help the children in the K-2nd grade class complete their homework and play with them afterwards. Driving to and from Skid Row everyday, seeing people so exposed and vulnerable in the streets in what is their "living room", and working with bright children who are constantly in transient living situations has put life in perspective for me. I not only appreciate what I have been blessed with much more, but also have been challenged to make a difference and live my life with purpose.
Lastly, we began to prepare for the SPECIAL, a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taxing series of activities that will challenge us to apply and live out the AIA principles. The SPECIAL commenced with this morning's volleyball matches and will end tomorrow afternoon. But before we headed out to our ministry sites this afternoon, we celebrated the LA Kings' victory as Stanley Cup Champions in the parade! The remainder of the SPECIAL waits in less than an hour; quite frankly, I am incredibly anxious, but we will keep you posted!
Wednesday, June 13 - Telia McCall
Hey Wahoo fans!!!
Today we spent another day at our sites. I am a site leader, and I led my group in setting up the activities with the youth. Before going to the site and after, we pray so that we may serve the youth in an adequate way and so that we can overcome our insecurities. We work with young adults who love to play sports in their down time. My group went to the Salvation Army at Compton. It is a recreation center, and guys come to play basketball, soccer, lift weights and they even have a recording studio. Young adults who come to the Salvation Army have to pay two dollars to have gym access for the day. Yesterday, we were assigned work outside so we trimmed the bushes and raked the leaves. That took us about two hours to get the work done. After we were done with that task, I assigned some people to work on flyers and some people to interact with the youth and play basketball. Some people were putting together a flyer for a three-on-three tournament that we are hosting. We thought it would be a good idea to bring people together and fellowship in a nice urban setting.
After we were done with serving at our site, we ate dinner at the house and then went on a prayer tour of Los Angeles. We went to different sites to pray for better education, fewer gangs and less gang activity, for kids to have a father figures, kids who need a way of getting out of gangs, etc. When we did this, we saw the city at its low points. We saw that L.A. looks good on the outside with its glamour, but on the inside, it is filled with homelessness and brokenness. I was exhausted after the prayer tour because I felt like the issue of poverty is so complex, and I so badly want to help these people, especially the youth, because they don't get to choose the family they are born into.
Monday, June 11 - Chelsea Shine
Hey Cavalier Fans!
After an awesome fourth year both athletically and academically I find myself in the heart of Los Angeles with some amazing people! I, along with my teammate Telia McCall, our awesome manager Rachael Cho, a Virginia Field Hockey player, Kim Kastuk, a recent National Champion UVa Rower, Sarah Borchelt, and my brother Danny, have all come to the west coast along with many other athletes from around the country to serve in the underprivileged LA community. Serving with Athletes in Action (AIA), Urban Project-Los Angeles is an awesome, three week, summer opportunity to grow and share the gospel with others while partnering up with ministries around the city to help in any way we can.
This morning we learned the first two AIA principles of how God, Life, and Sport all work together. We learned about "who" and "what" we play for and what motivates us. Then we go out and compete in volleyball games to practice applying the principles in competitive situations. It was a lot of fun and very competitive, and despite a close championship game (which was against Telia) my team took home the bragging rights :)
This afternoon was our first day on our different ministry sites out in the community. I got assigned to Nickerson Gardens, the largest housing project west of Mississippi and our first day was awesome! We got to spend time with a bunch of the kids who live in the Gardens. Ranging from two years old to 18 years old, all of the kids have different stories to tell and are so much fun to be around. The Nickerson Gardens Rec Center is run by awesome people and it offers a great place for the kids and adults to play and work out. We got to play basketball on their outdoor courts as well as on their indoor court and we all had a blast! We'll get to see these kids throughout the weeks we are here and I am looking forward to getting to know them all. Most of them are still in school for another week or so and they just love being around each other and anyone willing to play with them! It's so humbling seeing how happy and joyful they are just playing basketball or being pushed on the swing, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow already!