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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.

To read the blog posts from week one, click here.

Monday, June 18 – Rachael Cho

Over the course of UP-LA week 1, each person was assigned to more than a handful of different teams: one for volleyball lab, another for kitchen duty, others for bathroom-cleaning duty, ministry sites, the SPECIAL, and discipleship, in addition to our “team” of roommates. Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed and found it difficult to remember the other members of my teams, let alone which team I was on for what activity. However, just in the last week, these teams have given me a lasting taste of genuine community and accountability; for that, I am no longer overwhelmed but rather in a posture of overwhelming gratitude.

Heading into the SPECIAL (which Chelsea described in a Week 1 post), I was placed on a team with five other individuals; while I had no doubts that the SPECIAL would be an unforgettable, challenging, and life changing experience, I also had no idea that God would use my team in such a powerful way throughout this experience. During the portion of the SPECIAL at the pool, I broke down; for the first time in my life, having two titanium rods and screws support my spine was more of a hindrance, than of a triumphant story of overcoming trials; as a middle schooler, I wore a plastic/foam brace for 23 hours a day and had surgery to correct my scoliosis in eighth grade. At the pool, I felt motivated by guilt, unequipped to be a positive asset to my team.

Despite my brokenness, inability to complete part of the SPECIAL, and inability to contribute athleticism to my team, my teammates resonated with love, picking me up after I fell down. They hugged me as I shared my struggles, prayed for me after I poured out my heart, and encouraged during me every step of the SPECIAL, even when I was just a spectator. These fellow teammates, who were no more than strangers just days before, became a loving community of brothers and sisters in Christ and teammates to laugh with, to cry with, to pray with, to struggle with, to pour out my heart with, to overcome adversity with, to be vulnerable with, to triumph with, and to ultimately glorify God with.

This morning, I was again reminded of the importance of community and accountability; Telia and I woke up at 5:45am to hit the gym. With our schedules so packed, anyone who wants to work out at the gym has to do so in the morning, before our already early 7:30am breakfast. For the average college student, this is ambitious but unrealistic. For the Division I college athlete who wants to take maximum advantage of the offseason, this is discipline; it’s normal. For me, this is a beautiful example of community and accountability. Even though we were both exhausted and wouldn’t have minded an extra hour of sleep, we both made it a priority to make sure that the other person was awake and ready to get a workout in, before we were overwhelmed by the busyness of our schedules. It was much easier to get up before the sun even rose, knowing that someone else expected me to be up, in order to go to the gym.

With that being said, I am continuously learning about the importance of community and accountability here at Urban Project – Los Angeles; however, my hope is that I would be able to make both a part of the SPECIAL Part II-life back at UVA!

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.”
-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Sunday, June 17 – Telia McCall

On Saturday, we went to Nickerson Gardens, a Los Angeles County housing project, to serve the community. These housing projects are set up in a way so that the recreation center, where the community kids hang out at, is right in the center of the projects. Most kids come and leave as they please, are under no supervision, and gang members surround the community where these kids play. It was great to eat lunch with the kids and give them undivided attention, something that they don’t necessarily receive at home. Our purpose was to love on these kids and let them know that they can be successful by working hard and staying in school, a message these children do not hear often.

Upon arriving at Nickerson Gardens, the kids were very excited to see us. They would jump on our backs and were genuinely overjoyed that we were there. These kids were ecstatic that we were paying attention to them and were there for them. My heart went out to these kids because I was far beyond the moment, in a sense that I didn’t want to leave these kids in their situation, and they didn’t want us to leave. We shared a bond with these kids as we listened to their stories and heard about their lives.

While I was preparing lunch, Lynne (an AIA at UVA staff member) asked me to share my testimony with the kids before lunch; I was glad because I felt like I could relate to these kids. I started playing basketball when I was six, and it started at a recreation center, similar to Nickerson Gardens. I planned my testimony, and I rehearsed what I was about to say several times to different people to see if it was ok. I got on the stage to share my testimony and things were going decent, when a guy on a loud motorcycle zipped by; one girl said that the guys on the motorcycles are part of a gang, but I lost all focus and my mind went blank.

I felt like my speech was not very effective, yet alone good, but afterwards, a couple of kids came up to me and said they started playing basketball at young ages too. I was overjoyed that they were listening after all, and my message was not ineffective. Also, I talked to an AIA staff member about how horrible I thought my speech was, and she ministered to me in a way that will help me in the future. She asked me what the enemy is saying to me right now, and I said that I am not fit to talk in front of a large audience. In response, she gave me a Bible verse that was very comforting, a verse that was our anthem for “the special”: 2 Corinthians 12:9.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

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