Transforming Lives Through Sports and Gospel

A little over a week ago, God blessed the RYAA community with a generous gift of support by Louis Zamperini given through Menlo Park Presbyterian church.  We praise God for this gift and intend to use it to further our goal of building character, families, and faith.  We also commend Louis Zamperini and Menlo Park Presbyterian Church for their faithfulness in working towards transforming our community for Christ.

Mr. Zamperini’s story is quite extraordinary because his life was transformed by sports and by the gospel.  First as a youth, sports helped deliver Louis from his troubled life by giving him a constructive outlet.  Instead of continuing to get into fights – he transformed that energy to running and shortly thereafter he became an Olympian.  Years later, Louis would become a war hero during WWII as he survived terrible conditions and torture beyond all imagination.  However, even after these successes, something was still missing for Louis and his life was on the wrong track.  That is, until one fateful day when Louis began a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of finding God at a Billy Graham tent meeting.  Louis said his life was “revolutionized in a moment.”  Since then Louis has been living the gospel and seeking to help others do the same.

We intend to use this gift in a way that honors God by enhancing our programs that teach dignity and responsibility in the context of sports by the power of the gospel. Our prayer is that many youth lives will be transformed by the power of the gospel and will in turn be inspired to become tomorrow’s leaders who will continue to generously give to their communities.

[See below for a news story to learn more about Louis Zamperini’s life]

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The Joy of Community

In sports, there is nothing that compares to the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.  Much like the ups and downs of riding a roller coaster, being in active in sports can twist and turn your emotions. At least that is what I have experienced in my 28 years of life.  How we learn to handle these emotional situations determines what kind of character we develop.  As I reflect back on my life to this point, it is really clear to me that some of the most definitive moments and important relationships I’ve enjoyed have be born from the field of play.  It is because of this thought – and also a passion to serve God by serving His people – that I chose to serve with RYAA a few years ago.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet hundreds of youth as a soccer coach, a Bible story teacher, a referee, a friend, and a mentor.  Its really cool when I am able to go out to the soccer field – like on tournament day – or when I am in the grocery store and I run into somebody whom I met through RYAA.  I love it when they get so excited to see me.  I mean, who am I?  I give a little time and I feel like I get so much love in return.  In the end, I am the one who is so thankful to see them.  And I also remember all the people who invested time in me when I was young – the people who hoped and prayed for my success.  Now that I am on the giving end of this relationship, I value their efforts on my behalf even more.

It is for these reasons that I highly encourage everyone to consider being a coach, mentor, prayer partner, or servant in any way you think God may be calling you.  I have been so blessed by the coaches and mentors in my life and I am excited to have the opportunity to give a little back.  In a way, it almost feels unfair because even though I am “giving” I feel like I get so much more in return.

– Eric Garthoffner (joyful member of RYAA community)

Trial and Triumph in Leading and Coaching

As Jesus left the world, He left us with a commandment to take the gospel to all the nations and teach them to follow all that He commanded.  Many have understood this as a call to go to foreign countries for short or long term missions trips to preach the gospel.  But we have many needy people right here in our own home nation too!  Some need material needs, but everybody needs love.  We encourage people to see coaching as an opportunity to spread the gospel through planting the seeds of Christ’s love and hopefully the end result is that both yourself and the youth will become (in terms of character and love) more like the savior Jesus Christ!

RYAA Soccer coach Greg Ullom describes how coaching affected him and the youth he served:

Well,this season was filled with mixed feelings for me. That is not to say that the things that were tough were bad. Rather, they were opportunities to get better. The tough times were always accompanied with sweet individual moments with the kids. I found it very difficult to communicate the importance of of certain things like team work, Christ-like attitudes, and soccer skills when the kids were in a large group.  However, when I would be walking to the field – say during a water break – I was usually approached by a kid on my team who would alway be excited to share with me a piece of their day or some other nugget of personal information about there lives. The cool thing was that it wasn’t the same kid every time!

As I think back on the season, I believe I actually spent one-on-one time with every kid on my team.  And the cool thing is that they all seemed delighted to talk with me. Of course, there were some kids I got to know better than others. And through the season these were the glimmers of light that really kept me motivated. The other thing that helped to keep me motivated was that I felt, on a number of occasions, the Lord reminding me that I have no idea how my interactions with the kids was affecting them.  Therefore, He reminded me to keep a good attitude and stay aligned with Christ.

– Greg Ullom, RYAA Soccer Coach

That final line says it all.  For Coach Greg, the result was he had a motivating force for staying aligned with Christ.  Also in his personal relationships with the youth, he helped keep them aligned with Christ as well!  We are all unique members with varying gifts of the same body.  How does God want to use you and your gifts for His glory? Won’t you prayerfully consider if God is calling for your gifts to serve with the RYAA community?

If so, please contact us and we will help you answer that call.