Head Coach Jamie Aid made a lot of folks scratch their heads when she purposed her team spend the weekend at a women’s and children’s homeless shelter as a domestic mission trip during the team’s first week of A-Sun match play.
The team was slated to play multiple matches over the school’s spring break, including the start of conference play at Mercer and Kennesaw State in Georgia. Saturday evening following the team’s match play at Kennesaw State, the team of 6 student-athletes, 3 coaches, and 2 spiritual formation mission trip leaders drove blocks awary from the Georgia Dome down Joesph E. Boone Blvd. toward Restoration Atlanta “RATL” homeless shelter; where the idea of “being with” is more transformative than “doing for.”
That statement couldn’t be more true. The women’s tennis mission trip included bunking in a large room just like the women and children do that are homeless. The early hours (5am wake up call) begins with mothers, children, and crying babies getting ready for the day, and volunteers (like the tennis team) heading to the commercial kitchen to begin preparing for hungry mouths. By 6am, breakfast is served and all volunteers are asked to go sit and “be with” the homeless ladies and kids. Sharing a roof, a meal, a church service, and face to face conversation really opens up your perspective as to why these ladies are homeless… Many are fleeing domestic abuse and protecting their children from circumstances that are far worse than staying at a homeless shelter. Others are healing from addictions, and others are recovering from sex trafficking.
“RATL” is perfect acronym for this ministry… as the experience of being with others at the shelter really does “rattle” you. Meeting these people, hearing their stories, and living a small amount of time in the “hard knock life” in a city that is known for good, plenty, and blocks away from venues that housed the Olympic Games in 1996 really opened our eyes. Perspective is healthy when you see honestly, and are not able to “look away.”
In addition to “being with” the homeless at the shelter, the mission trip also included running multiple tennis clinics in the Atlanta area. The first tennis clinic of the mission trip was with the children of the homeless shelter. The children were so excited and many had never tried tennis before. The next day following early breakfast, the team traveled to a local club for practice, and later went to a private school to run a tennis session at a couple PE classes. Within 24 hours the team was exposed to the extremes of a homeless shelter and a wealthy private school… what was eye opening- kids are kids, regardless of their families income status. They are all wanting to learn, thrive, and matter.
You may be asking, how does one use a tennis racket to share the Gospel? It was in teaching and creating opportunities to build trust through helping the kids learn how to play and share with them that they matter. Following each clinic a player shared with the group of kids why they came to Lipscomb and how their faith has grown in being at Christian University. Through their personal stories, they offered the kids the truth that Jesus loves them, and in Christ, there is hope.
[ To learn more about Restoration Atlanta, visit their website: http://restorationatl.org/ ]