This past Sunday we celebrate the end of the 10th year of Upward Basketball at First Baptist and the many gifts that it brings to our church and our community. For the last two months its been a place of formation and nurture of 200 children and their families, involving so many coaches and volunteers all the way from the cafe to the refs to the Director Tommy Starnes.
Our own William Petitt was one of those coaches this past year and shares with us his faith story about what Upward meant to him. Watch or read below.
As we come to a time of offering, I wanted to share with you about a ministry of First Baptist Church that I have been a part of and that has benefited from the generosity of your gifts: The Upward ministry.
After moving to North Carolina in Summer 2010, my family began attending First Baptist. As a rising fourth grader, one of the things I remember most vividly is walking into the children’s ministry Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, seeing a poster delineating the Upward basketball program. At this time, I wasn’t very keen on what the Upward ministry was besides a place to play basketball, but that was soon to change.
When I first began playing Upward, I wasn’t the best player on the team nor the tallest guy out there, but that did not bother me due to the inclusive nature of the program. I came to learn about how we can live our lives as followers of Christ through sports with the Upward program; which teaches cornerstone principles of Christianity such as kindness, hope, perseverance and most importantly love. This might have been why I felt so bad after I got a foul called on me in fifth grade for hitting someone in the face. I looked at the ref and protested “It was an accident!”(And it honestly was). Apparently I didn’t understand how shooting fouls worked at this point. However, this would change; and as my basketball knowledge grew so did my faith in Christ. It was through Upward that I began to feel that I was part of more than a basketball team; that I was part of a community of Christians.
This is what makes the Upward program so special. Furthermore, coaching Upward has been a very rewarding experience. On Saturday mornings, I’m not too excited about waking up for an 8:30AM game, but on the other hand I know that I would not want to miss my team’s game for the world. To make this easier, I come prepared with coffee. From a coaching standpoint, what makes the early games and sometimes difficult practices all worth it is seeing how the team improves over the year, both in their relationships with one another and their basketball skill. An example of this is last Saturday, where one of my players scored for the first time. The gym was filled with suspense as the ball rolled around the rim, and exploded when the ball fell through the hoop; players, parents, and coaches alike.
As I have grown older, my role in the program has changed; but my belief of its inclusive nature has remained the same. Teaching Christian values, it is easy to see how Upward builds strong character through basketball for kids every year, as it has done with me as both a player and a coach. And on top of that, the feeling of running through the tunnel over the years is unrivaled- it makes the experience surreal and special for everyone involved. As both a player and a coach, Upward has served as a learning experience for me in basketball, but more importantly in Christ. Please pray with me:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life