So Cal: So Gnarly, Dude!

Where to begin! Well I can start with apologizing with how it will be nearly impossible to cover all that has happened this last week and a half. On the first of June I got in a car with two SportQuest staff members and we took a short 13 hour drive to Lawton, Oklahoma were we participated in the first ever SportQuest Leadership Conference. After that I got in another car to travel to Dallas Texas to get on a plane and fly to San Diego. I’ve been in San Diego now for a week, and much has happened in this time. And now I give a few specifics.

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Above is the back of a menu from the burger joint Meers in Lawton, OK.

Oklahoma

After a long drive of thirteen hours I arrived in Southern Oklahoma where I met with the family that would be hosting myself and another athlete for the night because we were a day early to the conference. Manny, the athlete from San Diego, and I enjoyed the evening with our hosts, whose daughter works with SportQuest in Belgium. And of course their collie Boomer and I became good friends.

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The next morning we met up with some other SportQuest leaders to drive to the retreat center. The camp sat at the base of a mountain, which was more than exciting for this corn-fed Hoosier. Oh something to mention, it was raining cows and horses, which meant the river between us and the camp center was overflowing over the bridge. So Kent and Rance, the two head directors of the organization, brought us across the river one by one in a canoe. Luckily the only flipped canoe was on purpose.

Since I had gone on a SportQuest trip before, I knew a few of the other leaders at this event. And by a few I mean like four of some twenty-five or so athletes. But within minutes I was making friends. The cool thing about SportQuest alumni is, no matter what project they had done, when it came to being around other alums, it doesn’t take long to make friends. It felt like walking into my house around my family. Everyone was excited to see old friends and make new ones.

That night, after the rain subsided, we marched up the mountain to have a surprisingly filling MRE dinner. While we were there the SQ director spoke a bit about the Biblical significance of the mountaintop. If you remember, the mountaintop was where God resided while He led the Israelites through the desert. The prophets would go up the mountain to speak with God, but then they came back down to speak and do His will among the people. This was a really cool way to open up the weekend, as the retreat would be our mountaintop meeting with God before going our many separate ways to do His will.

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The weekend short but packed with activities and sessions in which we dove into topics about sports ministry as well as Gospel training and discipleship. Before I move on to California, I want to share one thing.

One of the speakers at this retreat was a missionary from Uzbekistan. During one of his sessions on living for Christ and sharing the Gospel, he shared a challenging statement. He was speaking about vision, and how vision is necessary in ministry. He said “If your vision does not scare you, God is probably not in it.” This quote really grabbed hold on me and to this day (a week and a two days later) it is still stirring within me.

A second thing the speaker stressed was the importance of discipleship. It is important for every christian to have someone wiser than them helping along through the faith journey, just as it is important to find someone who is less spiritually mature to mentor yourself. This is something I think a lot of Christians do not see as vital; however, it is the backbone of ministry and leadership.We all need someone wiser to hold us accountable and give us guidance, while at the same time we should recognize our own lessons we can pass on to the next generation. Every leader has someone leading them, and someone they are leading. Sometimes this is direct and easy to pick out, other times it is much more vague. But in the sense of faith, it should be very direct: Discipleship. So I ask, who is discipling you? And who are you discipling?

As much as I would love to continue to talk about this, it is time to move on to California. We ( as in Seth, the head director of the San Diego office for SportQuest, Manny, a super awesome leader, and I) headed down to Texas to catch flights out of Dallas.

California

We touched down at 10:50pm in the beautiful San Diego and drove northeast to the city where the project will be taking place, Valley Center. After an energizing sleep, I began my intern duties the following day .

To save time, I will only share a few brief things about my interning. first, I have completed all sorts of tasks, from inventorying sports gear to creating spreadsheets with transportation information. I’ve inflated mattresses, gone location scouting (hiking and tromping through the ocean waves), made food, done more inventorying,  and wrote lessons.

But there are two quick stories I would love to share before my time here is done. The first is all thanks to old equipment sheds and mouse infestations.

One of the sports we’ll be hosting for the sports camp this summer is Softball. In town there is an old softball field that used to be used by a now nonexistent softball league. The coach who had run the league retired, and since he had no one to fill his shoes, the league went kaput. The equipment sheds, which are full of gear, picked up some mouse residents. And since we have now added softball and are in need of gear, we turned to these sheds for the answer. Unfortunately the answer smelled horrible and provided us with many mice (I could’ve caught them, glad I didn’t try). So we scrubbed the gear down and disinfected the area so that the gear will be usable this coming week.

But here is what I want to get at. This shed full of gear, fallen to almost ruin, is a great example of leadership. When leaders have a vision of what needs to be done they can make great things happen, like the softball league was at one time. But if leaders do not disciple and bring up other leaders or empower others to share in his or her vision, the dream die along with the leader, and the once good made from the vision will be forgotten and mice will come and poop on it. It is so important to raise up those around you as you push into what you believe it is you are called to do because dreams are meant to be shared and worked on with others, not carried alone.

A second, and quick thing to note from my experience here thus far is a bit more direct to leadership, and it is something my host dad talked to me about yesterday. The work I’ve been doing for the last two weeks has not been mentally taxing, of for that fact not physically strenuous either. But I’ve become so tired. I’ve felt a heavy burden as I have pushed through each day trying to get everything done. My host parent noticed this, and told me that leadership is hard because there is a spiritual burden placed upon said leader because of the responsibility he or she carries. This is why it is so important for every leader to have people supporting them who can pour into and encourage them. The things we don’t think of as being burdensome because they are good things can be the heaviest. There is a spiritual aspect to any and all types of leadership. There is a responsibility given to every leader that comes with a heavy burden. Support is vital, through a mentor and peers who can encourage and help ease the weight of what you carry.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the airport to welcome the arriving athletes whom my leadership staff with teach to share the Gospel and run a camp. The trip I have been prepping for the last two weeks is finally here. It is exciting, scary, and awesome because I believe the Lord will do exactly what He wants with this group of eager followers. And I am ready to see what it is He wants to do. So for now I bid adieu. With love and may the Lord bless you,

Aaron Smith

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