Upward: Sharing the Love of Jesus with Kids and Families Through Basketball2 min read

Imagine … a kindergartner wearing his first “real” uniform in the hallway, hearing the exciting music pumping, as his team runs out of the tunnel and is introduced to the crowd. Imagine … seeing two courts worth of basketball players, cheerleaders, coaches, and referees stopping before the games start, to kneel in prayer to give thanks to our Heavenly Father and ask for protection in the game. Imagine … over 200 people praying daily over these kids that they grow closer to the Lord or that they hear the call of the Holy Spirit in their hearts! Imagine … a crew of over 150 volunteers, none of which get paid, coming together each week in order to further the Gospel. Imagine … kids’ lives being changed and families growing closer to the Lord through the game of basketball. This is what Upward basketball and cheerleading is all about!

Cross & Resurrection, Ypsilanti is sponsoring an Upward basketball and cheerleading league with a number of area churches. This league currently has 597 basketball players and cheerleaders where the goal is to share the Gospel with kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. The mission field is fertile since over 200 of those kids do not list a home church.

Participants hear the Gospel message through weekly devotions, modeled through the behavior of the coaches, and exemplified through the interactions with the volunteer referees. Families receive a word of encouragement through a devotion and interactive participation during halftime at each game. After each game, amongst coaches, family members, and fans, each player receives a game day award—a star that gets ironed on to their Upward T-shirt. Players could earn best offense (grey), best defense (red), best effort (blue), best sportsmanship (gold) and the most coveted, most Christ-like (white).

At a recent game, a fifth-grade girl injured her knee badly. Immediately, all the coaches knelt in prayer over the girl. As she was taken off the court on a stretcher to the ambulance everyone was on their feet, cheering and encouraging her. Not only was her family contacted and encouraged during the week, but when they returned because the little girl wanted to be with her team—even with her leg brace—they received loud applause. Both mom and daughter were deeply touched, stating that they never felt so loved before and could not imagine how so many people cared. The love and example of Christ can be shared in so many ways through Upward. The members of Cross & Resurrection often find themselves carrying out their mission as servants tying the shoes of the players and remembering as they do, Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. They continue to pray for opportunities to minister to these kids and families and long for your prayers as well!

The season concluded in March with the final games being played to the glory of God. An awards celebration followed.

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