McDonough Road Baptist Church just completed our tenth season of Upward Flag Football and Cheerleading Monday night. Ten falls ago, we started this ministry with 35 players and cheerleaders. This season, we enrolled 102.
Through the decade, according to Mark Karki, minister of worship, who also overseas our Upward Sports ministry, we’ve had over 1,000 children participate.
“It’s more than just playing a game,” said Karki. “Upward is a unique sports experience that develops young athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually and socially. We play with purpose.”
Parents appreciate the encouraging environment. Sara Gratzer of Fayetteville has two boys who played for the first time this season.
“Both of my boys played travel baseball, and it was very competitive. It was all about winning the championship game. Here we found a relaxed atmosphere where the boys are still learning skills, but in a non-aggressive atmosphere.”
Craig McAdams of Hampton has had three boys play in either flag football, basketball or soccer. His oldest now plays on the freshman football team at Hampton High School, and his first football experience was our Upward football.
McAdams said, “There is nothing more important to us as parents than the spiritual growth of our boys. It’s refreshing to find a ministry that can not only help our boys grow spiritually, but allow them to have fun and compete in sports.
“Upwards has given them a safe environment to try new things, learn the value of team and develop their skills.”
The ultimate purpose is to present the Gospel and help some of these boys and girls accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Each season, several make this important decision.
“Five years ago, we were blessed with a player named Joe Campbell,” Karki shared.
“When Joe’s mother, Pamela, signed him up, she wanted us to know Joe had no use of his right hand because of complications from cancer. Everybody else told him he couldn’t play, but in Upward, he had no limitations.
“The arm he could use was all he needed. He threw beautiful passes on the mark. He also caught any pass thrown his way. We were blessed to work with Joe.
“Joe played three seasons of varied Upward Sports with great success. His greatest moment was in practice his second season when he accepted Jesus as His Savior. It was an exciting moment!
“Joe didn’t sign up the next season and we missed his infectious smile and great personality. We thought he might have moved away.
“I ran into Joe’s relative one night in the grocery store, and he mentioned they had tried to contact me to tell me Joe had passed away because of cancer. I recently talked to Joe’s mother and she told me how much Upward meant to Joe.
“Because of Upward, she shared, Joe could be a boy like other boys playing sports. She still has Joe’s team picture hanging on her refrigerator and she kept every award he received. She is in the process of framing Joe’s Upward jerseys, which were some of his most cherished possessions.
“Because of Upward and the presentation of the Gospel, Joe Campbell is in heaven today. That is what Upward Sports is all about!” Karki shared.
Our next Upward season is basketball, and we are signing up now. Go to our website, www.mcdonoughroad.org, to sign up. Evaluations are October 16 and 19. Practice starts October 30 and the first game is November 11.
Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road, just past McCurry Park, and invites you to join them for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them online at www.mcdonoughroad.org and like them on Facebook).