MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- There is a popular new youth sports program sweeping both the religious and athletic communities alike here aboard Camp Lejeune and in the Jacksonville area.
Upward Sports Ministries have found a home at the New River Baptist Association and are quickly gaining support and growing in popularity in their second year there, especially with the military community.
“What we are doing is using sports to convey Christian beliefs and morals to children,” said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Christie, advertising commissioner and coach with the Jacksonville Upward program. “And that really appeals to a lot of the military families in the area. I’d estimate that about 70 percent of the people involved are from military families.”
Upward is an evangelistic sports ministry specifically designed for kindergarten through sixth-grade boys and girls that promotes salvation, character, and self-esteem through participation in sports, according to Upward’s Website, www.upward.org.
“These are values and morals that they will carry throughout their lives,” said Christie. “Were trying to instill an overall positive attitude and lifestyle in all participants and volunteers.”
With sponsorship through the New River Baptist Association, Upward offers basketball, cheerleading, soccer and flag football programs for children to participate in. These programs also provide opportunities for volunteers from all walks of life to become meaningfully involved in the ministries of a church, according to Christie.
Volunteers have the opportunity to coach a team, referee a game, share a devotion, and develop relationships in order to open avenues of ministry to the community, according to Christie.
“It’s an all volunteer basis,” said Christie. “And that’s part of the reason that this has been so successful. Everyone out here wants to be here and that creates a very positive atmosphere.”
In addition to its rapid growth, Upward continues to expand the programs offered. Upward Cheerleading was implemented in 2000, and has proven to be successful in involving families who otherwise would not participate, according to the Website.
Upward is committed to doing whatever it takes to share the gospel through the simple tool of recreation.
“If we can make an impact on them at an influential age it will build a good moral character forever,” said Christie. “This would have exponential effects.”