March 4, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. -
While most college students head to the beach for fun and sun, or maybe home for rest and relaxation over spring break, three Wolfpack student-athletes decided to use their time off to minister to those in need.
Football’s Asa Watson, men’s soccer player Lee Grander and former women’s soccer player Lauren “Woody” Woodson flew to Los Angeles on Friday to spend the week working for Athletes in Action’s “Urban Project L.A.” They will be working side-by-side with students from colleges all over the United States.
For Watson, a senior tight end, it marks his second trip to work on the project, as he helped work with kids on L.A.’s notorious Skid Row in the summer of 2011. This week, he is sharing his experiences and those of his fellow State student-athletes with GoPack.com.
When I went on the first trip, it had such a life-changing impact on me that I wanted to experience the same thing. As a senior, I’m realizing that my time is running out and I wanted to be involved with something like this again. Every year during spring break I think, “I should have done something, I should have gone somewhere.”
We are staying at a church in Inglewood called “Faith in Christ Ministries.” Besides us, there are maybe 20-30 kids from Michigan and Eastern Michigan. We are staying in the church throughout the week and then going out to do our mission during the day in various parts of LA.
Woody is going to Skid Row and Lee is going to Ramona Gardens, which is a housing project. I’m going to be in Compton. The main focus of this trip is to get a vision of how ministry can work, along with how we can learn and facilitate with ministries that are already established in the city and partner with churches that already are having an impact in the community.
One of the big things we talked about on Saturday was the difference between service and community. Service doesn’t always fix the problem. We can do a lot for the community and talk to people and give out food, but where you see real change is when you invest your life in the community and become a part of the community.
These ministries are showing us what that looks like. Some of these ministries have been here for 15-30 years. One guy told us he didn’t start seeing real change until 15 years down the line. It took him becoming a part of the community to see what the real need was.
When non-profit services are involved, that’s great and they can do things for people, but they might not connect, so they miss out on who the people are and what the real need is. The pastor of the church where we’re staying actually lives around the corner from the church and it’s not a nice flattering environment at all. His house is basically just a garage with a shower and a kitchen. He lives here and is part of the community. Because of that, he has a bigger impact.
I know there are dangers, but I know my boundaries. They give us instructions on what to do. We had a pretty cool instructional time today. A guy taught us how to identify a neighborhood and identify “tags.” We did almost a case study. There are different indicators in a community that can tell you the character of that community. If you see a brick building with bolts in it, it tells you it’s an old building from the 70s before the big earthquake. Some graffiti is art, some is political and some is for different gang affiliations. They showed us how this one piece of graffiti meant there was a hit out on this guy. We walked around the neighborhood and you can tell about the community by just observing - where they come from and how they live their daily lives.