[URBAN EAGLES] State of Birchcroft
The new Urban Eagles year has begun and I’ve already fallen majorly behind. Well it is November now and the fall season has come and pretty much gone now so let me try to catch you up on the fall and give you a preview of what’s ahead for the Birchcroft Urban Eagles the rest of the year.
First, before I say anything, let me introduce to you the staff and volunteers that are involved in BIrchcroft Urban Eagles.
Stephen, Heather, and Kiah Jackson
Stephen Jackson is originally from Melbourne, FL with roots tracing back to Birmingham, England. Heather is originally from Stuart, VA. They married right after college in 2010 and moved to Charlotte to join staff with Missionary Athletes International. Later that year the Lord called Stephen and Heather to go full-time with the Urban Eagles and move into Birchcroft. Stephen primarily works with the U-18 boys soccer team and Heather heads up the girls ministry and girls soccer.
Josh Kimball grew up in Reston, VA and originally moved to NC to go to college at Campbell University. After graduating and working in different parts of the world doing soccer ministry he landed back in Charlotte to work with the Eagles in 2012. Josh primarily works with a group of boys that started off in middle school and now are high school freshmen. He coaches, tutors, disciples, plays soccer, sets up small group activities, goes to church and just spends time with them and their families each week.
Mat, Katie, Elliot, and Leona Rogers
The Rogers family is a big part of ministry in Birchcroft. In addition to being the link between the neighborhood and Renovatus church, the Rogers offer so much to Birchcroft. Whether it is their physical presence at events, opening their house to small groups and leaders, or just offering some quality R&R time to the coaches, the Rogers family is in integral part of the ministry done in Birchcroft.
Abby is an amazing person and volunteer leader with the Birchcroft girls ministry. She comes to Charlotte, NC from Florida, or Kentucky, or Ohio (still not sure). Abby’s energetic personality has allowed her to befriend everyone she meets in the neighborhood. Her love and passion for Birchcroft has allowed Abby to jump in with the “Girls Night” ministry and the girls soccer team.
Mike Kozlowski (no relation to Mike Wazowski off Monsters Inc) moves down to Charlotte from Ohio in high school in 2004. In 2007 he met Steve Shak and started volunteering for Urban Eagles briefly in 2007. Each year after he has gotten more involved in volunteering with Urban Eagles. He is an intern with the organization this year primarily working with the U-18 boys in Birchcroft. He is committed through August 31, 2014 as an intern. Praying where God leads him with inner city ministry after that time.
Phil is an intern originally hailing from Northern Ireland. Phil recently graduated from Montreat College and shortly afterward moved into Birchcroft as an Urban Eagles intern, learning and experiencing first-hand inner-city sports ministry.
I hope you know me by now. I’m from Ohio. Moved to Charlotte in 2008 and has worked with the Urban Eagles and Birchcroft since 2010. I currently live in the Birchcroft neighborhood and work primarily with the U12 boys.
Renovatus Church is the official church partner for Birchcroft with the Urban Eagles. Renovatus holds various events throughout the year in celebration and support of the neighborhood such as potluck meals, movie night, backpack/school supplies drive, and Christmas gifts.
This fall, Birchcroft chose to do things a little differently. In hope to field a competitive team and to instill more responsibility into the players in the neighborhood, we held our first ever tryouts for our Varsity and JV teams. After a two hot summer days of tryouts of drills, scrimmages, and conditioning, our teams were set! However the events preceding our tryouts threw a slight wrinkle into our plan.
After the conclusion of tryouts, the next step was to start team conditioning in the tail end of the summer to get fit for the fall soccer season. While there was great attendance from the varsity team, the JV team had some attendance…issues. To be frank, no one but three players showed up. This led to a JV team meeting to determine if the players wanted to play in the fall and after some discussion, the JV team decided to forego the fall season in the SOAR league.
This meant the fall season had to be modified but the results were pretty amazing! The varsity team continued on as scheduled and played the fall season representing a small Charlotte Christian private school named Charlotte United Christian Academy. The coaching staff of this amazing team was Stephen Jackson, Mike Kozolowski, Josh Kimball, and Phil Spence. This season provided big opportunities for the team to play against great schools in North Carolina such as Charlotte Latin, Charlotte Country Day, and Wesleyan Academy. The team experience allowed for the players to grow together as a family and to challenge themselves as soccer players. There were definite ups-and-downs to the season but the overall takeaway for both the players and coaches were how to become a better player, coach, friend, and brother to one another.
Without a JV team, I was put in charge of the U12 boys in the neighborhood. Realizing with limited coaching support and the possibility of expecting too much from the U12 boys last year, we decided to run pickup soccer weekly rather than have a full team with practices and games for the Fall. This became such a wonderful thing! The openness of pickup soccer allowed for many more boys in the neighborhood to come out and participate without any pressure and the joyful innocence of playing pickup soccer was more than evident through all the craziness and laughter on the dirt field. The pickup soccer was an inviting opportunity for all that attended to hear a short story and message about Jesus after pickup every week. This lead to great moments where the Gospel was presented in a different manner than every kid has heard before and really allowed them to see Jesus in a different light.
Girls Night expanded this fall to two different opportunities for the girls of Birchcroft to meet and interact with our leaders. Heather Jackson led a team of volunteer leaders every Wednesday night as girls gathered in her apartment to play games, sing songs, dance, and hear inspiring talks about issues that women each and every day. In addition to the Girls Night meetings, Heather also held Friday pickup soccer for the girls to come and be active. Even though it was not run as an official soccer team, all the girls has really bonded together to feel like a team and family, especially because the can play freely without the (usual) interference of boys!
Birchcroft has truly been ACTIVE this fall but in reality, when is it ever not!? The fall has given way to a lot of different and amazing opportunities to teach, learn, grow with the kids in Birchcroft, both spiritually and socially. There definitely has been ups-and-downs this season in every program in Birchcroft but how we’ve seen God work in each kid’s life shows us that His love and presence is all over this neighborhood.
We are now looking forward to the Winter and Spring seasons because before you know it, it’ll be here already. Be sure to keep checking back here for more updates!
Much Love, Andrew Au