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KidsGames helps Atlanta corps reach out to their communities

Atlanta Temple, Hispanic and Lawrenceville Corps bring summer fun to families

By Brooke Redwine

Southern Spirit staff

KidsGames, an international sports event used to teach a values-based curriculum, is shaping the way The Salvation Army does summer outreach. Throughout July and August, three Georgia corps held KidsGames to promote community, faith and fun among local youth.

The Atlanta Temple Corps (see photos below) hosted KidsGames July 17-21 from 6 to 9 p.m. Activities included Bible study, drama, life skills videos and soccer skills taught by Liverpool Football Club's professional players from Liverpool, England. Forbes Duff and Mark Bygroves were in Atlanta for 17 days to help with the KidsGames events.

     

Over 60 volunteers from the corps and the community helped kids ages 6 to 14 have fun while they also had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Many unchurched children came to the corps as part of the week-long event; prizes were awarded to children who brought the most friends during the week.

Israel Roseno (see photo below, front row far left) coordinated the event, and of the 115 kids who registered, he said about half of them accepted Christ. "The first goal was to reach the community. Once they were here, we preached the gospel in interesting ways."

As a result of the kids' responses, parents expressed an interest in coming to the corps for programs. So the staff at Atlanta Temple has started an adult soccer league so that parents can come and experience a fun, family-friendly, Christian atmosphere. He stressed the importance of letting parents see that Christians are regular people, just like them.

His hope is beginning to pay off. Already, three fathers are coming to the corps for Sunday services, and one wants to become a soldier. Roseno said that the church as a whole needs to build trust with the community, and then, "the rest is up to God. It's a whole process; we just want to invest in them. We're here to present the gospel."

The Hispanic Corps (see photos below) took their KidsGames to the park July 24-28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. There, Captains Kelly and Regina Durant divided an average of 120 participants each day into six groups. Throughout the day, the six groups rotated to different stations where they learned soccer skills, music and dance and arts and crafts. Kids were provided lunch and transportation to and from the games each day, and their parents were grateful.

      

"We were picking up kids from Plaza Fiesta, a Hispanic mall," said Kelly Durant (see photo below, back row far right). "We had told a lot of shop owners that we'd take their kids." Even after the games have ended, parents are still interested in corps programs for their kids.

One of the highlights throughout the week, said Durant, was when teenagers who used to attend corps programs started returning. "They were kids that came before, for about a year, to play soccer. But they stopped coming and we lost touch with them." However, when the older teens visited the young kids during KidsGames, they taught the kids more than soccer skills. One teen had just accepted a college scholarship through his soccer skills learned in part at the corps. He encouraged the younger children to stay in school, work hard at soccer and stay out of trouble. "The kids themselves stepped up as leaders," said Durant.

Other creative strategies that the corps used to teach the kids, ages 5 to 13, included letting them paint their own t-shirts for free rather than paying money for pre-made shirts with the KidsGames logo; picking up garbage from around the park; and listening to the testimony of one of the Liverpool Football Club players, who encouraged the youth to "play well" in both the game of soccer and the game of life.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Lawrenceville Corps (see photos below) hosted its first KidsGames. Pairing the games with a back-to-school giveaway, the corps saw many neighborhood parents attend the one-day event with their children.

         

 

A ticket redeemable for school supplies was given to the parents of the first 300 registrants. Then, activities that followed included inside and outside sports relays, Bible-based teachings, music and mime lessons. Snacks and lunch were also provided.

"We found out about KidsGames through Dave Willson," said Captain Bobby Westmoreland (see photo below), corps officer at the Lawrenceville Corps. "People are very sports-minded in Gwinnett County. We see its potential, and we want to make it a huge event in the community. It's an outreach event."

The KidsGames curriculum was easy for the community-focused Lawrenceville Corps to facilitate. Due to its flexibility, KidsGames is an event that Willson, sports ministry director for the Southern Territory, hopes that other corps in the territory will adopt in the future. For more information, contact the Sports Ministry Department at 404-728-1300, ext. 637.

 

 






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