The Acros Team took advantage of the long President’s day and Valentine’s day weekend to do some team bonding, skill building, and service. The tour began with a caravan down to SAU on Friday, February 12. The Acros got to experience what a Friday night vespers program was like on a university campus. After the vespers, we had a short worship before sleeping on the gym floor in the Gym Master’s facility, and I asked the students what impressed them or stood out to them about the vespers program. One comment that surprised me was that they said that everyone was singing. If you know how self-conscious high school teenagers are, it would be a culture shock for them to hear praise at a louder volume than normal talking level.
The next morning we had a cold breakfast of cereal, fruit and sweet rolls that Coach Schwarz made for the team. We attended the youth Sabbath school in the college church and then attended the Connect church service in the Collegedale Academy auditorium. A young man from Nigeria gave a powerful testimony about how God impressed him to leave his lucrative career as a pop singer in Nigeria to come to Southern to pursue ministry. He sang an original song and prayed for God to work out the problems that he was having in trying to return to Nigeria in order to do ministry in his own country. I think that it impressed our students to see a young man willing to walk in the path that God designed for him and to live the adventure of faith. After the service, the university hosted lunch for us in their cafeteria, for which our students weren’t shy about taking advantage of.
We had a short worship at sundown and Coach Schwarz brought in pizza for our kids and then went over the rules on using the equipment in his gym. The SAU Gym Masters have a multi-million dollar facility to train in, with two-floor-level trampolines, a trampoline tumble track, an air floor tumble track, a foam pit and numerous training aids. We played and trained for two hours, swam in the pool and used the hot tub for an hour and a half, then spent more time in the gym before getting ready for bed. The girls got a lot of reps in on the trampolines sharpening their flying skills. I worked with many of them on their flares and back tucks and in a few minutes was able to correct their form without putting them in a spotting belt. The skills they learned would have taken them weeks to learn back at Madison. The boys gained new confidence in their tumbling and gained so much more body awareness as they learned back handsprings, back tucks, front flips as well as gainers and full twists. Also, skills that they wouldn’t even attempt back at school without the training aids we had access to at SAU.
Sunday after breakfast, we packed up the vehicles and headed to Knoxville to meet up with James Kirk, who every Sabbath runs a homeless ministry by the interstate in Knoxville. The weather was bitingly cold in the low 30’s high 20’s with a brisk wind. We set up grills and propane heaters, and the homeless began to gather. Many of which sleep outside under the interstate and some who are lucky enough, get temporary shelter in the Salvation Army shelter. We cooked chicken hot dogs and gave out care packages. Some of the care packages were donated by Jordan Kittle’s and Symone Stewart’s mother. We also stopped at Walmart and purchased over a hundred dollars worth of hats and gloves. It didn’t take long before all our care packages were gone and I felt sorry that we didn’t have more to give. Doug Thompson gave away his Acros hoodie and Dan Johnson gave away several Acros warm up pants. After several hours in the cold, we loaded back up and took the kids out to eat and to warm up. I’m sure many of the students realized that some of the homeless that we served would have to spend the night outside and didn’t have a place to get away to warm up.
The next two nights we spent at a cabin in Gatlinburg where played some team building games, some fun games and got to relax, talk and spend time together outside of school. Sometimes the best teaching moments happen outside of the classroom. On Monday, we were supposed to go on a zip lining adventure, but the cold and slightly wet weather changed our plans. We instead took the students to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner show. They had a great time.
Overall the trip was a huge success. The students gained new skills, grew closer as a family, experienced service for God, and had fun in the process. I wish all the students at Madison Academy could experience trips like this one. You never know how a young person’s life can be impacted and changed for the positive, just over one long weekend.