Belong

Justin and Austin at Crossroads Bible Church for basketball practice.

Justin and Austin at Crossroads Bible Church for basketball practice.

Big Picture Middle School was about to lose its 4th consecutive football game.  There was time enough for one final play. “I just want to run.  Can I have the ball just this one time?”  Austin, a 6th grader had never had an opportunity to touch the football.  “Sure,” said Justin, the 8th grade quarterback as he shrugged.  As Justin handed the ball off to Austin, the entire sideline erupted.   Austin streaked downfield, quick stepping around defenders.  His teammates blocked as they tried to keep up with him.  Parents screamed.  Friends yelled their encouragement, “Go Austin, go!”  And he did!  55 yards into the end zone where he was quickly swarmed with hugs from shrieking friends; family and fans jostling, jumping with joy.

Although, Big Picture lost that game, and every game this year, something greater happened.  Austin’s mom best summarized it best as he received the “Jubilee Character Award” at Big Picture’s end of season celebration hosted at Crossroads Bible Church (CBC).  Emotionally she told Big Picture Site Coach Jake Nelson, “every day Austin comes home happy, even after losing a game.  He’s out there having fun playing, and being a kid.  The pressure to perform is gone.  You make it about being part of a team about sportsmanship, about belonging.”

Austin’s team of diverse friends wanted to continue “playing.”  However, the next Jubilee REACH Sports season is basketball, and not all of Austin and Drake’s teammates knew how to play basketball.  Plus, Big Picture doesn’t even have a gym.  So Coach Jake talked with Crossroads Bible Church, who had just finished construction of a big new gymnasium.  He then arranged for Big Picture Principal, Bethany Spinler, to see the gym, tour the beautiful facilities and meet Phil Peterson and some of the CBC staff.  Afterwards, Bethany commented, “I had no idea this church and facilities were here!  This is one of the best secrets in Bellevue.”  Phil smiled in response, “our mission is to be in community.  That means being part of the community and opening our facilities up to the community we desire to serve.”

Now Austin and all the Big Picture football team is a part of the school’s first basketball team.  Over 20 kids now have a place to play, belong, and be in community.  That’s a big basketball team!

Oh…and thanks, Justin, for giving a 6th grader a chance.  Nice run Austin!  You and your Big Picture teammates are winners in our community!