“During the last day (of the camp), I went to the toilet and cried and cried.”
Never did Ivin Vikesh, Team Leader of Athletes in Action (AIA) Singapore, dream of the day sports ministry would take off the way it did.
It was the second Ultimate Training Camp (UTC) in 2014. He and his mentee, Tan Jia Xian, Assistant Team Leader of AIA, ran the five-day four-night trademark sports endurance camp single-handedly.
“We did EVERYTHING—logistics, taught seminars, anchored S.P.E.C.I.A.L (a 20-hour sports endurance marathon). It was also two months after my dad’s passing.”
“At the end of UTC 2014, Jia Xian and I were so exhausted that we felt we had nothing left to give. But when the athletes stood up to share how they had experienced God, we were simply blown away.”
“That day, I saw how God is more passionate about reaching athletes than any of us can ever muster.”
AIA Singapore’s genesis
The first time Ivin saw the potential of using sports for outreach was during his tenure as a Cru campus ministry staffer in Nanyang Polytechnic in 2007.
“Our ministry disciples formed a recreational soccer team that played after every weekly meeting. Because of our regularity, our friends—some from other faiths—looked forward to play with us every week.”
“And when I crafted my Life Map during a staff development course in 2009, it was evident that sports was everywhere in my life journey—from the highs to lows.”
“That was when I started to be keen to venture into sports ministry.”
Preparation of new wineskins
It was not without setbacks as skeptics cast their doubts. “Who’s going to refer athletes to you?”; “Athletes are so busy, why would they have the time?”; “Can’t you do old-school, traditional discipleship and outreach ministry?”
With Singapore hosting the Youth Olympics in 2010, Ivin proposed to organise Edge Games, a full-day competition for futsal, basketball, frisbee and captain’s ball for youths and young adults.
“My boss, then National Campus Director, Chin Leng, told me, ‘I believe in you. And I believe in this.’” He went on to convince the Cru Singapore leadership to lend Ivin their support.
“Our staff were amazed to see how 300 non-Christians could stay in a hall for nine hours and listened to stories of life transformation and ponder about spiritual matters.”
After being coached by Cru’s AIA ministry headquarters in Xenia, Ohio in the United States, AIA Singapore was quietly launched in 2012. Previously trawling sports villages of major regional sports’ meets to minister to sportsmen and sportswomen on his own, Ivin is now supported by a team of five. Together, the team mentors national and campus athletes to grow holistically—and to know God personally.
Moving towards the dream of Every Sport, Every Team, Every Nation
AIA Singapore has run UTC annually for the past six years touching 288 athletes’ lives. This year, UTC Malaysia concluded successfully in June. The team will help launch it in Poland and Myanmar in September and December respectively.
Not resting on their laurels, AIA Singapore will also pilot run ‘Total Athlete Academy’ with a local polytechnic – an event to help campus athletes grow in resilience and maximise their potential.
“The mantra of the team is to always be humble and foolish. In humility and foolishness, God can use us way more than we can imagine,” Ivin concluded.
“When we don’t know what we are doing, fully dependent on God, we are more fruitful.”
UTC is on a hiatus this year after a seven-year run. To support Athletes in Action Singapore or find out more about what we do, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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