Andrew and Samantha Powell tell youths that they are valuable beyond their circumstances.
As Colorado state director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Andrew Powell leads 60 staffers, who engage daily with young athletes statewide. Postpandemic, he describes the unique challenges facing his current crop of student-athletes: “A lot of the athletes and coaches are excited, but I think there’s also some nervousness about going back [to school]. As sports become bigger and bigger in this country and in our world, athletes and coaches are placing more and more of their identity in their sport. That can have really negative ramifications when you can’t compete [during COVID].”
Andrew cites another challenge for young athletes as they take the field again: “You don’t always have an amazing game, or get all the strikeouts, or score all the points. Then, you hop on social media, you see somebody else’s best when they had all the strikeouts, they scored all the points. That can have negative implications spiritually. We need to adapt to the age and the society that we live in and all the pressures that our student-athletes are facing.”
Andrew outlines the FCA’s message to them: “A lot of our student-athletes may not be in great circumstances; they may not come from great homes. They can start to believe that they’re a mistake. We try to communicate that they have value; when something has value, the circumstance doesn’t matter. Gold is worth the same amount whether you found it on purpose or by accident.
He adds, “When they can start from that place, then they can begin to work on the other big word: purpose. ‘If I’m so valuable, what was I created for? What was I created to do?’ Now we can come alongside those athletes and coaches and say, ‘Hey, this is what you’re created to do.’ So we start with who they are as a person and just allow them to be that—you’re somebody outside of your GPA, you’re somebody outside of how many points you score or for your prowess on the athletic field. You’re valuable beyond all of those different circumstances.”
Andrew’s wife, Samantha, is a licensed professional counselor for the Family Resource Network, and she works with kids and families in the foster care system. With COVID, she says, “We have never been more busy…lots of other agencies were booked full, too. Even kids with no trauma and normal backgrounds were having crises, not able to see their friends or go to school, everything they enjoy being taken away from them. Kids as young as six or seven were making suicide attempts.
“We were overwhelmed trying to help these kids,” she recalls. “Having to help them over telehealth was a huge challenge; we’re used to engaging with kids through play and interacting and sensories and things like that.” She echoes Andrew's findings: “There is a correlation between social media use and an increase in depression. We see that a lot with our adolescents and teenagers. We get a lot of kids who feel like they’re not worthy. They’re unloved or unlovable. They have no purpose.”
Additionally, Samantha says, “The most important thing with foster kids is knowing how much their trauma has affected them. It’s not like a broken bone that you can see; their hurts and their brokenness are on the inside. It takes a lot more work to reach them.” Samantha says the message that they are worthy of love has to be repeated over and over: “You can give them compliments and say you love them, but they’ve had so much trauma and so much negativity, have been removed from so many homes, been told they were going to get adopted and then didn’t…their receivers are broken.”
She adds, “But truth is truth: You matter, you are loved, you are valuable despite your circumstances and what happened to you. These horrible things should not have happened to you. Just being that voice of truth to a kid once a week...if I’m the only voice to tell them that they are loved and they are valuable, then they’re going to get that from me. I don't necessarily have to share a scripture, but I can speak the truth over them.”
If you’re so inclined, pray that the message from a God of love reaches more of our youth through the efforts of people like Andrew and Samantha Powell. Amen.