Many of the youth who come to this country through resettlement programs or immigration struggle in school due to language and cultural barriers. They are caught between their parent’s culture and the culture of this country, leaving them vulnerable to gangs who will provide a sense of belonging and significance. Parental supervision is taxed in these communities by the need for both parents to work full-time to make ends meet. Soccer is a sport that can bridge the cultural gap in this country and provide a means of connecting the youth to a positive group environment. The refugee communities are mixed in with Latino and urban African-American youth who have just as much of a need for positive male relationships, tutoring and organized physical activities. The essential goal of Urban Eagles is to build trustworthy, interpersonal relationships not only within an ethnic community but to create unifying multi-cultural, multi-racial teams of boys who live in the same neighborhoods as an attractive alternative to bullying, gang membership or simple loneliness.
Urban Eagles’ weekly programs in each neighborhood include bible study/teaching, worship, tutoring, meals/snacks, skits, and obviously soccer. During the fall and spring Urban Eagles’ coaches train and sponsor soccer teams from each neighborhood that plays in a church-based recreational league, eat meals together, fellowship, and share what God is doing in their lives. Urban Eagles also hosts an annual Urban Eagles summer camp that has been held at Camp Hemby in Charlotte or Camp Canaan in Rock Hill, SC the last four years.
In general MAI’s Urban Eagles programs run with the academic calendar. However, because of our incarnational year-round residential presence in each neighborhood, ministry as a result of the relationships never stops. As subsidized by MAI, members of the Charlotte Eagles Pro Team live year-round in each of the neighborhoods, which increases the contact with the children and the parent(s) that facilitate developing deeper mentoring relationships. Discipleship takes place through modeling and teaching with approximately 45 kids, in-reach to about 80 children from elementary through high school, and out-reach to the entire neighborhoods and the families of the kids we work with mainly through relationship and meeting practical needs (food, clothing, furniture, jobs, paying bills, documentation, etc.) but also through special events such as block parties, neighborhood festivals, and age-appropriate supervised field trips.