Jaz Balan struggled to see herself clearly. She based her identity on her performance in basketball and how others viewed her. Then she tore her Achilles’ heel. Unable to play the sport she loved, she grew angry—at God, herself, and others around her. She started to recognize how much her identity was in her sport and not in God.
National Training Camp Experience
Jaz is one of 21 athletes who participated in AIA’s National Training Camp (NTC) in May, 2023. The week-long program helps college and university athletes understand their relationship between faith and sport. They’re given time for self-reflection, transformational prayer, and on-field application. They talk about things that matter—like identity and performance.
This intentional environment created the opportunity for Jaz to encounter God. “NTC is hands down, one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. Even now, it’s hard for me to put into words how life-changing of an experience it was for me. I never would have thought I would’ve grown and learned as much as I did.”
In 2022, Jaz received a scholarship to the NTC but turned it down. Looking back, she says God helped her see she wasn’t ready. “I wasn’t completely ‘in’ with my faith, and now, after going to NTC and seeing what it entails, I don’t believe I would’ve been able to gain what I did in the same way that I had if I had gone to NTC last year.”
Journey Toward Jesus
Jaz was blessed to be born into a faith-filled home. She was baptized at a young age, but it wasn’t until high school that she began to understand what being a follower of Jesus meant. “I don’t think I truly chose to follow Jesus until grade 10 right before Covid hit. It started off small, I was just willingly going to church with my mom instead of feeling like I had to go.”
Moving away from home to attend York University left Jaz feeling lost. An invite to an AIA gathering provided the community she needed. “My teammate approached me about AIA and suggested I attend one of the meetings. I ended up loving it! It made me feel really comfortable and ‘homey’ instantly. I was able to share all my thoughts and ask any questions I had without fear of being judged.”
In March 2022, Jaz attended the AIA Eastern Retreat. She experienced a deep transformation. “I was able to learn so much about faith and myself through staff, others, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.” When Jaz got injured two months later, she referred back to this experience and found hope. Her anger shifted.
The injury left Jaz in a vulnerable state. She decided to take the time away from basketball to build and fortify her relationship with God. “I came to Him completely empty and begged Him to restore my soul. I am so grateful for how my life changed in that very moment.” This intimate season with Jesus primed her heart for the upcoming NTC. This time she was ready.
She began the NTC open-hearted and filled with faith. “I surrendered the week to God and asked Him to be my guide, to grow closer to Him but also for Him to use me to grow closer to others.” The Lord answered Jaz’s prayers through learning sessions, conversations, and intentional prayer times.
Jesus shed light on things Jaz buried deep within herself. He helped her see how her beliefs affected the way she viewed herself, and the way she believed God viewed her. The Lord used the week at the NTC to restore her soul!
The Impact of a Faith filled Community
Her two years spent within AIA community have changed her life. The connection to other athletes who understand her struggles as a believer is life-giving. She’s thankful to everyone who’s impacted her. And Jaz is passionate about sharing her story so that others can experience change the way she has.
“I want others to know the importance of surrendering your worries, anxieties, thoughts, etc. to God. That your identity doesn’t lie in your sport or anything else but Christ. Despite what challenges arise, the good and the bad, God’s will is never wrong and He wants nothing but the best for us—have faith in that!”
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