Akouris: Finding a little extra something
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org February 17, 2013 8:16PM
Updated: March 19, 2013 6:35AM
For some of their peers at Joliet Catholic, spending almost the entire day at church every Sunday seems like a big time commitment. And it is, but for three Angels girls basketball players, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Destiny Nash and sisters Christina and Nicole Ekhomu have deep ties to churches in Chicago and those ties have helped them excel on the basketball court.
Nash’s grandfather, Clyde E. Nash, is the pastor at Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s South Side. Since the church is new — Nash started it in 2009 — it is temporarily housed at Southwest Memorial Chapel at 79th and Kaminski while the original building at 74th and Ashland is being renovated. Destiny Nash estimates that there are about 30 to 40 parishioners.
The Ekhomu sisters are active in their grandfather, Joe Ballard’s, church on the city’s West Side, the First Divine Providence M.B. Church. Since that church has been established for a while, the sisters estimate their congregation to be a bit over 100. Recently, the church merged with Greater New Life church and doubled the congregation. Ballard has been the pastor at First Divine Providence for 27 years.
The sisters go to church every week, and attend Bible class and choir rehearsal once a week, as well.
Nicole Ekhomu, a freshman guard, plays the drums at church every week.
“Nobody really played the drums in my family, so I was the first to do that and it’s a big help because my granddad doesn’t have to go out and find people to do that and pay them,” Nicole Ekhomu said.
Ballard’s influence as a strong figure in the church isn’t lost on Christina Ekhomu. It has helped her keep perspective in life and maintain balance on and off the court. And she said she is usually more methodical in her decision making than others her age.
“My grandfather is such a leader and he practices what he preaches — if he says one thing, he lives it,” Ekhomu said. “He shows us what we’re doing wrong and guides us in our decision making. He’s not afraid to hurt our feelings if we need it.
“When I get older, is it going to matter that I didn’t go to that one party my mother wouldn’t let me go to? Basketball, school and church are my main priorities so I know to stay out of trouble.”
The trio have all been attending church since they were infants. It is something that has been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember.
They may be a part of a dying breed of people who attend church services every Sunday without fail. It is something that may have gone by the wayside in recent decades, as people become busy with their lives and families and may not find time to attend services.
All three can see the decline in churchgoers over the years.
“People don’t understand us,” said Christina Ekhomu, a junior point guard said. “They ask, ‘Why do you have to go every Sunday?’ They don’t understand we are the fortunate ones that God is in our lives.”
Nash, who sings in the choir, agrees that one day isn’t that much for people to give up. And, for her at least, going to church is something that keeps her life balanced. If there’s a time when Nash can’t go to church, something just feels “off.”
“Sometimes if I can’t go to church I don’t feel full,” Nash said. “And my week ends up being just bad. I don’t like it. I think going to church helps me through my week.”
Addressing troubling issues
The First Divine Providence Church is located in the city’s Garfield Park neighborhood. Nicole Ekhomu knows it is a troubled area.
“It’s not calm like out here (in Joliet),” she said. “There are a lot of people always walking around and it’s loud.”
And Nash’s church isn’t immune from at least addressing the recent outbreak of gun violence in the city. After a Morgan Park student was gunned down following the Simeon-Morgan Park boys basketball game Jan. 16 at Chicago State, Clyde Nash brought up the incident at his church.
Clyde Nash also spent time talking to his parishioners about gun violence again, when 15-year old King High School student Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed while sitting in a Kenwood park Jan. 29.
Sadly, it is a subject that Clyde Nash may be too familiar with. He was a correctional officer at Statesville prison for 30 years. Nash’s grandfather shared some of his experiences with her, and that, coupled with his life in the church, makes Destiny Nash think twice before she acts.
“He said a lot of the men respected him because he was fair, very fair,” Nash said. “The little things in life don’t really affect me and I have learned that from my grandfather.”