A Grand Slam Season
Grace church has been hosting a softball league for many years now. I hold this league dear to my heart, because it was this league where I started playing softball. And if you know me, you know I hold softball near and dear to my heart. I also hold Sports Ministry near and dear to my heart, because it was the sports that kept me coming back onto the church grounds during a wayward and rebellious season, and allowed for building relationships with guys like Ryan Rayburn (RayRay), who loved me even though he knew I did not love him, who pursued me even though I did not pursue him, and who demonstrated what playing hard looked like while clearly showing the love of Christ.
The love of Christ is a strange thing, especially in the heat of competition on the field. The “strange” stands out. And it caught my eye, and had soon changed my life… The prayer and goal of Sports Ministry is that the “strange” will stand out - in how we play, how we host, and in how we love one another.
The season began the last week of April and challenges were not far away. We faced an unusual amount of rain. Two 100’ x 100’ tarps were donated to the softball league for the purpose of preserving the infields during heavy rain.
This was quite the experiment, and no easy task. Huge thank you to the guys who came out in the cold, and helped take them on and off. Actually, the first time we attempted to put them on the fields, I saw a heavy block of rain coming, and thought it’d be wise to immediately lay the tarps down before morning… I text 2 people to do an 6+ person project. There were 8 of us, not including Jaxon sleeping in the car, with the car headlights on the fields laying down tarps at 11:30 that night. What sounds like a silly project, was a warm answer to prayer. God made it evident he was helping provide the tools, people, and resources, even at inconvenient times, to fulfill his ministry.
God continued to use challenges as opportunities to glorify himself throughout the season.\
Halfway through the season, one of the players rounded first base and went down hard with a severe knee injury. I ran to the gym to grab ice and a wrap, and came back to see both teams huddled around him praying... My nieces and nephews were there looking on, along with many others, witnessing what would be an unusual scene in any other local league – and I am confident God was glorified.
We closed out the softball season July 19th with some intensity, fun, and prayer. It was an exciting championship game.
I won’t mention that my team lost by 1 run to the same team two years in a row… But, it was definitely worth it.
We had 8 teams in the league this year, with a great mix of spiritual diversity (i.e. believers, non believers, young guys, old(er) guys, families, and fans of all ages). We open and close each game in prayer. With at least 10 players per team, that’s 160 prayers on our softball fields each week, carried out over 3 months; 1,920 prayers to open and close our games. The Lord knows whether every player is truly in prayer at those times or not, but through another “strange” display in comparison to other leagues, I believe God is glorified, and I know he is answering.
Some of you have been praying with me to find help with organization, leadership, and field maintenance. There are a lot more people involved in the development of this league then there ever has been before.
We already have the next generation in training!
There are many highlights of this particular season, but the biggest is that my buddy Jeff came to bible study at the Karsten's for the first time. I met Jeff at our Open Gym probably 4 years ago. I had him on my basketball team last year, then he played softball with us last year for the first time in his life. Then also flag football, and softball again this year. I don’t know many 24 year olds going to a 7am bible study with random unfamiliar dudes. We don’t always know what the Lord is doing, but it sure is encouraging to know He IS doing.
So, the season is over, we lost the Championship, but victory is the Lord’s. And that is our aim as we look into this Fall season, where we’ll be starting our Open Gym basketball ministry, along with the Flag football season.
I ask of you one main thing: Pray. Without God steering this ship, our ministry nothing but games.
Pray for the ministry as a whole, that it continues to develop as we ask, “what’s the next step” as it pertains to Sports Ministry. Pray for leaders, that our body of believers will have a passion for those in need of a mentor and gladly cease an opportunity. Pray for me, that I would demonstrate that “strange” love on and off the court, and that others would be receptive to the love of Christ.