Resurging. Rejuvenating. Restoring. Those adjectives have surprisingly been used to redefine the career of Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick throughout the NFL’s 2010 campaign.
After his tumultuous fall from grace, as one of the premier athletes in the world, many considered Michael Vick as just another talented athlete who sadly squandered his God-given abilities and foolishly sabotaged his finances and brought on his own demise. But this story doesn’t end there. After humbly serving his time—both in the literal sense of his months of incarceration, and the figurative sense of serving as second and third string quarterback—Michael Vick has emerged renewed—heartily committed, heroic in the heat of the game, and a spokesman for the Humane Society.
Regardless if you are offering cheers or jeers for Michael Vick, he has silently taught many spectators a lesson: you can lose what you’ve worked for in the blink of an eye, but even so, that doesn’t have to be the end all. The principle of reciprocity notes that there are consequences for every action—whether good or bad. And while sometimes the world is less likely to offer forgiveness for acts of redemption, Vick has shown that sometimes you are granted a second chance in life. And in that, it is imperative to make the most of each moment you’re given and to “do the right thing” no matter how you are received.
“Was this about what you expected tonight?” I asked Jack, director of the City Life urban ministry center. “No. This is by far the most people we’ve ever had here. I can’t thank you and AIA and Michael enough for this,” Jack replied.
It was the evening of August 21 as Jack and I stood in the gymnasium at the City Life Center watching as more than 400 people departed from the evening’s outreach event. That day around 20 of the student-athletes involved in Athletes in Action at The Ohio State University partnered with NBA all-star and Olympic gold medalist Michael Redd and his ministry, The Wave, to reach out to urban Columbus. Michael purchased 500 backpacks and a number of gift cards to distribute to kids and families at four sites around the city. At each site the students prayed for and talked with people who stopped by.
At one apartment complex, Taylor (track) and Corey (ice hockey) made a sign that said “Stop for Prayer” and stood on the road to attract people. Two 20-something girls saw the sign and pulled in with tears of sorrow in their eyes. After the girls shared the reason for their sadness, the AIA students prayed for them and then talked to them about what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. Both girls then prayed and asked Christ to come into their lives to be their Lord and Savior.
At the City Life center—the final stop for the day—they served a meal to people from the Franklinton community, one of the most impoverished and crime-stricken neighborhoods in Ohio. Over 400 people showed up see Michael Redd and receive a free meal and free backpacks. Jack and the City Life staff were astounded by the number of people.
Michael then delivered a message about his life growing up in that community and how Jesus has given him hope. Nearly 90 people stood to their feet to acknowledge their desire to learn more about a relationship with Jesus. Again the AIA students had an opportunity to pray with these people and to tell them the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The day served as a brilliant picture of how AIA seeks to minister to and through athletes. Michael showed the student-athletes that it is truly possible to be a star athlete, walk with God, and use your influence for the glory of God. And the AIA OSU athletes showed the city of Columbus the love of Christ in some real, tangible ways. More significantly, we were able to partner with City Life, a dynamic urban ministry that is already established in doing significant long-term work in Franklinton. (Check them out online at www.coyfc.org.) The AIA student athletes at OSU hope to have similar partnership opportunities in the future.
By Jamie B., Athletes in Action staff member at The Ohio State University
RALEIGH — The pack of NC State athletes who strolled into Case Dining Hall didn’t break for the buffet line.
Instead, they huddled in a corner of the cafeteria, seeking food for the soul. They were there, males and females, for the weekly meeting of FCAIA — a partnering ministry of Athletes In Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Amid the sound of upbeat music, they snacked, chatted, laughed and engaged in a competitive ice-breaking game. Then director Russ Throckmorton, drawing from Psalm 66, announced: “Come and listen to what God has done!”
Moments later Wolfpack women’s basketball player Hannah Halteman and student weight-trainer Dave Overman shared how their faith grew through Athletes In Action excursions this past summer.
Halteman spent a week in an Ultimate Training Camp at Ft. Collins, Col., a physically demanding, spiritually enriching experience. She explained how God revealed “He is more than enough; He gives you everything you need,” however monumental life's challenges might be.
Overman, renewed and enlightened by a mission trip to East Asia, encouraged his peers to “go against the grain,” be strong and adhere to biblical teachings rather than succumb to temptations of the world.
Overman and Halteman, along with football players Asa Watson and Zach Powell, baseball player Ryan Mathews and women’s soccer players Jordan Edwards and Paige Dugal, are on NC State’s FCAIA student leaders team.
They’re part of a growing campus ministry led by Throckmorton -- a former Kentucky swimmer and football player -- and his wife, Mary, who played on one of North Carolina’s national championship women’s soccer teams.
“We just want to be a spiritual resource and blessing in the athletics department (to) every athlete, coach, manager, trainer, administrator and help them develop spiritually,’’ said Russ, adding that support from NC State coaches has been tremendous.
In addition to the weekly meeting, Russ leads Bible studies, one for coaches and administrators, and others for athletes. Mary has facilitated studies for women and trains student leaders. The couple, parents of a five-month-old son, do one-to-one ministering as well.
They’ve also made their home, located four miles from campus, a convenient haven — or refuge — for athletes who just want to hang out, relax, discuss a problem, or get guidance.
It’s a continuation of the spiritual emphasis on NC State's athletic scene. The FCA and AIA have long had a presence on campus.. The ministries merged several years ago at the suggestion of former athletic director Lee Fowler, a Christian who strongly supported the organizations.
“The last two years, we’ve seen a movement (with) numerous lives changed,’’ Russ said.
Women’s soccer player Alex Berger, whose family is part Jewish, committed to the Christian faith last spring. She noted that defining moment: "May 14th."
Her new faith journey began after meeting the Throckmortons, whom she calls “incredible people.”
“God definitely worked through (Mary) to help me find Christ,’’ Berger said. “She helped me work through a lot of problems, and find my way. It has completely changed my outlook on life. I live my life entirely differently.”
Berger wondered how some of her family members would react.
“I had to make the decision for me; I’m growing more and more,’’ added Berger, who attends the FCAIA huddles and several weekly Bible studies.
Zach Powell, a senior reserve defensive back on the Wolfpack football team, says his time with the Throckmortons and FCAIA has strengthened his faith the past two years.
“They’ve grown me tremendously,’’ Powell said of his spiritual leaders. “The big thing, (FCAIA) applies God to sports, puts God in terms I understand. They (Throckmortons) taught me who God is … and how I can share Him through sports.”
MORE ABOUT THE LEADERS
Like some of the athletes he serves, Russ Throckmorton — widely known as “Throck” — underwent a spiritual revival seven years ago while in college.
Though having grown up in church, he veered away and hit the party scene his first two years at Kentucky. During that time Throckmorton said he tried to satisfy his life through dating relationships, academics, and athletic success, yet still felt a void. Then he made a turn around, thanks in large part to Brett Nathaniel, UK’s Athletes In Action leader.
“He really loved me, cared about me,’’ Throckmorton said. “I saw his life and heart, what he was truly about. He hounded me to go to the Ultimate Training Camp (at Ft. Collins). There I heard the story of the Bible through the language of sports. It clicked for me.
“I met my Savior there. I met my wife there. When I came back to Kentucky I had the mindset that I had to tell everybody about Jesus,’’ added Throckmorton, who started Bible studies on campus.
Throckmorton, who had planned to become a dentist, and Mary got married in 2006. The couple then spent two years in training at AIA headquarters in Xenia, Ohio, before getting the call to serve at NC State in 2008.
Mary was familiar with the area. After winning National Gatorade High School Soccer Player of the Year honors in Lakewood, Col., she played four years for UNC’s national powerhouse and earned All-ACC Academic honors.
“She’s the athlete of the family," said Russ, but both are committed to the same higher calling.
“Our motivation is to change lives for the sake of the gospel,’’ Russ said. “We hope to raise student leaders and volunteers in the Raleigh community. When (the NC State) students leave, we want them to influence the world for Christ.”
By A.J. Carr, a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C., and columnist for the NC State Wolfpack.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 28, 2010
Xenia Property Includes State-of-the Art Sports Complex, Banquet Center and Office Buildings
XENIA, Ohio, Sept. 28, 2010 - Impressive in scope with regulation-size football, baseball, soccer, and softball fields, the Athletes in Action headquarters in southwest Ohio has been leased to the sports ministry for eight years. This winter, Athletes in Action will become the new owner of the 162-acre property, through a purchase by its parent organization, Campus Crusade for Christ. “We believe that the purchase of the property will greatly accelerate our global vision of seeing a Christ follower on every team, in every sport and in every nation,” said Mark Householder, president of Athletes in Action.
Located in Xenia, Ohio, along the US-35 bypass, the property was first used for the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home, to provide a home for the orphans of veterans of the Civil War. Legacy Ministries International (LMI) purchased the land in 1999, but the original buildings remain standing.
The property has since expanded with construction of Athlete’s in Action’s World Training and Resource Center, including:
LMI will retain approximately 40 acres for Xenia Christian School and some 50 acres for the Legacy Village Retirement Community. The property also provides office space for several other organizations, including Samaritan’s Purse, International School Project, Heart to Honduras, Joni & Friends, WFCJ-FM and WEEC-FM.
“Legacy Ministries International will continue the same great partnership with Athletes in Action, while transferring ownership,” said Claude (Bud) Schindler, president-emeritus of Legacy Ministries International. “With the leadership of Athletes in Action, we believe this complex will continue to have worldwide impact - through the ministries it houses and the people it hosts.”
Athletes in Action, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, works with athletes and coaches to use the unique platform of sport to help people around the world with questions of faith. For more information about Athletes in Action, visit AthletesinAction.org.
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Adrian Gonzalez, the three-time all-star first baseman for the San Diego Padres has Psalm 27:1 inscribed on his bat. That Bible verse reads, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
“It is a reminder that when you are in a tough situation, God is in control,” Gonzalez says. “I put it with my autograph in hopes kids would ask what that is and take time to read it. Hopefully it will lead them to the Bible.”
Gonzalez tries to take whatever opportunity comes along to talk about and show his Christian faith. “I have success in baseball, but I know that is because of the Lord,” he says. “I know my preparing, my hard work definitely plays a part, but it would not be done without Christ.”
Gonzalez, who signed right out of high school with the Florida Marlins in 2000, signed with the San Diego Padres in 2006. When asked about his best pro-experiences, he says, “Three things come to mind: being drafted number one overall in 2000, being called up to the big leagues for the first time in 2004, and playing in the playoffs in 2006 with the Padres.” His major league debut was April 18, 2004, and his first major league homerun was April 25, 2004.
He wanted to have a strong marriage
When Gonzalez married his wife, Betsy, his desire to have a strong marriage led him to a deeper commitment in his faith. “I felt in 2003 I needed to get deeper in my relationship with the Lord. And my wife, Betsy, had a strong relationship at the time, so as a married couple we decided we should have our relationship with the Lord be the foundation of our marriage.”
Dave D.*, AIA staff member and spring training chaplain for the Padres in Arizona, adds, “Adrian and Betsy understand two things really well: First, they understand the significance of the platform that they have been given to share their faith in the Lord, as evidenced by their sharing at Faith Days at ball parks around the country and by producing and buying testimony cards they give out to people. Second, they understand the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership on their own team, as evidenced by the Bible studies and get-togethers they host for guys on the team and at hotels on road trips.
“You don’t just get that spiritual leadership role by raising your hand or claiming the spot,” Dave adds. “You earn it by having a consistent [life] of integrity. Adrian has that with his teammates as well as with others around the league.”
“Adrian is…someone I rely on to help me stay on course”
Teammate Chase Headley says, “Adrian is a tremendous person, someone I rely on to help me stay on course with my walk with the Lord. He is always taking the lead for planning Bible studies. He and I will get together to decide how we will proceed with doing Bible studies with the rest of the guys on the team. You can really tell how he puts the Lord number one before anything else in his life including his career in baseball. You just see the way he goes about his business and how important it is for him to represent the Lord the right way.”
Gonzalez, who was born in California, but lived in Tijuana, Mexico until the age of 13, says, “Since [Betsy and I] have been in baseball, we have been involved in several ministries such as Baseball Chapel and Unlimited Potential, Inc. (UPI). We put ourselves around people who will help us grow in our relationship with the Lord. Now I try to live [as He would have me to live] every day and to let others see my walk so others can come to Christ. Anytime I can share in public I try to take advantage of that as Christ would want me to do. I try to do what I can to lead others to Christ.”
“It is cool to see a superstar stay humble”
Pastor Miles McPherson of the church, The Rock in San Diego, where Gonzalez and his wife have attended, says, “Adrian has a strong foundation that runs deep and consistent with his commitment to Christ. His faith is unwavering, and he is very responsive when called upon to serve.”
Brian Hommel from Unlimited Potential says, “Adrian does not allow the game to change who he really is. He does not allow the game to determine his significance in the world. He finds that in Christ. It is cool to see a superstar with his talent continue to stay humble. UPI goes on missionary trips to several countries to participate in clinics and share the gospel, and Adrian has been a part of some of these trips. He also has gone to orphanages to visit kids.”
Kids are a big part of Gonzalez’s ministry
Kids are a big part of Gonzalez’s ministry. Not only does he work with kids in clinics, but he and his brothers, David Jr. and Edgar, along with his parents, started the Gonzalez Baseball Academy to help instruct kids in proper mechanics and fundamentals of baseball. They also take the time to share their love for Christ.
When asked how Christ has changed or shaped his life, Gonzalez said it has affected his life “in about every way, including being the best husband to my wife as possible and striving to be the best person I can be; also, in my attitude in baseball,” he adds. “It used to be if I went 0-4, I’d be mad; if I went 4 for 4, I’d be happy. Now it does not matter. Now it is in my attitude toward Christ. I read a golf book called ‘Seven Days at the Links of Utopia’ by David L. Cook. There is a line in it that I translate into baseball terms: ‘Success is not dictated in a box score, it is dictated by one’s attitude toward Christ that day.’”
*Full name withheld at staff member's request.
By freelance writers Mark E. Darnall & Bruce A. Darnall
Photo Credit: Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres
Cocky. Brash. Overpaid. Immature. Prima donnas. Many of these words are often used to describe professional athletes and coaches alike today…yet we as a society immortalize them nonetheless.
WE the general public, and the media are much to blame for the creation of their larger-than-life profiles. We make others wealthy by watching their reality TV shows, reading their Twitter accounts, and listening to their latest tabloid updates. We attend their games, collect their memorabilia, seek their autographs, and covet their celebrity status. We, at times, seemingly live vicariously through them—all the while making them out to be some Greek god-like individuals.
Now, I acknowledge that professional athletes possess God-given abilities to accomplish many feats that most only dream of. I admit that many have an unparalleled work ethic, and realize that they are entertainers. However, I am suggesting that in the process of idolizing them, we often diminish the other gifts and abilities that God has personally granted each of us: some are great teachers and pastors, while others are gifted electricians and technicians, still others are decorated doctors, designers, cooks and construction workers, judges, plumbers and maintenance workers. Ephesians notes that each gift is intended to help, encourage and build others up—not one is better than the next—after all we need each other.
Regardless of your lot in life, make the most of it. As Martin Luther King Jr. penned, “If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
A senior at the University of Mississippi had the experience of a lifetime while competing on an Athletes in Action track team in Europe this summer.
Matt Daniels was invited to run in a “USA vs. the world” 4X400 meter relay in a meet in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium along with three other USA elite athletes. The meet managers of the KBC “Night of Athletics” Meet invited Daniels to run in the race against top teams
from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
“It was a great feeling to compete with some of the best athletes in America against some of the best athletes in the world,” Daniels says. “Our coach, Mike Crowhurst, helped me see how the AIA principles could help me maximize my ability physically, mentally, and spiritually to compete at the world-class level.”
Daniels and his teammates, including LaRon Bennett and Donald Sanford, ran 3:02:95 to finish second to the Belgian “A” team. On the way Daniels ran a personal best 400 meter split of 46.03. “It was really great to represent our country, and then to find that most of my teammates were Christian athletes gave us the opportunity to lift up the Lord as well,” Daniels says.
Following the meet, the team returned to their home base in Leuven and went out for a late dinner. While at the restaurant, Daniel’s race came on television and patrons of the restaurant realized that he was the runner on TV. “I not only got to represent the USA for the first time, but I also go to see myself run in a televised meet, and that made for a really cool day,” Daniels added.
The 12-member AIA track & field team competed in five meets during three weeks in Belgium this summer.
Top photo: Matt Daniels in 400 meter at Memorial Léon Buyle meet in Oordegem
Bottom photo: AIA European track & field team
By Dr. Mike Crowhurst, affiliate staff coach, AIA track & field, Somerset, KY
By freelance writers Mark Darnall & Bruce Darnall
Photo credit: Dan Mendlik/Cleveland Indians
Matt LaPorta, first baseman for the Cleveland Indians, grew up a Chicago Cub fan, just like his dad, Vince. When he was drafted surprisingly low, in the 13th round by the Cubs, Matt had to decide whether to take it or go to college. It was a hard decision because he always dreamed of playing for the Cubs, but he decided to enroll at the University of Florida on not only a baseball scholarship but also the highly regarded state scholarship called Florida Bright Futures. His mother, Cindy, comments, “Although Matt was disappointed with the 13th round, I shared that there is a reason for everything and we don’t know God’s plan. He was not ready for pro ball; but over the four years at Florida he grew and matured physically and spiritually. He touched many lives during his college years.”
Matt attended church regularly all through elementary school even when on occasion his parents did not attend. “I will never forget when Matt was in 7th grade,” his mother shares, “he got on his roller blades and went several blocks to a store that sold concrete statues. He brought home for me a two foot concrete statue of the Crucifix to hang in my house. He paid for it from money he saved. I treasure that to this day.”
While in middle school, he met a youth leader, Tim Gretzler, who is today still a friend. Matt started attending Freedom Bible Church, where his relationship with the Lord Jesus started to grow and take shape “to the point where he went forward to receive Christ in his heart and be saved,” shares his mother.
Upon graduating from Charlotte (FL) High School, where Matt was an excellent student and provided leadership in student government, baseball and their high school Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle group, Matt moved on to the University of Florida. During his recruiting trip he met a group of students which included Dara Altman. In the fall Matt immediately sought out Florida’s FCA group. At the first meeting, he saw Dara again, who was on UF’s track team as a pole-vaulter. “I was really surprised to see him at the FCA meeting,” Dara shares, “but I thought it was neat. We became friends and we dated a little his first year. For the next three years we did not date. When he graduated in May, 2007, we began to see each other again.” Matt and Dara were married in December, 2008.
Dara was a preacher’s kid and grew up in a loving Christian environment. “I have great parents and my father was my youth pastor until I was 10,” Dara shares. “Then my parents started Grace Family Church in Tampa where my father is senior pastor. Grace is our home church which we attend in the off-season. “Pastor Craig Altman, Dara’s father, said, “Matt asked us for permission to date Dara which we were happy to see because we want him to know how much we value our daughter. We found Matt to be sensitive, teachable, and hungry to grow and learn in his faith. He had a heart to serve God in his life and looks to God to use him to influence others.”
Matt was drafted very high in the first round in 2007 by the Milwaukee Brewers and played in their farm system. In 2008 he played double A ball in Huntsville, Ala., plus a month with the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing, China. The Cleveland Indians acquired Matt in 2008. Matt made his major league debut May 3, 2009. The summer of 2010 he came up to the Indians to stay. “The best pro experience I have had so far was being called up to the major leagues and the recent first ever ‘walk off’ homerun,” says Matt.
“I first met Matt during spring training 2008 in Arizona at a church service,” says FCA staff member Brian Beltramo. “During our conversation he asked me if I could help start and lead a weekday Bible study while the Brewers were at spring training. Mind you, this is a rookie showing this spiritual leadership.”
When asked how he shares his faith, Matt responded, “I try to lead by example and ‘use words when necessary.’ I hope the way I carry myself would reflect my faith and trust in the Lord.” Beltramo emphasized, “Matt’s faith is not silent but he is very outward and not ashamed of the gospel.” One of Matt’s favorite Bible verses is Psalms 34:1: “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Matt seeks opportunities to praise the Lord.
Teammate Justin Masterson shares, “I love Matt. He is a believer on the team with whom you can talk and share joys or concerns. His love for the Lord is tremendous, and he is always searching and growing in his faith.” Masterson goes on, “He is feisty and emotional with great passion as a player and great passion for Christ. Matt is also a fun guy to be around.”
“I find Matt to be spontaneous,” says Pastor Altman, ”like when he stopped to help a stranded motorist or gives some financial assistance—to people he really does not know.” He goes on saying, “Matt is quiet and generous, but he does it in a low key way. He has a real heart for the ministry and he continues to grow in his relationship with God through Christ. He reads a lot on leadership, and he has a real heart for special needs children, like his mother who is a special education teacher.”
Dara very proudly shares, “Matt grows stronger in his faith every day and he has grown to be the spiritual leader I need at home.” She continues, “It has been fun to grow together in our faith. We try to live in peace and hope and live by example as Jesus related to people. We take whatever opportunities we have to share our faith with others.”
In May, Matt and Justin enjoyed sharing their faith at Family Faith Day. A verse Matt takes to heart is I Corinthians 1:31 which says: “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”
Like anyone in professional sports, there are many struggles that must be faced. “I find the injuries and the frustrations in wanting to perform on the field as well as being away from my wife and family the biggest struggles as an athlete and as a believer,” Matt says. “I have to constantly remind myself that it is not me who achieves but I achieve because of my Lord. One has to stay in the Word and be strong.”
Dara comments: “With all the lows and struggles in baseball, Matt has kept his eyes on God, and he has not placed blame on God. We have not changed our faith in God. God never changes, never changes the truth that we know God is good and He loves us. God’s plan for us is better than our plan. We will stay the course.”
FCA’s Beltramo shares about Matt and Dara, “My wife, Sherry, and I have developed a wonderful relationship with Matt and Dara. We asked them if they would want us to be a pastor and shepherd to them and be a role model to help them excel in their marriage.” The Beltramos speak often with them on the phone and “we pray with and for Matt and Dara. We love them. We see there is a lot of joy and love in their lives.”
“Matt was named Matthew,” his mother shares, “which means Gift from God, because we almost lost Matt at birth. We truly believe Matt was a gift from the Lord. Now as a Christian, Matt shares his gifts with others. “
When asked how has Jesus Christ changed or shaped his life, Matt says, “Christ has made me the person I am today. He has given me strength to live each day, and I trust He will continue to shape and mold me to the kind of person He wants me to be. I try to be caring, a good listener, and a faithful servant of Christ.”
The warm summer sun is giving way to the brisk autumn air, and with that comes the exchange of the baseball leather for the pigskin of the football.
With the start of a new NFL season and another college football year comes the dreams and aspirations of what may be. At the beginning of each year every team is equal, every school has a chance at winning a national championship, and every fan firmly believes that their team can make it to the Super Bowl—everyone has hope.
As individuals—it is imperative to never let go of hope—regardless if times are good or seemingly bad. It is said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope.” You see, hope is faith that holds its hand out in the dark; hope is a means of making dreams a reality; hope is the power that gives us the courage to step out and try. Now it should be carefully noted that hope, for merely hope sake can be foolish if that hope isn’t originated in the solid foundational truth of the Bible, but hope through a proper lens and perspective is the pillar that holds up the world.
Hope fuels faith. And as Hebrews 11:1 states: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Inevitably, life will throw you a curve ball…a family member suddenly loses his job, a close friend acquires a terminal illness, a natural disaster wipes out a community. Tough times unfortunately happen, that’s reality. But even in those unexpected moments it’s important to hold onto hope—living with the same mindset that Albert Einstein did, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
June 19, 2010, will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life. On that day I was able to see God work in me in a way that I had never seen before.
The day started off very difficult and frustrating. I was playing a new position, the libero. I was enjoying it but on this particular day I was not playing well at all. After practice, I got back to my room and was down on myself and very frustrated and embarrassed by the way I had played. I prayed for God to give me confidence and strength in whatever my role was going to be for the team that night at our match.
That night, I got to start and played the entire game. My teammates continued to compliment me and lift me up which gave me the confidence to play well. At this point, I knew that God was working through me to play better. We lost in a close match but I played to the best of my ability and gave Him the glory. It was awesome.
After the match I had the opportunity to meet with one of the Brazilian players and I also gave him a [wordless gospel] bracelet because he is in the process of coming to Christ. He said he wants to pursue God and learn more. By the time we were done talking, he was crying and so appreciative of my teammates and me for the love and support we offered him. As we parted he hugged me hard for a long time.
Later that day I met up with him again because he wanted to give me a gift. He gave me his grandmother’s rosary necklace and said, “Take this, my brother.” I was in shock and awe and started to cry as I hugged him. It was an amazing moment as I saw the love we both had for each other and the connection we had made. When we said our goodbyes we hugged each other again and he said, "I love you, my brother,” and I said the same to him. Simply amazing.