Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Montana Experience

This coming Sunday at 6am we will load the Sunshine van with 7 men and their luggage and head west to Bozeman, MT. This will be our 8th summer doing this trip. I have been blessed to be part of all 8 of them. Each year has been memorable in it's own way. God has done amazing things during this interchange as leaders and young men from urban Chicago connect with host families and church members of all ages from rural/mountain Montana. The relationships that have been built over the years have been a beautiful picture of what the body of Christ was intended to be as young and old, black and white and brown, rural and urban have learned from one another, prayed for one another, and shared laughter and tears.

For this year's trip I have undertook a "Montana Trip Alumni Project." I have tried to connect with every young person (many of whom are now young adults) who has been on the trip asking them questions about their current age, job/school, how the Montana trip impacted them, and what message they would give to the church in Montana. I thought I would share one of the responses from a young man who traveled to Montana with us in 2002 and 2004. Here is what he shared...

Name: Timothy Purdis
Age: 25

What are you up to now? U.S. Army - Combat Engineer currently returning from my second tour. Operation Iraqi Freedom

How did the Montana trip impact your life? Going to Montana with Sunshine Gospel Ministries gave me a chance to connect with Jesus in a different way, a different environment and a chance to build new friendships with people outside of Chicago - and keep it going over the years. I got a chance to go mountain climbing, fly fishing and float in a river, if I'm not mistaken.

If you could send a message to the church in Montana, what would you say? Springhill Community Church thanks for the prayer and support throughout both of my tours in Iraq - Spc (P) Timothy Purdis

1 Thessalonians 2:8 = We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

Unexpected Appointment

As I mentioned in a previous post, whenever we host a Friday Night Lights outreach I ask the Lord to give me (& us) divine appointments (in other words, God-orchestrated opportunities to share the love of Christ with people). This past Friday night was no exception. God once again honored my request and provided me with opportunities to speak about Jesus in conversations. However, what made this Friday unique was how one of them came about.

It was about 10:30pm or so when a man named Tony approached me and asked me if I could give he and his wife and son a ride to 55th and Wabash. He explained that the neighborhood gangs were about to start shooting, and that he needed to get his son to his grandmother's house. I told him that I could give them a ride, but I was a little skeptical of his "the gangs are about to start shooting" comment. He then told me he was going to get his wife and son, and would return to our lot in a few minutes. About 5 minutes later he returned by himself. He told me that his son was embarrassed to have his friends see him get into my van to be given a ride somewhere. He asked if I could pick them up from the store up the street so that his one would not be embarrassed. The scenarios just seemed "sketchy" to me, so I told him that I was more than willing to give them a ride, but that they were going to have to come to the lot where my van was. He once again told me they would be back in a few minutes. At this point, I didn't think I would see Tony again. I was both skeptical and a bit cynical at this point. However, a few minutes later Tony returned with his wife and his son ready for the ride. It turned out that I knew his son from Sexton school, and that my previous roommate (J. Harvey) had built a friendship with Tony during his stay in Chicago.

I dropped off Tony's son at his grandmother's and allowed his wife to run him in. Tony and I had a few minutes alone in my van as we waited. I asked him what his faith background was. He told me protestant, and then added, "well just Jesus really!" He quoted a couple of verses. I shared another verse. He quoted another one. I shared one, and we went back and forth. It was such an encouraging conversation. He encourage me to continue to be a positive role model to the young people, and emphasized that they need the hope of Jesus. As I dropped he and his wife off, they thanked me and we exchanged numbers.

In spite of my cynicism, God provided a divine appointment. I am praying that God gives me the opportunity to connect with Tony and his family again.

Friday Night Lights Update: Although we got "lightninged out" at about 11:30pm, FNL was once again a huge success. We praise God, for the opportunities to connect with neighbors, to proclaim the love of Christ, and to make Peace happen!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Divine Appointments

On Friday night we hosted our second Friday Night Lights outreach. (For more information on Friday Night Lights check out my previous post entitled "Friday Night Lights.") I have greatly enjoyed both of these Friday nights. God has blessed us both nights with clear skies and decent weather. We have had a good team of people working together - working the grill, serving food, holding Peace Campaign signs, meeting and greeting people, ministering through music, "dj-ing", and setting up/cleaning up. We have also been blessed with a good turn out of neighbors. We have met neighbors whom we have never seen before, we have strengthened relationships with others, and we have discovered brothers and sisters in Christ. I give God all the praise for all of the above.

Going into this Friday night I told the other summer staff that I was going to pray that God would give me (& us) divine appointments on Friday night. I told them that I am convinced that when we ask God for opportunities to speak to others about Him, He always honors those requests. We just have to be ready and available to open our hearts and to open our mouths to share the love of Christ and the message of His love. He definitely honored my request for divine appointments this past Friday. Let me explain. Our ministry building contains a Community Technology Center that offers computer classes to adults & teens, and an internet cafe that provides access to computers. Over time, I have gotten to know some of the more "frequent" internet cafe visitors. Some of them I get to know by name, and others by face. I try to speak to everyone who comes into the office. On Friday afternoon I invited two of these "frequent guests" to come out to Friday Night Lights. They both took me up on it. During the course of the night I was able to have a separate conversation with each of them, Kevin and Anthony, about their faith background and about the person and work of Christ. Both of them were very open to conversing about Christ, and they come from diverse faith backgrounds (Catholicism, Islam, & Jehovah's witness influences). I am now praying that I might have an ongoing dialogue with them about the love of Christ when I see them and have an opportunity to interact with them at the center. God is good!

Another man came to the lot because he heard the music, and after listening to it intently discovered that it was gospel rap that was coming out of the speakers. A good friend of mine, Pastor Jay, had the opportunity to speak with this brother. He shared with Jay that he used to be a member of a gospel rap group, however he had left the group and had been living in "the far country." He recently came out of a drug rehabilitation program, and he asked Jay to pray for him that he would get back on track with the Lord and continue to live a life for Him. I watched, at around midnight, as Jay hugged him over the chain-link fence and lifted him and his family up to the Lord! That's God!

All of these conversations happened after 11pm, on a Friday night, in an empty lot, in what many consider to be "the hood." It is just a reminder that God is actively at work! The amazing thing is that He invites us to join Him in what He is doing. Let's continue to ask God for divine appointments, and then let's keep our eyes and ears open for how we might join Him in His Kingdom work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Warrior "7"

Last night we (the Sunshine Warriors) defeated Edgewater Baptist to complete our 11 game regular season. We finished the year with a 4 and 7 record. I am greatly encouraged from the way we finished the year! In one of our last regular season games we nearly defeated the undefeated first place team, Breakthrough Urban Ministries. We lost that game by a mere two points, and could have easily won the contest. That proved to me and to the team that we can compete with (and beat)anybody if we play together. Although our team may lack size and depth, we make up for it with heart. When we are at our best we play with a lot of intensity!

We finished the season with 7 players. Let me introduce them to you...
Baby T "Beat You To The Spot" Nimely - Baby T is one of the best on-ball defenders that I have coached. He loves to "lock up" the other teams point guard, and to apply relentless pressure. He then brings that same intensity to the offensive end, and penetrates with full force. Baby T will be a junior at Mt. Carmel High School this fall.

Cornell "All The Way To The Cup" Brandon - Cornell has a "nack" for finding his way all of the way to the whole. Sometimes he dribble coast to coast. Sometimes he catches it on the wing, and penetrates. He somehow slices through and/or by the defense and gets a lay up. Cornell graduated this year from Fenger High School, and will be heading to college in the fall.

Eric "I'm A Football Player" Nimely - Eric is quick to point out to teammates that he is a football player that is playing basketball to stay in shape. Eric brings that football mentality to the court. He crashes the boards, dives on the floor, and does the little things. He even made a couple of "and-ones" this season. Eric will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.

Pierre "And-One" Carr - I think Pierre has the Miracle League record for converting the most "and-one" three-point plays. He can penetrate past, through, and around just about any defender. Once he arrives at the basket, he intentionally positions his body to draw contact. He utilize the officials like few players that I have seen. Pierre was our leading scorer this season. He will be a junior at South Shore High School this fall.

Trevell "I Need More Touches" Martin - After one of our first games, Trevell told me and his teammates that we would be better off if he just "got more touches." As the season progressed I believed him. Trevell is a streaker shooter with 3-point range, and an ever-improving mid-range jumper. He models his game after his idol, Tracy McGrady, and he continues to develop his game each summer. Trevell will be a junior at Team Englewood High
School this fall.

Terrell "Big Baby" Martin - Terrell's appearance and game favors the Boston Celtic's Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Terrell has a wide body, that creates space within the lane. He continues to develop as a good rebounder and as a defensive presence in the paint. He also has a soft touch for a big guy around the basket. Terrell will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.

Wendell "Slash" Ambrose - Wendell was a new addition to our team this season. He did a great job handling the ball and playing calm even when the game got crazy. Wendell is at his best when he slashes to the hole. He does this through the use of a crafty jump stop, and through a cross-over dribble. If he continues to develop his jump shot, he will be dangerous. Wendell will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.

Update, Update...
On Saturday we competed in the end of the year tournament. We entered the double-elimination tournament as the 5 seed. Our first round opponent was South Shore United Methodist. We lost a close contest to them, and during the second half we lost Pierre Carr for the rest of the tournament. After dropping into the loser's bracket, we earned back to back victories against Edgewater Baptist and the World Overcomer's. (In other words we lost to "the Methdodists" but were able to defeat "the Baptists" and "the Pentecostals." :)) Our final game of the day was a rematch against South Shore. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas (and lost another player to injury - Trevell Martin). We played hard all day long though, and I was proud of how hard we played in spite of our limited roster.

I continue to pray that the seeds that were planted this season will continue to grow, and that eternal fruit would abide in the lives of the young men. I am reminded of Isaiah 55 of the "lasting effect" of God's Word (Isaiah 55:11). Our final tournament devotional was a powerful gospel presentation shared by long-time youth pastor Danny Lopez. I am praying that these young men will seek and serve Christ in their youth!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's Soft Isn't It?

On Saturday I was able to spend the day with my family in South Haven. We got together to celebrate my sister Anne's 33rd birthday. After spending time together on the beach, we all went out to dinner at Clementines. Just after most of us had finished with our meals, my nephew Carson (age 3) asked me if I would take him to the bathroom. I grabbed his hand and we headed off to the men's room. When we got inside, he first walked towards the stalls - only to discover that they were occupied. Next he assessed the urinal situation - 2 full size and 1 "short urinal." This particular "short urinal" was technically still too high for him, but he would not be denied. He dropped his pants to his ankles, thus exposing his backside and most of his legs (this produced grins and chuckles from the other men entering the rest room). He then stood on his tip toes so that he could reach the urinal. He literally rested "his equipment" on the urinal rim. For those of you who don't know much about "urinal rims," they are not the cleanest or most sanitary surfaces. Nonetheless Carson did not want any assistance from his uncle Dave at this point. A few minutes in he turned to me and stated, "I think I need to sit down." So we headed for the newly opened stall. I wiped down the seat and made a "paper throne" for him. I then lifted him up, placed him on the seat, and then stepped outside the stall to wait for him. A few minutes later he announced, "Uncle David I'm done." I walked into the stall to find him with his pants still at his ankles, and with a smile of "a job well done" on his face. I could tell that he needed something, so I asked the question that I was hoping to avoid - "do you need me to wipe you?" He nodded yes. This is where the story really gets good. After indicating his need of assistance, he proceeded to bend over and grab his ankles with his hands. Apparently either his mother or father taught him this procedure to aid "the wiper." I then grabbed the appropriate amount of toilet paper and proceeded to wipe his tiny bottom. As I was wiping him he asked,"it's soft...isn't it?" I almost busted out laughing, but I kept my composure and just smiled at him. I then told him, "Carson you did good." He immediately responded, "no you did good."

It's great to be an uncle!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Warrior Update

We are just over the mid-season mark for the Miracle League Season. At this point the Sunshine Warriors are 3 and 4. Other than one lop-sided victory that we had, every game this season has been close. We once again started the season with a full roster of 13 players. However, various circumstances have once again trimmed our roster to the “Faithful 8.” This has posed challenges, losing a 6’5” shot blocker and low-post threat, a 5’9” 3 point “gun-slinger”, and some additional bench support. However, our remaining 8 leave us with a scrappy and determined 6-foot and under bunch. For 5 of the guys this is their 4th summer playing with us in the League.

We have 4 regular season games remaining, followed by a post-season tournament on Friday July 17th and Saturday July 18th. I am confident that if we are playing together and playing hard, we can make a run at the championship.

It has been great to have Pastor Brad helping as an assistant coach and driving an additional van to our games. Pastor Brown has also been gracious to us in allowing us to use First Baptist’s vintage gymnasium for all of our practices.

We have had some really good devotional talks with our guys. They are asking really good questions, wrestling with the gospel, thinking on who Christ is. I am encouraged especially by 2-3 of the guys who show evidence of growth and spiritual maturity developing. Please continue to pray with me for the team – that eyes would be opened to the gospel and that fruit would continue to grow.