Not a Slam Dunk

Today we were in another sugar cane village. What set this one apart was that it had a park area, complete with a basketball court. Almost immediately we broke out into a game of 4 on 4 half-court with the kids from the village. I learned two things today: 1) Playing basketball in a leather fedora is never a good idea, and 2) My pastor has no problem rejecting a layup from a girl who measures five foot nothing.

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The basketball and the crafts and the finger nail painting and the many other activities we shared with the girls and boys of the village was our way of bring an interlude of joy and happiness into the lives of children who have next to nothing in their day to day. In an existence where running water is a luxury, babies meander in the road with no clothes, and girls are cast off as second class citizens, it was fulfilling to be able to deliver smiles and a certain sense of wonderment to those children.

Still, our mission was quite clear; to do our part to ensure eternity for those little souls. And it starts with sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. It starts with literally reaching out to each and every child and inviting them to the house of God to hear someone’s testimony. It involves taking the time to share our stories and evangelize to others the grace God has displayed in our lives. Feed them the Word and they will be nourished. Nourish their souls, and they will be saved.

If only it were that easy.

It doesn’t take one time. It doesn’t take two times. It may take the fifth or tenth or fiftieth time for someone to finally hear God calling them and accept Jesus as their Lord and savior. It’s not enough for us to visit that village once, gift them with food, candy, and playtime, and expect them to all become Christ followers. It takes our team, and the team after us, and the team after that. It takes weeks, months, years of ministry. It takes a commitment from the church, the collection of Christians worldwide, to invest time, money, and love to bring the gospel to those who need it.

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And although these people with whom we interacted and shared today have a laundry list of physical needs, there is nothing they need more than Christ.

The analogy I use with my kids is imagine being invited to a party. Not just any party, but the most amazing, fun, insanely awesome party in the history of ever. Now imagine that the people you love and enjoy being with won’t be at the party with you. They have a chance to go, but they either don’t know about the party or simply have no interest in going. Wouldn’t you go to great lengths to tell them about the party? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to convince them to go?

To me, that’s what heaven is. An eternity of joy in paradise, a salvation not because of anything I did (Ephesians 2:9), but rather because I believe, acknowledge, and declare that Jesus died on the cross for me and is my Lord and savior.

It’s a never ending task because there is always one more person to reach and one more soul to lead towards salvation. And as I learned on this trip, it’s not my job to save souls. That is God’s duty. My job, as a follower of Christ, is to play my part in introducing others to the beauty of Jesus Christ, be it here in the Dominican Republic, back home in Tampa, or wherever it is I find myself.

And that is something I can do no problem.

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.'” -John 14:6

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131/365 That’s The Way The Ball Bounces

One of the reasons I’ve always insisted on my kids taking part in organized sports is the life lessons the games and competitions provide. Take tonight as an example. The lesson: No matter how ready you think you are, if you fail to execute properly, you will most likely not succeed. The other lesson: I really stink at coaching.

Daniel’s recreational basketball team fell in the first round of the league’s playoffs tonight, and part of it was because my kids were significantly out-coached. Yes, we had our opportunities and the other team significantly rose to the occasion, but the crux of why we lost was because the opposing coach had developed a great scheme on offense, it caught us by surprise, and I didn’t do a good job in having my kids adjust.

It was a heart-breaking, two point loss, but one that will serve, in the long term, as one of those character-building memories for the boys on the team (I hope). I guess there’s always next year.

038/365 Sick Ball Skillz

Danny’s recreational basketball season is about to kick off, which means that I, as his coach, will be struggling to resolve scheduling conflicts (Natalie’s soccer program is still in season), will be losing my voice weekly, and will be tapping into my tequila collection on a regular basis.

Tonight, however, I was just a dad taking his kid to a basketball clinic put on by the St. Leo University men’s basketball program. Lots of good, instructional drills for the kids to do, including this one of holding your shot follow through.