When I was in High School I flunked P.E. One of the many reasons was because the P.E. teacher was a basketball coach and all she wanted to do was play basketball. I love to watch basketball but I did NOT want to play it…so I sat on the bleachers with a couple of other girls and watched. Needless to say, when I visited the Cheyenne River Reservation last Fall and was told that what they really needed this summer was a basketball camp, I didn’t think much would come of it. However, we all know that God works in mysterious ways AND has a sense of humor so this P.E. dropout got a group together to do a basketball camp.
Don’t get me wrong…I didn’t play basketball…that would have been an attempt at too little too late…but I did recognize that God was calling me to make this happen. So, after arguing with God for a few days, I gave David McCormick with North Monroe Baptist Church a call and he began the process of putting together a great team. Now, David is not exactly a basketball guru himself so it was like the blind leading the blind here. But God is like that…He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. All He wants from us is obedience and it’s a good thing because that’s all David or I had to offer in the form of basketball.
North Monroe Baptist Church is a church that can be depended upon to put everything together, provide everything needed and work like their lives depend upon it. I knew this camp was in good hands. David’s nephew, Blake Bosely, began working and training and so did Lee Ainsworth, another go getter. They were all working hard to provide Cheyenne River with the best they could offer…but God had other plans. Two weeks before the camp began, through a series of circumstances that only God could have put together, Coach Delmar Pippin and his wife Lori came on board. Delmar and Lori don’t even go to North Monroe but isn’t it like God to surprise you at the last minute? Also coming on board at the last minute was Derek Griffon, the youth minister at Simpson Baptist Church, who is also a gifted basketball player. Two weeks before takeoff God put together the perfect team.
As always, this team worked hard! We once again had Richard Ainsworth with us to prepare all of our meals and lunch for the kids. The man is a genius in the kitchen! He was sick most of the time we were there and he never quit working.
The group slept on air mattresses in the church activity building. Each morning, we awoke to a great breakfast and the day would begin…but only after David and Derek sang “Who Let the Dogs Out” when they saw me each morning! 😛
We started the day by picking the kids up. We worked with Grades 1-6 from 9:30 -12:00…
…and with Grades 7-12 from 1:00-3:30.
Jason Bonner, Brittany Bosely, Lee Ainsworth, Evelyn Tidwell, Deborah Golemon, David Tidwell and Lori Pippin had the job of picking the kids up and bringing them home each day.
We began by checking the kids in….
Then they would spend hours in a hot gym learning drills. Coach Pippin was GREAT at holding their interest. These kids wanted to excel!
Toward the middle of practice Brittany Bosley would introduce a team building activity that was always a lot of fun…
We ended each group with a short devotional from David and a testimony from one of the younger adults on our team…
Then we would feed them lunch…
There’s always going to be some children who just don’t want to play basketball. We were prepared for that. Thanks to my last mission in Washington State (and Twin Bridges Baptist Church) I had craft supplies, face paint and bubbles to keep those kids busy. Shelly Lockwood and Melissa Cassiere were great about working with them…
Sometimes the crafts weren’t enough so they would make do with hula hoops and alot of love…
We also took the opportunity to introduce them to Christ with the “Wordless Book” I told you about in my last blog entry…
On our last day of camp some of the players were recognized for their outstanding abilities with certificates…Coach’s Award, Outstanding Player, 3 point Champion, Best Hustler, Best Ball Handler, etc. These kids were so excited to be recognized for their hard work but this young man really touched my heart. When the coach called his name, this tough teen jumped up grinning…his excitement was obvious.
One award that brought tears to my eyes was a special award from the Coach. Kansas Ghostbear had only made it to camp for two days so he didn’t get a certificate recognizing his abilities; however, he and Coach Pippin had a special bond. The coach gave Kansas a Cypress Knee with “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” written on it. Kansas was all smiles.
Kansas even had the Coach write down all the drills for him so he could continue to practice what he had learned.
This basketball camp was incredibly successful. We gained attendance each day, starting out with 37 on day one and ending up with 52 on day four. We ministered to a total of 65 children and teens in a community that is extremely small at a school that usually only has 4 or 5 graduating seniors each year.
From time to time I was concerned that we weren’t getting enough of the Gospel to them but God made me realize that we got the chance to show them the Gospel through our love and guidance in ways many of them never would have encountered outside of a basketball camp. He also showed me that we had paved the way for the upcoming VBS and Women’s Ministry happening the next weeks.
There was a lot more to this week than just the basketball camp. The first Sunday we were there, North Monroe sang in the morning service…check out my Facebook page to see the video. I gave a brief testimony about Mission Ventures and the Pastor gave a powerful sermon. One Native lady said she felt as if she had experienced heaven that day. The beauty of the service brought new life to their little sanctuary on the reservation and with it a renewed joy.
After the service we had grilled burgers and fries with everyone and got to fellowship…
Then, on Monday, I got the honor of a lifetime. A lady who had been in the service on Sunday told her husband some of the things I had said about God using the Native American community and he came to the church to speak with me. This isn’t a common occurrence and I am still in awe that God put me in that place at that time. What we discussed is not something I can publish here but it’s something I’ll never forget.
On Wednesday night North Monroe again participated in the service with songs. This time they also included sign language by Rachel Tillman.
And then came Thursday night. We extended an invitation to the adults and children alike in the surrounding communities to join us at the church that evening for some Louisiana fun…gumbo, music, etc. Pastor Jed feared that we would be disappointed with the number of people who would come…we weren’t! 110 adults and children joined us that night!
The room was filled to capacity and then began to spill outside.