The last day of a Saints Crusade is always bittersweet. There is a combination of not wanting to leave the teammates that you have bonded/fought/cried/teased/battled with all week. It is also tough to know that our first prison visit in Illinois is still 2 months away and that this will be the last time to wear the Saints uniform and share the Gospel in a prison yard for a while. It is also tough to maintain the focus of the ministry as everybody is ready to go home and see their families. As soon as the last out of the last game is made, guys are ready to be home immediately! With all of that being said, this was a Crusade that had several veteran Saints and everybody did their best to finish strong at Lake City C.I.
We visited a yard that had around 70 inmates. I didn’t play the first game but an inmate and myself took turns doing the play by play announcing on our sound system. The inmate did his best to heckle both teams and I did my best Harry Caray impression!
After the first game me and my teammate Kevin Greene, handed out Gospels and tracts to the men in a nearby pavilion in the prison yard. We came across a guy who wasn’t a believer but marked on a response card that he had accepted Jesus today. After talking with him, he misunderstood what he had marked and we shared the Gospel with him. He said that he wanted to wanted to follow Jesus. We had prayed with him but I still left with an uneasy feeling. I wasn’t sure if he had done that just to get us to leave him alone or if he was just very quiet.
The next group of guys we ran across was primarily made of men who were believers. We had told them about the young man we just encountered and that he needed someone to keep sharing the Gospel with him and mentor him. They were excited and told us that they would. That was reassuring and gave me a better sense of peace about this young man. For privacy’s sake we will just call him John, but please keep him in prayer!
We ran into a former New Yorker who was a nice guy but was not very open about discussing the Gospel. He shared time talking about himself and how tough he was since he lived in a tough part of Manhattan. One of my teammates, and former Brooklyn resident, Tom Carberry, talked to him and got in a hilarious “my part of town is tougher than yours!” argument with the man. Tom also shared the Gospel with him and although I don’t think this accepted Jesus, he stayed for the entire 2nd game and continued to talk to Tom.
This was one the most solid Crusades I have ever been on. The team was made up of mostly veterans and knew how to roll with the challenges and do the ministry with excellence. There were several bumps in the road and God still provided despite our plans being changed several times along the way.
For me personally, I’m at this point in my Saints career where I’m finding a better balance of being involved in the softball games and finding time to talk to the men on the yard and look for opportunities to share the Gospel. I really feel that God provided those opportunities on this trip.
The prisons across our country are in desperate need of the message of the Gospel and I am very thankful for this ministry and blessed to be part of it. I am also thankful to all of the supporters who have supported me financially and with prayer throughout the Crusade and for the upcoming season here in Illinois which kicks off May 21st at FCI Greenville!
To quote my good friend and teammate, Rodney Stewart: “I still can’t believe I get to do this!”