The August visit to Centralia will probably go down as one of my favorite visits of all time. We were scheduled for exactly four hours, to play four games, and see four inmate populations. We had exactly 4 different 60 minute time slots to:
- Play a softball game
- Hand out literature
- Acknowledge MVPs
- Close out the session with prayer
This is not an impossible task, however it was a great test to see our team meet the challenges head-on and execute the day with excellence.
During the first session we got to the ballpark on the yard and got ready for our game against the first team of the day. This was a beautiful morning with a really pretty sunrise over the treeline to the east (center field). We are always the visiting team and got to bat first. I was coaching first base and our first two hitters hit awkward looking ground balls. Our third place hitter took a called third strike! This was not the way we usually like to start our games! When I got back to the dugout I asked our guys what was up. No one could see the ball because the sunrise was directly in the same spot as the arch of the ball! We ended up winning the first game of the day and immediately snapped into ministry mode with about 20 minutes left in the session.
Brent Gerber did a solid job of sharing the Gospel with the small crowd that we saw. We had a few minutes to fellowship with the men before their yard time was over and the second group came in.
With the sun moving out from behind the pitcher, we started to swing the bats better and won the 2nd game. This game was a little closer and the inmate team tied us in the top of the last inning. When the tying run crossed the plate, the entire bench was high-fiving and tackling the guy who scored the winning run! It is always a blast to see them enjoy moments like this. Darrell Pine shared the Gospel with this group and did a great job as always.
After the 2nd game, we were treated to some pizza from the Warden! We had a great time chatting with her and hanging out as a team in the chapel.
By the time the third game rolled around we were firing on all cylinders and won our third in a row. Darrell Pine got to preach again to a different group of inmates. Darrell does a great job of communicating the seriousness of the Gospel as well as conveying a love for the men that we see.
The fourth session pitted a 3-0 Saints team vs. an All Star team made up of the three teams that we faced earlier in the day. In anticlimactic fashion, we won in a blowout! Robert Cook preached the fourth game and shared the Gospel with this group. I love hearing “Cookie” share the Gospel. He holds the inmates attention and communicates so much passion when he speaks!
This was a solid, well-executed, prison ministry visit by our Saints team. I am very thankful to have this group as teammates and brothers. On the day we saw 23 men make decisions for Jesus!
We are on to Taylorville on October 1st!