(Note: Written on 7/15/17 and posted on 7/24/17)
Day 4 of a Saints Crusade is always tough but it is so important that we show up to each prison as if we made the entire trip just for them. I had something give out in my elbow/shoulder/bicep yesterday while making a throw from the outfield. Throwing, hitting, and even brushing my teeth this morning was quite painful. If you go up and down the roster, everyone has something similar going on. Whether it is a knee or a hamstring, everyone is banged up at this point, but taking a day off because of an injury really isn’t an option. Could more physical preparation help? Could we have done more with younger recruiting? Would more guys help? The answer to all of those questions is probably yes, but on trips like this it doesn’t matter. We are here for the men on the other side of the walls have been looking forward to seeing the outside ministry team. Guys will be lined up on the field to play softball and listen to us share the Gospel. Today is most certainly not the day to mail it in and quit!
We arrived at the camp at North Central Correctional Center early. This was a pretty big facility for a camp team, and we saw a few hundred men come out just to watch our game and spend some time out in the prison yard on a warm Saturday morning. We played pretty well on the field, but, at the end of the day, they outslugged us. It was satisfying that we didn’t let the physical fatigue or poor play on the field beat us, we just got beat by a good hitting team. We broke in between innings to do our ministry time. I hung out near a pavilion behind the field and handed out literature to guys as they came and left the yard. I did have a good chance to talk to a guy who was excited that we were there and told me how he just completed a Bible study on how to be a better father and how he was looking forward to applying that when he got out.
After we completed the game and huddled up with the men, we enjoyed another Circle K gas station lunch and yet another chili dog!
After lunch we headed for North Central Correctional Center so we could play two games against the main unit. When we arrived, we were greeted by a team in full uniform, and they were playing on a beautiful, well-kept field. Typically when we play an inmate team, they are either in their prison uniform or sweatpants and t-shirts. Today’s team looked like they were ready to play in a weekend softball tournament. They also looked extremely sharp taking infield before the game. This may have been the best on the field prison team I have seen in my six years of doing this. This really had all of the ingredients for us to get destroyed on the field. In the first inning we gave up quite a few runs. We chipped away a little bit as the game progressed but they had won fairly easily. When the game started, it was just us and the prison team, as the game progressed, hundreds of men were let out into the prison yard. The prison softball field was gated off from the rest of the yard but the correctional officers in charge that day led us out to hand out literature. We gave out several hundred Gospels of John. I didn’t really have time to have too many one on one conversations because I was handing out literature at such a fast pace. Since we were near Cleveland, most of the inmate population were Indians/Cavaliers/Browns fans and I was able to talk to a bunch of guys in the bleachers about that one time that Michael Jordan killed the Cavs in 1989. I got a few laughs but apparently that wound hasn’t healed yet!
We got back on the field for game two and actually got the lead early in the game. We kept playing well and actually had one really solid offensive inning where we really put the game away. If we had played that team 10 times, we probably would have gone 2-8 but it was a really wonderful feeling to steal a win from a real good prison team with a really banged up Saints team!
After the game, we got cleaned up at the hotel and enjoyed some pizza and wings in the hotel breakfast room before having our devotional time. This was a really solid time and this would be our last devotional time of the trip. Spending time sharpening iron with this group was so good. We had a large range of guys, from younger guys to empty nesters, and everything in between. We had an individual who discussed how his walk with Jesus was impacting his relationship with his grandkids and we had another guy who was talking about how his walk with Christ was going to impact his upcoming wedding. We do these trips for the benefit of the inmates and to obey our Lord when he says go into all of the world, but it is such a blessing to hang out with such Godly men for a week. Tomorrow is the last day of the trip as we visit Ohio State Penitentiary. Please keep us in prayer that we finish strong!