Competing in high school marching band competition isn’t easy. There is so much hard work that is required to be competitive. There are the weeks of summer practices in the heat and the cold Tuesday nights in the fall. In 1996, when my wife and I were both 17 years old, we competed with the rest of the Limestone Community High School Marching Rockets and actually won a state championship! The same year we participated in the Bands of America marching band competition at the RCA dome in Indianapolis. That was a great experience, and I was pretty pumped when my oldest son decided to join the Marching Rockets last fall.
This year’s annual Bands of America trip to Indianapolis fell on the same date as our last trip of the season to Robinson Correctional Center. While praying for the Robinson trip I asked God that He might allow us to effectively share the Gospel with the men and that they would see a need to repent and follow Him. I also prayed that He would consider changing the date so we would be able to make the trip to Indy to watch Ryne play and compete! We made every competition that Ryne played in this year except for that one, so it wasn’t a huge deal that we would miss that one (Ryne enjoyed seeing his friends reactions when he would tell them that his dad was going to prison!)
We got up crazy early again (This has been a re-occurring theme in most of my updates! Maybe the state of Illinois will consider putting some lights in on the prison fields so we can play some night games!). We met again in the parking lot of the McDonald’s in Morton and prayed for the day. There were a few other guys who had family events that day, and, as we always do, we prayed for our families as we would be over 3 hours away and without our phones. After taking some nice rural Illinois routes, we arrived at the prison on time. We came out really strong and won the first game. After the first game Sam Isbell shared his life story of how he met Jesus and Robert Cook shared the Gospel. We came out a little flat in game two and lost a close game.
In between the morning session and the afternoon session, we ate at the restaurant that all great athletes enjoy while playing sports, Kentucky Fried Chicken! Obviously this wasn’t our first choice, but, it is very convenient to quickly pay for 11 buffets and herd everyone through the line so we can get back to the prison quickly! During our lunch break I was able to check Facebook and noticed that one of my friends who also has a son in the band had Limestone’s performance on Facebook Live. That was pretty incredible to watch Ryne play at Lucas Oil Stadium while I was on a short break eating lunch at KFC in Robinson, IL.
We came back for the 3rd game of the day and were just a little flat. Some of this may or may not have been because of all you can eat mashed potatoes at KFC! We were down by 3 going in to the last inning. We got two of the runs back. I singled and went to third on a single by Jeremy Haab. The infielders threw behind Jeremy and had him in a run-down. I was able to score (head first slide!) and tie the game up which sent us into extra innings. We lost the game and but were glad to watch the inmate team celebrate on their own field.
After the game, I shared my testimony. I really enjoyed telling them how I met Jesus and how He not only saved me from an eternity in hell but how He has helped me grow so much since then. Ben Morrow shared the Gospel. We came back and won game 4. We heard lots of positive things from the administration and the inmates. We huddled up with them one last time and prayed with them.
We really enjoyed the trip back home and there was lots of laughing and storytelling. We stopped in Champaign for our final team meal of the season. We enjoyed some Buffalo Wild Wings and also enjoyed Darrell Pine melting in his seat as his Michigan Wolverines gave up several touchdowns while we were eating our food. Unlike our last trip of the season last year, we made it home without any incidents.
This year God really did some powerful things in the lives of the men in prison as well as the lives of me and my teammates. Overall on the day, we saw 31 men make decisions to follow Jesus and we handed out 260 Gospels.
2017 was a blast! Overall, as the Central Illinois team, we visited 8 different facilities and handed out 1,066 Gospels of John. We also had 128 men indicate that they wanted to follow Jesus!
I was also able to participate in 3 different Crusades this year to Louisiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. Between those three trips we saw 164 men make decisions to repent and follow Jesus and we handed out over 2,600 Gospels of John!
I can’t wait for spring to get here so we can take the field again!
I will be posting some updates over the winter as well as a “Mind of Gibby” episode or two.
Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for all of your prayer support in 2017!