When I was younger, I had never really given much thought to being a dad. I saw how much my parents struggled to make ends meet to provide for us and when I looked at how horrible the world was, having a child of my own was not on my radar. However, I had been around children all my life and I liked kids. My mom had babysat for many years and I had been around a few kids at our small church in West Virginia. When I got back into the church in 2007, one of our ministries was with children. We started off in the two-year-old room and did this for one year. In that year we had this group of two-year-old’s that just held a very special place in our hearts. When it came time for them to move to the three-year-old room, our hearts were broken. We loved our new group two-year-old’s too but there was just something about that group we the year before. The first Sunday that our kids moved to the three-year-old class was horrible for me and Tammy. We took turns walking down the hallway to peak in on our kids. We were not handling this very well at all. That Sunday just happened to be the day the whole church met at the lake for baptisms. Tammy and I agreed beforehand and we approached the preschool Pastor and asked, “Can we graduate too?” The next Sunday, we had our kids back as we moved to the three-year-old classroom.
At the conclusion of that year, I started to feel a strong calling to do more for the children. I felt that God was calling me to teach, which was something I had never done before. Though we did some teaching to the preschoolers, I had this feeling of needing to do more for the children at the church and that I needed to be in a classroom setting. We spoke with the Children’s Pastor and before we knew it, I was standing in front of a classroom full of third graders. Tammy was my assistant and we taught faithfully for two years the third graders at The Creek.
After teaching for those two years, we wanted to give some younger couples a chance to teach so we stepped down after spending a few weeks in the fourth grade class. I use to say all the time in our deacon meetings – “Give me a big enough room, and I’ll teach 300 third graders”. Richland Creek is a large church, not the stature of a Megachurch by no means, but large nonetheless. Due to this, space was always an issue as our classrooms were busting at the seams most Sundays.
Another ministry we picked up early on after returning to church was Upward Sports. Having only ever played baseball in Little League as a tween, I had very little knowledge of the game of basketball other than what I had seen on TV. I use to joke and say, “Well I know there is a ball and a metal hoop and the idea is to get the ball somehow and some way up the court and to ultimately throw the ball into the air with hopes that it would fall through the metal ring.” But this lack of basketball knowledge would not stop me because I love the Lord, I love children, and I wanted to teach them all I could about Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, the kids might teach me a thing or two about basketball along the way. I started with coaching the first and second grade boys team in the fall of 2007 with one night a week practices. The first practice was right before Thanksgiving and was very memorable. Tammy had gone out and gotten me a special pair of gym pants, a clip board, and a whistle. I certainly looked the part of a coach but deep down inside I was petrified. So there I was, standing in the middle of the floor at The Creek, with the whistle dangling from my lips when all of the sudden I felt a tug on those fancy new gym pants. I looked down and saw this cute little kid and he said:
My first thought was, wait let me go get him, when it hit me.
“How are you?”
“Are you my coach?”, he said with a shy little smile.
I replied with a huge grin, “Why yes sir young man, I am your coach.”
That first year of coaching basketball at The Creek was amazing. We probably lost every game but thankfully the kids did not care. Over the next couple years, I continued to coach the first and second grade boys team. I felt that at their age, they would probably not notice that their coach had no clue what he was doing when it came to basketball; but my ultimate goal was to teach them about Jesus. The kids had fun and I planted enough seeds about Jesus during those three years to grow a large orchard.
Tammy also started helping out that first year and every year after that. She ran the music and the slideshows from the sound booth. We setup a small light show and played some upbeat music as each child was announced at the start of their game. We ran two games every hour for eight hours. For eight Saturdays in January and February every year, the church’s worship center was transformed into a loud and boisterous basketball area where we reached hundreds and children and their families with the Gospel of Christ.
After coaching for three years, I decided to step down because there was another need in the program. We had plenty of volunteer coaches however there was a need for a coordinator. Being the coordinator actually allowed for me to reach more of the children. Being the coordinator in the backroom meant that I had a chance to interact with each and every child during those eight hours. Every team would meet in the back room before their game began so I had a chance to share the love of Christ with each child and their coaches. Tammy continued to run the front of the house while I ran the back. We did this for five more years before our eventual more to the Outer Banks in 2014. During this time our love for children grew and grew.