Basketball brings them in

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Concord’s basketball teams are introducing kids to Christ.

by Clay Gardner, Major –

Players participate in a YMCA league team sponsored by the Concord, Calif., corps.

I’ve had fun in my life, though I’m not sure ever as much as watching our corps sponsored basketball team play in the kick-off game for the local YMCA league a few weeks ago. It seemed as though a couple of our 7- to 8-year-old players weren’t much bigger than the basketball!

The idea to sponsor basketball teams in the YMCA spring league was the idea of Will Harper, youth ministries director. Once a junior college basketball coach, Will worked for the Boys & Girls Club before coming to the Army. I remember him saying, “I’m just going to do what I know how to do,” at the job interview.

We hung a sign at the corner of our property and within a month had 33 kids signed up to play.

Last fall, we introduced the team on a Sunday morning. Most of the team made it—and so did a number of parents, many even attended Sunday school. One of those parents is now in our soldiers’ class, brings friends and has a daughter headed to the youth councils. Several of our young basketball players now come for church every Sunday.

On a recent Sunday, the kids presented over a thousand dollars they raised in a “shot-a-thon” for World Services. These teams have enthused our congregation.

The 9- to 10-year-old team is undefeated and we are looking forward to cheering them through the season. When the basketball memories fade from these children’s memories, the fact that we have introduced them to Christ remains.

Reflection by Amy Herrero:

My 9-year-old son Cody really wanted to play basketball this year, but I missed the sign-ups for the city leagues. When I saw the banner announcing The Salvation Army was offering basketball, I was relieved. Cody had already been attending the after-school program, so this wasn’t an unknown organization, which was nice. I signed Cody up and took him to practice.

Coach Will asked all the teams on Sunday to be at church, and for them to arrive for Sunday school. I dropped off my son and headed back to the car. On my way back to the car it occurred to me, “I’m already here, so why not?” I turned around and went to the Sunday school class.

I enjoyed the class immensely and everyone welcomed me. It was the first time I had looked at a Bible in a long time. Then the church service was even more on target for exactly what I needed to hear. Everyone was welcoming and invitingeveryone practiced what was spoken about in the class and the sermon.

Cody, my daughter, Amber, and I have been coming faithfully ever since. It has brought God and Christ back into all of our lives in a way that I never allowed before. I attend everything I can with the church, and Cody, Amber and I incorporate God and Christ into all that we do. I guess you could say that basketball brought me back to Christ.

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