Friday, August 5, 2011
Last Monday night the final softball game of the season was being played. Honestly I was quite happy it was our last game! At 49 years old my body was sore and hurting from playing and practicing a sport that is better suited for younger people. Shiloh Softball is a great example of the heart of the ministry. The team is a group of misfits, people from a variety of ethnicities, mostly made up of folks that get overlooked in life. In a 10 game season we had lost the first eight games until last week when we had an offensive outburst and hung on for dear life to win the second-to-last game. Now, going into our last game, we were minus a few of our regular starters, but we had enough people to play.
The game went back and forth until we found ourselves in the bottom of the 7th (final inning in softball rules) … down by a run. We scratched out a run to tie the game. And then, with two outs, a young man was on first—I’ve known him since he was a teenager who was a gang leader that brought 30 unwanted young people to the church I was on staff with at the time. He is now 30 himself, been a chain smoker for half of his life, has a ponytail that goes down to his butt and a life story of survival through abuse and neglect many would tremble to hear about. He is a societal misfit that loves God and loves to help his neighbor—few, if any, traditional churches would want him in their service let alone trust him with any responsibility …
At the plate was the oldest member of our team. He has a pacemaker keeping his weak heart running, bad knees, and he stepped to the plate already having popped out twice during the game. He is a father of a misfit teen who loves SLM. His family has been ravaged by the pain of addiction and the damage it does, and yet he’s the kind of man who loves to help reach out to those misfits who need to know: God loves them no matter what. On the sidelines the rest of the misfits shouted out encouragement to him. He smacked the first pitch he saw and sent a laser shot down the left field line. From first, the tall, lanky pied piper of misfits himself, ran as fast as his diminished capacity lungs would allow. Without hesitation I waved him around third to home plate … he hit the plate less than a second before the throw from the outfield made it to the defender. “SAFE!—SAFE!” shouted the umpire. The group of misfits, a collection of neglected, ignored, judged and abused people, swarmed home plate to celebrate the unlikely victory over a more talented opponent.
I fought back tears as I watched my lovable misfits in their moment of joy. Tears? No one cries in softball! Yes, tears. There on that dry dusty field, a snapshot of the heart of God through the ministry of SLM was being played out. In the past few months this ministry has been mocked, accused, abandoned and judged—starting with me as the fearless leader of the misfits. Yet through it all, this small group of people have found a way to stay together and to become a family more united than ever. Through the difficulties of this summer a group of people have not lost sight of the purpose of this ministry, a ministry that will now evolve and flourish.
Shiloh’s Lighthouse is changing. A renewed focus that returns us to our roots has come about and it is time for an upgrade to Shiloh’s Lighthouse 3.0. What will Shiloh’s Lighthouse version 3.0 be, you ask? Well you’ll just have to wait for that answer unless you live in the Saginaw area and want to be at our Community Center this Sunday for the unveiling that will happen during our morning fellowship time. I can tell you that this Sunday we will serve breakfast starting at 10 AM. Following the meal we’ll have a great time of spirited praise and worship music, and then I will tell all the folks there all about SLM 3.0. If you’re not in the area no worries—next week I’ll put out a blog detailing the changes that are happening.
I can give you a hint about the content of version 3.0 … I dare to open the doors of this ministry to _________ and let them know God loves them and has a plan for their life. I’ll be filling in the blank this Sunday and in the weeks to come as Shiloh’s Lighthouse Ministry 3.0 kicks into high gear. Grab a misfit or two, keep your fancy clothes on their hangers, and come enjoy the food, worship and fellowship this Sunday.
Keep the faith …