Five Days in the Life of a Sports Chaplain and Other Reflections...
Greetings, friends! I've been reminded afresh over the last five days that my job description is dynamic (always changing) and NOT static (not moving, not active). I'm excited about that! I never know from one day to the next what's going to happen.
Last Saturday I had the distinct pleasure of helping to co-ordinate the visit of over 90 U. S. troops and their sons to a ballgame at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Charlie Chaplain, actually Chaplain Charles Reynolds, brought this group from Fort Drum Army Base in upstate New York to Toronto as part of a Father/Son weekend of special activities. This group of soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan early next year. What a joy to watch many of the Toronto Blue Jay players interact with fathers and sons, signing autographs and speaking with the kids! John Gibbons, the Jays' manager, provided official major league baseballs for all of the kids. I had the pleasure of praying with the entire group down at field level before the gates opened and the rest of the fans came into the stadium.
Sunday was "ministry" as usual with chapel services for the Chicago White Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays and a visit to the umpires' clubhouse to pray with them before the game. I pray that these chapel services will never become commonplace for me after all these years. If you do the math, I've been at the ballpark for over 350 Sundays in the past 29 years, and we conduct 2 chapels each week (one for each team) so I've been involved in over 700 services. Each week is different, each service has its own flavor and when God shows up at the ballpark we can expect great things to happen.
Today, as I was driving to the ballpark, I received a phone message from another chaplain, a prison chaplain, asking if I could arrange to get a piece of Toronto Blue Jays memorabilia signed by a player for a prisoner who only has a day or two to live. This prisoner has been released from prison after serving 35 years of his sentence so he could die peacefully in a community setting. Baseball Chapel policy doesn't allow us to ask players for autographs or items of memorabilia for obvious reasons. We are there to serve NOT to get "stuff". After receiving this last-minute request, I called the Jays' equipment manager as I drove to the ballpark. He arranged for one of the marquis players to sign a Blue Jays' jersey and personalize it to this dying man. I didn't stay for the game but drove home to meet the chaplain at the hospital in Peterborough. We surprised this dear man (he's a convict but seeing an older man lying in a hospital bed with not many hours left in this life makes you look upon him in a different light) with the gift from the Blue Jays and took a number of pictures of him with the jersey. What a joy to cheer someone up in this manner! He has been a Toronto Blue Jays fan from day one but has been incarcerated throughout the Jays' history and was never able to attend a game. Before I left his hospital room, I was asked by the prison & hospital chaplains if I'd pray with this man and his family members. We joined hands and I committed him to the Father's care. Tears flowed and I left the room moved with compassion and grateful to God for the way He has orchestrated things over the last five days.
So, dear friends, that's what's been happening in the past week. Exciting opportunities! Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you, our roof at home was leaking and we had to get it re-shingled on Monday and Tuesday. One other thing, the transmission in our van quit on Carol on Saturday while I was at the ballpark and we had to get it rebuilt Monday and Tuesday. Into every life a little rain (or a monsoon) must fall but the showers of blessing from Saturday, Sunday and today far outweighed the setbacks.
Tomorrow is another day but tonight I sit back and rejoice that God has called me to share His love with soldiers, ballplayers and prisoners (and the guy who shingled our roof).
Thanks for your prayers, your encouragement and your friendship! We continue to trust God to lead us and use us for His glory.
In His embrace,