The men in our church are doing a powerful ministry with the Carver football team. Most of you know that we have been feeding them every week this fall the night before their football games. A lot of men have put in a lot of effort to make this happen and to a man, those that have served have come away blessed. Giving truly is more fun than receiving.
About 10 days ago, the men of our church went to see Courageous with about 50 Carver football players and coaches. A donor bought 100 tickets to reserve the theatre for us and then another donor kicked in money to pay for the Carver team to be with us. While we were waiting to go into the movie a man stepped forward and offered to buy popcorn and a Coke for each of the Carver team and coaches. You know how much it costs to eat popcorn and drink a Coke at a movie!
The movie was powerful. It is a great image of fatherhood and redemption. For those young men with us, it was especially moving as many of them don’t have fathers at home. Coach McGee gave a moving talk at the end and his love for these young men was evident. He broke up twice trying to give his talk and I was struck by how many of his kids shouted out, “We love you coach”. We all applauded. God was moving.
So with that as a set up, the stage was set for an incredible event last Thursday night in the Carver cafeteria. Ken Bevel who played in the movie Fireproof and Courageous came to speak to the Carver team after their meal. How we got him here is another story and very much a “God thing” but I had no idea what he was going to say or what his story was. Oh my goodness. But before he talked, he jumped in to serve food to the team. It gave him the chance to look each young man in the eye and talk to him one on one.
After the meal, he gave his talk. He had a good relationship with his Dad as a little boy but then his Dad started drinking and then he became an alcoholic. His Dad then started smoking pot and doing cocaine. Eventually he moved on to crack and his family blew apart. As a teenager Ken started dealing drugs. He was mad at his Dad and felt like he hated him. He then asked these young men, “How many of you are mad at your Dad?” and nearly every hand went up. He had their attention.
He went on to say he went for a drug drop and while they were waiting they noticed a man painting a house in the rain and he got suspicious and they left. When they got home the phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “This is the Duval County Sheriff’s department, we know who you are, we know where you live, we know the car you drive and we know you are drug dealer. If you ever come back to that neighborhood, we will arrest you.” And so, Ken knew he needed a change of scene. He graduated from high school with a 1.8 GPA and joined the Marines.
Changing locations but not changing your heart will not change your outcome – and so – it wasn’t long before he was dealing drugs in the Marines and it wasn’t long before the Marines found out. His commanding officer called him in and told him he was being sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for a court martial. He went back to his quarters and contemplated suicide. He contemplated going AWOL and running. And then he remembered his Mama told him to pray and so he prayed for God to save him and in return he would serve him.
Weeks past and no miracle save came. He went to Wal-Mart and walking across the parking lot three white guys were handing out tracts and asking “Do you know Jesus?” and he said, “No I don’t but I need to” and he was saved in that parking lot. More time goes by and the Monitor (Marine who comes to base and looks at placements and can recommend changes) called him in. He knew this “was it” and that she was shipping him to prison. Instead, she told him the charges against him had been dropped. She then asked if he wanted to know the details and he said, “No thank you” and to this day, he doesn’t know what happened. Well…he does know.
So the Marines shipped him to Japan and there he surrounded himself with other believers, older, wiser Christian men and he grew in his faith. He got married and went back to college and graduated with an advanced degree with a 3.7 GPA and eventually he went and got a graduate degree with a Magna Cum Laude distinction. He served his 20 years and left the Marines 7 months ago to go on staff with the church that produced those movies. His call is towards men and especially young black men to help them break the chain, the cycle that traps so many. He told these Carver players, “Many of you are mad at your Fathers and never really ever knew them. You can break the chain by becoming the kind of father you never had. You be better. You do more.”
It was so powerful. 20 years ago he was a young black man dealing drugs and running from the law, jumping fences and navigating the gangs. And today – just look at him. A strong, powerful, Godly man radically pursuing God’s call on his life. Redemption. New beginnings.
An incredible thing happened last Thursday in the Carver cafeteria and God used the men of Christ Community in a powerful way. We were instruments of God’s plans (not ours) and God powerfully moved on the lives of 80+ young men.