Poverty is the absence of positive relationships. For many of us, we usually think of poverty as the absence of positive cash flow, which it certainly is. But it’s more than that. It’s the absence of positive relationships…relationships that are positioned to help lift an individual or family out of poverty in all its forms.
No Walls Ministry has been privileged to come alongside some of our poorest families in Lynchburg and offer those needed positive relationships. One of the ways we have seen that happen is through our sports ministry, which began in 2015 under Brett Pettinger. Coach Pettinger put together a team of young men living in poverty, and through the game of basketball, he built meaningful relationships with these young men and discipled them in the faith. For some, Brett was the only stable male role model in their life. He was more than a coach, he was a mentor and a father figure.
As Brett transitioned out of coaching in early 2018, we were blessed to welcome Drew Flowers as the new leader of our sports ministry. Drew has built upon the foundation laid by Brett and has added a young men’s and women’s indoor soccer team. As a teacher and coach, Drew understands the place and power of sports as a teaching tool for character development and perseverance.
Many of Drew’s players don’t have any male authority figures in their life. Because of that, his players have missed out on formative opportunities to build relationships with their dads through sports. As a student at New Covenant School, Drew played basketball, soccer and baseball. One of the things he noticed looking back on that time was the number of dads who attended practices and/or games. They were present and involved. The players that Drew coaches don’t have dads taking them to the court to play ball much less teach them the game. But that’s where Drew and his coaches come in. They aren’t just coaching them to be better athletes but better men and women, which also involves helping them learn from their failures.
Drew views sports as a safe place to fail. “Sports lets you play life out over and over. [Sports] are like failure factories where the stakes are low and kids have the opportunity to learn from their failures.” For kids living in poverty, they are often forced to grow up quicker taking on adult responsibility. Many of them have to get jobs at an early age to support their families. As a result, they are often thrust into situations, which they are ill-prepared for. Being a part of Coach Flowers' teams allows these players the freedom to fail. To see what they did wrong in an affirming environment, and more importantly, have someone help them see how to do it right.
This beautifully parallels the Christian life, which is fraught with failure. It is the Holy Spirit who comes alongside us as our advocate and shows us not only where we have gone wrong, but where He can help us go right.
Thank you for helping us make a difference in the lives of these players through sports. Pray for Coach Flowers and his other coaches that they will be able to instill the kind of character and perseverance that comes from knowing Christ Jesus.