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Encouragement—a life changing gift

When you are a part of changing the life of another, your life is changed. An unusual football game took place between Grapevine Faith Academy (a Christian School) and the Gainesville State School (a maximum-security correction facility.) Gainesville had 14 players and one coach. All of their games were played on the road. Their record was 0-8. Each of the 14 players had been convicted of crimes and most of their families have disowned them. Faith Academy, had a winning season, 7-2. They had 70 players, 11 coaches, supportive families, and lots of fans. Gainesville players were familiar with words like loser and failure. They knew what it was like to play games with no encouragement from family or fans.

This was not only true on the field, but throughout their lives. As I heard this story, I remembered the coaches, cheerleaders, and fans in my life. I also thought of the coaches, cheerleaders, and fans in the lives of our children. Chris Hogan, head coach at Faith Academy decided to make a difference. This game would not be about leading his team and community in winning a game. It would be about changing lives—the lives of the boys on the Gainesville team and the lives of his players and community. Chris knew the Gainesville team would have no fans and no chance of winning. He decided to teach his team what is really important.

He asked half of their cheerleaders and fans to cheer for the other team. He sent an email to their faithful supporters asking them to deliver a message to the Gainesville players: “You’re just as valuable as any other person.” One player asked, “Coach, why are you asking us to do this?” Hogan responded, “Imagine you don’t have a home, no one to love you, and no one pulling for you. Imagine everyone pretty much has given up on you. Now imagine what it would feel like and mean to you for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you!”

The Gainesville team emerged onto the field and the visitor’s stands were full of cheering fans. The players heard fans and cheer-

leaders shouting their names. Isaiah, the quarterback said later, “I never in my life thought I would hear parents cheering for me to tackle their kid. These people are cheering for us. They even know our names.” Faith Academy won the game. After the game, both teams gathered to pray. Isaiah asked to pray. “Lord, I don’t know what just happened, so I don’t know who to say ‘thank you’ to, but I never knew there were so many people in the world who cared about us.” Each Gainesville player was given a burger, fries, a coke, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from the players from Faith Academy.

Do you remember the encouragers in your life—the coaches, the cheerleaders, and the fans? The ones that reminded you that you are valuable. I remember. “Go! Go! Go Brenda! Shoot the ball, you can make it,” my Dad shouted. I played on the Basketball team all four of my high school years. What do I remember most about those years and the games? Encouragement! From the time I was eight, the basketball goal in our back yard was very familiar territory. You would often find me shooting baskets even when it was almost too dark to see the basket. My Dad would play ball with my brother and me for hours—encouraging us.

It was my freshmen year and it came time for tryouts for the team. I made the team. I was so excited! What did I learn from my four years on the team? Play hard, give it my best, be encouraged, and encourage. Coach encouraged me to do my best on the basketball court and in algebra class. The people who encouraged me the most were my parents who almost never missed a game. I can still hear my Dad encouraging me as I would take the ball down the court, passing it to my teammates to make the basket. No, I did not become the best player on the team; that was Janet. I became the encourager.

Our senior year Janet and I were elected by our team to be co-captains. I remembered Mom and Dad were always there, encouraging us whether it was a basketball game, a 4-H competition, school event, or a solo I performed at church. Their encouraging presence spoke volumes. Many come into our care never having known what it feels like to be encouraged. At BCH, our staff are great coaches and cheerleaders. We have the most awesome fans—you, our supporters. You shout important messages to those we serve: “You are special.” “Do your best.” “You will always be a winner.” And most importantly, “God has a purpose for your life.”

The Christian foundation and encouragement given to each child makes the difference. Thank you! Give thanks for the encouragers in your life and as you give thanks consider giving a gift in honor of the coaches, cheerleaders, and fans who changed your life. Baptist Children’s Homes has never needed your financial faithfulness and your encouragement more than today. Your gift matters, your gift encourages, your gift changes lives.

May is a month of celebration and remembering as we celebrate college graduations, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. Consider giving a gift to honor those who were your encouragers. What better way to remember someone special than to honor them in a way that changes a child’s life. And remember, encourage and be encouraged!

Written by Brenda Gray, Executive Vice President, Development & Communications.

Honor your loved one this Mothers Day and Fathers Day by changing a child's life! In the August Charity & Children, yours and your parent's name(s) will be published in a commemorative section that celebrates moms and dads. Click this link to honor or memorialize the special mother's and father's that have impacted your life!

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