LEBANON, Mo. (BP)–A portion of the bus barn behind Hillcrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, Mo., is set aside for sports equipment — baseball gloves, bats, balls, helmets.
The equipment isn’t for any local church league team. It’s set aside for a better cause.
For the past few years, members of the church have participated in a variety of sports-related ministries, such as sending sports equipment to missionaries in other nations and distributing Bibles to high school varsity athletes.
This past weekend, church members also took part in distributing 1,000 water bottles at the Babe Ruth World Series in Lebanon. Each water bottle had the plan of salvation printed on it.
“[These ministries] have gotten the church excited about witnessing,” said Joe Jones, minister of youth for the church. “That’s what we are trying to do is get them excited.”
Church members Paul Dudley and Teresa Moots are two of the congregation’s all-stars in church ministry.
Dudley coaches baseball at Lebanon High School. He started collecting sports equipment for missions about two years ago when he wanted to get rid of some older baseball gear that had been piling up at the school.
“Within the first week of posting it on the Internet, I had more requests than I had equipment,” he said.
Before long, the ministry expanded into a much larger operation, sending all types of sports equipment throughout the world.
With the help of family, friends and fellow church members, Dudley has sent equipment to the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Uruguay and Brazil. “We’ve sent equipment to about every continent,” he said.
A lot of the donations come from area high school coaches and church members, Dudley said. “Instead of throwing it away, they send it to me. One guy sent in a complete set of basketball uniforms.”
Dudley hopes to keep the project going. “I’ve always felt like this is something I can do,” he said. “God has worked it out.”
Moots, now a freshman at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, is another church member who helped start a sports-related ministry. Its focus is to distribute Bibles to varsity athletes at her high school and to opposing teams.
“God really spoke to me about this area,” she said. “I thought about how much of an emphasis there is on high school sports, and maybe if people could see good sportsmanship in these athletes then maybe [the spectators] would wonder why and want to find out.”
Moots said he knows that change doesn’t happen overnight. “Maybe they won’t read it at first, but maybe in the future they will, and maybe it will touch their lives,” he said.
With the help of the church youth group, sports Bibles were distributed during cookouts and other events that were held at the church for various athletic teams and their opponents.
Car washes and other fund-raising events helped raise money for the 250 Bibles that were distributed last school year. Athletes on the volleyball, football, track, softball, golf, tennis, cross-country, basketball and baseball teams were given the opportunity to pick up a Bible.
Seeing the Bibles being accepted by fellow students was a blessing to Moots.
“When I would go to another church and see different youth and people with these Bibles and actually using that tool, it was really neat,” she said.
Photo available by contacting the Word & Way.