Ben’s First Crusade

*Editor’s note: Ben is a member of the Illinois Saints softball team and, after years of prodding from their coach, he joined 14 of his brothers-in-arms on the Arizona crusade in April. The crusade ended right after our Spring edition went to print, but this is his reaction to that experience as recounted at the time.

All last week, I was telling my co-workers and customers that I was headed to prison for 4 days. After a short moment of silence and discomfort from them, I explained that my passion in this life is to see men get free from guilt, shame, condemnation and truly step into becoming “free indeed”.

Similar to the 80’s movie classic “The Breakfast Club” our team was comprised of men from all walks of life—business men, factory workers, church and ministry leaders, current and former military personnel, an IT wizard, an addiction counselor and even a 76 year old former professional baseball player. This was God’s plan. Through these men, we experienced breakthroughs in both the prison yard and in our personal lives.

We played 13 games in prison, winning 7 of them. The most significant day though, was our fourth and final visit—a second trip back to FCI Phoenix to play their all-star team. Crusade veterans speak of the 4th day as traditionally a white towel waving experience of exhaustion and body aches. Instead, we were lead into battle by two of our most talented leaders Rodney and Rob with prayers of Holy Spirit healing and a 100% all-in mentality. With Andy and Gibby as our coaches, we forged the path to rise up and win all three games that day! Most of us experienced a miraculous sense of fresh legs and endurance; and on top of that—we had capped off a crusade that saw 76 men give professions of faith to Jesus Christ. This can only be explained by God’s abundance of grace. We don’t even deserve it, yet He pours out His grace freely like the Good Father that He is. 

After the last visit, we spent close to 2 hours in a hotel conference room eating pizza, investing time in God’s Word and speaking life over one another through encouraging speech in what we dubbed word gifts—knowing that each of our lives have meaning and value through the shed blood of Jesus. It was in this time that our team of seemingly random strangers a few days earlier became a brotherhood of sons sent to accomplish the Father’s work. This night was transformational and encapsulated the Holy Spirit’s influence on our week.

It’s safe to say that after my first crusade, I will never be the same. Sunday afternoon, I will come back to Peoria, Illinois with a passion to love my family, to serve my workplace and to give grace as the Father flows through me—all because of 15 men that were willing to lay down their lives for one another. To God be the glory! 

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Softball preseason meetings are right around the corner! Mark your calendars for these dates:

New Jersey - January 25th at Cinnaminson Baptist Church, Cinnaminson, NJ

Georgia - February 8th at Oakland Baptist Church, McDonough, GA

Illinois - February 8th at Calvary Baptist Bible Church, Peoria, IL