It took months to plan the SE Regional Crusade to South Carolina – and it took one day to turn our plans upside down. The crusade was planned for the first week of October; but we didn’t realize that hurricane Matthew had made reservations in South Carolina for that week too!
By now you have probably heard or read about the tremendous heart shown by these men, as they turned their attention from softball to the pending storm and jumped in to help with disaster preparation. But as those plans were being made and as we were scrambling to line up service projects to fill the ensuing days, one man had the presence of mind to chronicle what he was thinking during this chaos.
Ray Koonce of the Illinois Saints softball team – Papa Ray to all of us – recorded some brief thoughts as the days unfolded and it provides a glimpse behind the curtain you may never get again. In his own words…
Day one began to be somewhat of a letdown due to the cancellations coming in because of the weather issues (Hurricane Matthew). The opportunity to do what we normally do and what we had traveled so far to do was no longer an option. It seemed as though we may have to head home before we even started. That possibility lasted only a few seconds. We serve an awesome God and he has a plan!
The opportunity to serve at a local church arose – and as servers that is what we did. No softball turned into playing with kids, giving testimonies, and preaching the Gospel just as we do in prisons, except for the kids of course. Cancellations kept coming, but opportunities to serve kept coming as well. We are going to be able to help the area for a few more days. We are going where God leads us – that’s what we (Saints) do.
Pretty simple thoughts today. Started by helping a local food bank with offloading donations from one of their support partners. 14 guys unloading one truck – well, that took all of about 10-15 minutes. We stayed around for a few more hours doing whatever we could to help out this organization, which serves around 7,000 people on a regular basis.
One thought that holds strong in my mind today is how God will always answer prayers. It may not be exactly what you asked for, but today it was a whole lot more. The leader of this organization that we were helping had prayed for ONE man from God to come help her – and God gave her 14 Saints! That allowed all the smaller prayers they were asking for to be answered as well; cleanup, stacking, marking food products, and helping unload donations in preparation for the upcoming storm. We stayed until we were no longer needed.
Myself and 13 other men are being led around the area to where we are needed – thank you, Jesus! Super great bunch of guys, proud to call all of them my friend and brother in Christ!
A little drizzly out, really not much rain or wind yet. We left early to get to an old church which helps veterans, as well as was being set up to help hurricane refugees who were being brought here from the coast. After helping to move boxes and many other items out of a storage room to make more space, we offered to help bring up mattresses to set in place.
Angela was the lady letting us know what to do and God again used the Saints to bless those who help others. Angela was so overwhelmed tears poured out. As we left there to continue on to our next stop, Angela said a prayer over us that overwhelmed us all. She was extremely passionate for all parties involved. It was incredible.
Our Walmart visit was next and we greeted customers, helping to raise snacks for a local Snack Pack program. Went fantastic, raised a lot of product for the program and was able to bless and serve a lot of locals. God is good.
Ended our day with dinner at Steve’s Classic Burgers in Columbia. Awesome place! The owner opened the place after being told by God to do so. Very, very nice place. Feeling blessed by God.
Hurricane Matthew is here. Too much weather, so we’re heading home. Opportunities to serve ran out.
Over the past 4 days I was able to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Not the typical crusade but all in all a very rewarding trip. God has a plan for everyone and everything in life. When He shows you the plan…Run with it! You won’t be disappointed – I’m not.
I love each and every one of my new Saints teammates as much as I do my old friends. It’s a brother I will carry with me for life. Thank you to the Saints Prison Ministry for this opportunity to serve. Praise God!