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Inside the Mind of Gibby: My Goals for 2019

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

Happy New Year from the team here at Inside the Mind of Gibby! With the ringing in of a new year, the craze will be to make resolutions for the coming year. As someone who just turned 40, I see the need to set some goals and make some course corrections in my life, and especially in how I serve with The Saints Prison Ministry. Self-help guru Earl Nightingale once said, “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” I’m looking forward to the 2019 Saints Prison Ministry season and here are some of my goals:

1. Get in shape before the Spring Crusade – This may or may not require a gym membership but this will definitely require getting started before St. Patrick’s Day! Relax, over the holiday weekend there is bound to be a Rocky marathon on TV, and if you watch that Rocky IV training montage a few times you are sure to set out on a run through the snow on a January morning! Georgia teams, it will most likely be 60 degrees and sunny on January 1st down in Hot-lanta so you may have to improvise and run through the frozen food section at the Piggly Wiggly several times!

2. Get stuff done around the house before the season starts – Look, while we’re away doing a ministry that is fun and rewarding, we are not at home getting stuff done around the house. Neglecting some of these tasks has nearly resulted in me getting horse-collar tackled by my wife as I get on The Saints bus in the morning! So take it from me that now is the time to fix the broken lawnmower, the leak under the sink, the light in the refrigerator, the paint in the guest room, the door handle to the garage, the chain on your son’s bike [remainder of list redacted to save space in newsletter].

3. Take a really good team picture this year – The Illinois team has taken some pretty good pictures so this isn’t really a goal of mine. Some other Saints teams have team pictures from years gone by that really needed to be updated… (I’m looking directly at you Colorado…)

4. Show up on time this year – For crying out loud we have to get up really early on prison visit days, but deep down in your heart, you know that doesn’t really matter – you would still be late whether we left at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m.! It’s time to go and buy an alarm clock or a sleeping bag so you can just sleep on the bus the night before we leave!

5. Do not wait until the night before to write an article for the newsletter that I knew about months ago – This is a goal for everyone who has a regular column in the newsletter…oh wait, that’s only me…

6. Resolve to be a better teammate and less of an awful human being – Ok, for the last 10 years you’ve let everyone else carry in the boxes of literature or the portable PA system. Maybe you’ve taken the last water out of the cooler or eaten the last chicken wing before the plate made its way around the table. Perhaps you slept in while your roommate organized literature. This is the year to finally stop being a terrible person and be a better teammate…unless it comes down to the good seats on the bus!

Whether 2019 is your year to be “New Year = New You” or if it is another “Wait ‘til Next Year” year, Mr. Nightingale’s quote about people with goals rings true or, as deep thinker and former Yankee catcher Yogi Berra used to say, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

Inside The Mind Of Gibby

Welcome to another edition of “Inside the Mind of Gibby”! Just in case you haven’t noticed, (and judging by the lack of Facebook likes and comments, you haven’t!), this is my 7th article! We have discussed topics such as hijacked crusade devotions, bus problems, Star Wars, snoring roommates, more bus problems, and Mexican food, but a topic we haven’t discussed yet is just how Illinois became involved with The Saints Prison Ministry. I have asked Kurt Hand, a charter member of the team, to help where my memory might get cloudy.

In the beginning…

I have been involved with sports ministry in different capacities for the last 15 years. While researching sports ministries online, I ran across the Saints Prison Ministry. I contacted the Saints to get more information and in 2011, I drove to Ohio to join the NJ softball team on their annual crusade. I was initially scared to go in but I was really amazed at how sports connected with the men on the prison yard and created an opportunity to share the Gospel. I was so excited that I wanted to start a team and share the Gospel with the prisons in Central Illinois!

KH: So check this out, Tom Gibson meets some dude on the internet, rents a car, and drives all the way to Ohio, BY HIMSELF to go into prison with a bunch of strangers. I mean, these dudes could have been from Craigslist or something! Then he voluntarily hops up on their bus and sits down to go to prison with these guys! I mean who does that?

Ok, I guess when you put it that way, it does sound a little creepy! I mean I thought I just went on a missions trip and came home. No big thing...to me anyway.

We need a team in IL…

Over that winter, I talked to several church softball friends and acquaintances from other ministries and we assembled a team. These guys were excited to use a game they loved like softball to reach men in prison for the Lord!

KH: I believe I spoke for everyone in saying: “I’m sorry … you want us to do what?”

Now we need somewhere to go…

Our first visit was to FCI Greenville and we had a few veteran Saints come to help us get started. We walked through the gate and were greeted by a huge crowd. It reminded me of some of the big crowds that I saw in Ohio and so I was excited for my team to experience this.

KH: They slammed the gate behind us and everyone but Gibby and the NJ guys were freaking out. I mean, we were all thinking, “man, we’re in prison…like we weren’t getting out, we were in prison!” Oh, and “big crowd”? How about walking into a big open yard and facing 500 felons while you go off to the side to chat with the NJ guys!

Yeah, I guess I forgot to prepare everyone for that…but hey, we go in and we won the first game and despite not playing that well the rest of the day, we were on our way as a Saints team.

KH: Dude, we got killed. I don’t even remember the first game but all I know is we got destroyed! I do not know where Gibby found these guys but we stunk – and he made us play four full games that first day!

No, I can’t sugar coat this one. He’s right, we stunk. Like stunk so bad that we didn’t get another win for 11 months! However, it was a team effort because no one could have played that bad all by themselves!

Many of the men that God used to launch the IL Saints softball team are ministering in other areas today and we have had more bus issues than Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinators. Despite these challenges, God has used us to see several thousand men meet Jesus at the foot of the cross because a handful of Christian brothers proved to be almost as crazy as me!

“Wait ‘til it stops rolling and go pick it up…”

A Helpful Guide on Joining a Saints Prison Ministry Team

I am excited that you are interested in joining our ministry and that you want to use your athletic ability to share the Gospel in prison. Don’t worry about all of the horror stories you were told…we don’t even own that bus anymore! You will need to complete “just a few” forms, possess a valid ID, and provide your uniform size. You may also find it helpful to review this list to determine where you can help fill some of the needed positions for the Saints:

Shortstop (Softball) – Let’s not mince words: you are the superstar. You are without a doubt the coach’s favorite and things like showing up on time, carrying equipment, and raising support most certainly don’t apply to you. The coach will move heaven and earth to make sure that he can accommodate your schedule and batting order preference.

Center (Basketball)- You’re tall and that is all we are looking for! Can’t shoot? No problem! Passing? That’s for the short guys! We just need you to use whatever coordination you have to get through as much of the game before getting your 5th foul!

Goalkeeper (Soccer) – You’re job is to make the tough stops between the pipes and put your team in a spot to win late. Oh, is this your strength? Awesome! You already have your own helmet with a cool design and know how to keep the puck from going into the net at all costs and…what’s that? Umm, sorry, we don’t need that kind of goalie! Try the Canadian Ministering Mounties Prison Ministry.

Third Base (Softball) Unless your last name is Robinson, Schimdt, or Santo, you get to play third because no one else wants to. This is also the position that is closest to the inmate bench. The first rocket that goes past you becomes the butt of every inmate joke for the next five hours. What is the best way to field a ball at third base? Wait until it stops rolling and go pick it up!

Left Field (Softball) You are most likely the youngest and/or fastest guy on the team. You will be playing all 252 innings this summer so don’t plan on aging or anything!

Point Guard (Basketball)- You are the guy who makes things happen and you get the attention of the inmate crowds. We lean on you to be the quarterback of the team while we are trying to get through the day. Too bad most of your SportsCenter Top 10 drives to the basket get messed up by the uncoordinated center!

Server (Women’s Volleyball) Can you get the ball over the net without interrupting the conversation you have been having with six women seated courtside since we entered the gym? You’re perfect! (Ignore the coach trying to tell you to focus and stop talking – everyone else does!)

Right-Center (Softball) – Let’s face it; this is the Jan Brady of softball positions. Should you be playing left center? Absolutely! If only it wasn’t for the coach’s buddy playing over there! You will get a ball hit once every twelve batters or so, but be prepared to be called off by the left-center fielder….also known as Coach’s Favorite #2.

Left Fullback (Soccer) You have one very key duty in this position – don’t get noticed! Since everyone on the inmate team wants to score goals, playing this position means you will not see much traffic because they are all bunched in the middle of the field! This allows you to focus on important things like what is happening over on the bocce court. As long as you kick the ball out of bounds the three times it comes near you, the coach will never have a reason to take you out of the game.

As you can see, every Saints athlete has a role on the team and I have no doubt you will be successful…

unless, of course, your role is writing a column for the newsletter!

Inside the Mind of Gibby

The Official SPM Crusade Survival Guide

By Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

At some point during a Saints Crusade, probably during a devotion or pregame speech, someone will quote Joshua 1:9 and tell the team that we must be strong and courageous, that we are a band of brothers who are ready to storm the gates of hell, that we are here to chew bubblegum and share the Gospel, and …… you get the picture.  Unfortunately, not everyone is totally equipped to handle the REAL struggles that come with a Crusade.  After going on 13 different Crusades, I have a pretty good grasp on how to navigate through some of the tougher situations, so here are my tips for surviving a Saints crusade.

Dealing with a Snoring Roommate

First of all, this guy will be in denial that he has a snoring problem.  He will claim that his wife is overreacting about his snoring and that he knows more about sleep apnea than your average pulmonary doctor!  With that being said, he is now YOUR problem once the lights go out.  YOU CAN’T SMOTHER HIM WITH A PILLOW (It doesn’t look good for the ministry and isn’t good for your testimony!).  The key to dealing with him is earbuds.  You pop those babies in and you can fall asleep listening to a classic movie soundtrack, a good book, or your favorite Weird Al Yankovic songs!  If your roommate is a major league snorer and can overpower Weird Al, you can always get caught up on sleep when you return to work on Monday.

Playing out of Position

On every Crusade we will have too many Missionary Athletes that play the same position.  We will either have too many outfielders and no third basemen or we will have too many infielders and someone will get shoved to the outfield.  Whoever is coaching the team will try and make this YOUR problem and shove you to a position in which you rarely if ever play. The key to making this work is to immediately announce, with overwhelming conviction, that you are not an outfielder or corner infielder.  This absolves you from the errors that you will make the rest of the day; but it is still important to remind your teammates each time an error does happen, “Hey!  My bad, but I’m not a shortstop!  He just put me here!”

Going out for Mexican Food

You may choose to insert Chinese, Thai, Guatemalan, or other foreign cuisine here, but there will come a time when whoever is picking food will choose something you don’t like.  I have the appetite of your average 12 year old.  I like pepperoni pizza, fries, chocolate milkshakes, and that is about it (My wife can verify this and can also verify that this is not one of the qualities that attracted her to me).  Looking up and down the menu you will either find nothing you like or you will not be cultured enough to know what anything on the menu is!  Relax, because there are three fixes to this scenario.  1. Is it ok for you eat just queso and chips for dinner?  Yes, yes it is!  2.  Get up and tell the guy next to you that you are using the bathroom, then sprint across the parking lot to the Wendy’s for a Baconator and a Frosty; it’s WAY better than the Gordita surprise that everyone else is ordering.  3. Quietly order the chicken fingers off the kids menu and just tell the rest of the team that the restaurant messed up your order!

Restroom Not Available

There are limited times to use a bathroom during a prison visit, and playing softball while having to use the restroom is the worst.  Most of the time you will have a chance to use one in the lobby of the prison, but chances are your snoring roommate is using it the entire time that you are checking in through security.  If it happens during a game, the last person you want to talk to is the coach; he will just tell you to tough it out.  The person that you should talk to is the officer in charge.  They will sometimes “airlift” you in a golf cart from the yard to a wonderful staff restroom.  While you are gone, the coach will just have to find someone else to play out of position in your spot!

Surviving a Political Conversation on the Bus

If you really are inclined to smother a teammate with a pillow, now is the time to do it!  This conversation will start out with something really brilliant like, “Those IDIOTS who voted for (scoundrel politician) should be shot!”  The reply will be even more brilliant and sound something like this, “Oh yeah, well if (deadbeat representative) had done something, then we wouldn’t have the budget/jobs/stray cat crisis that we do now!”  This pointless, mind-numbing conversation will last for hours unless someone lies on a grenade and changes the subject.  If you are traveling with the IL team, a comment like “I don’t think Jay Cutler got a fair shot in Chicago” or if you are traveling with the PA team something like, “I really wish we would have given Dominic Brown one more chance”, should bring unity to the bus.  Unfortunately, they will now be unified in destroying the guy who changed the subject!

Are Saints Prison Ministry Crusades for the faint of heart?  Not really, but after reading this you are well-prepared to survive any of the major dilemmas that come up on a Saints Crusade!

 

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Saints Prison Ministry Basketball team is gearing up for 2019 season!  We’ve had the first meeting of the year but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the fun!  The season begins right after the new year but practices are starting now.  Come out and join the most exciting way possible to share the love of Christ – playing a game you love!

But time is fleeting and paperwork has to be done, so contact Jimmy Cochran now at 770-286-2812 for more information

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