Tag Archives: Inside the Mind of Gibby

Inside the Mind of Gibby

I Think the Bears are Winning the Super Bowl

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

It’s hard not to be excited about Chicago sports nowadays. The Cubs have won 7 games in a row and are the hottest team in baseball as of this writing. The Bears have a new rookie quarterback and are opening up their season with a prime time Sunday night game. But, in reality, the Cubs are 20 games out of first place, and the Bears will no doubt still be the Bears and will be underwhelming once again. Yes, I know the White Sox are in first place and will no doubt make a deep playoff run, but most major media outlets, including this column, still don’t care about the Sox.

As a Chicago sports fan, there is always excitement… followed by expectations… followed by inevitable disappointment. It is easy to get excited about being a Missionary-Athlete, but sometimes you need to leave some of your expectations at home.

Misplaced Expectation #147 – “We beat the prison team last year; we’ll just roll over them again this year.” Ha! Year after year, visit after visit, Crusade after Crusade, missionary athletes fall for this one over and over again! You may have played well on the field or court the last time you played this prison team but that doesn’t mean anything because the prison team has been training Rocky IV style all year long. You will be stopping for dinner tonight, but it is likely only humble pie is on the menu!

Misplaced Expectation #263 – “The guy with several kids, an overloaded work schedule, and who serves on several different church committees might join our roster this year!” This isn’t a misplaced expectation as much as it is straight up delusional! We all know the guy that would be perfect for this ministry if he just wasn’t so busy. Your only option is to move on or just kidnap him.

Misplaced Expectation #679 – “Don’t worry, the connecting flight has us landing in plenty of time to catch our next flight!” Yes, I know. I have used this quarterly article to complain to the masses about Saints travel for years, but anyone who has flown to a Crusade has experienced the pit in your stomach that only a cancelled flight can cause. If you are planning on being in Orlando at 3 pm always be ready to enjoy sight-seeing in Houston instead! If you are traveling by bus or van, be prepared to spend time in places like Discount Tire, Pep Boys, Auto Zone, AAMCO Transmissions… or a corn field in the middle of nowhere Indiana!

Misplaced Expectation #972- “Surely COVID won’t cancel two seasons in a row, right?”

It has been good to have the ministry finally get some games in this summer in Georgia, Ohio, and Florida, but, for those of us in Illinois and the Northeast, it has been tough not to have any local visits. Someday we will have some normal prison visits again but it is discouraging when Disney+ has had more seasons of the Mandalorian than we have had ministry seasons the last two years.

So, Sunday night I will be on the couch with a plate of chicken wings totally convinced that the Bears will win the Super Bowl and that Cubs will make up a 20-game deficit with 23 games left to play, but that of course will be a misplaced expectation. My only hope in avoiding this will be to misplace the TV remote!

**Editor’s Note: The Cubs didn’t close the gap and finished out of the playoffs yet again. Despite a good effort, the Bears lost their opener that Sunday night. It is our fervent prayer that Gibby still hasn’t found the remote!

 

 

Inside the Mind of Gibby – Dear Gibby

By Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

After doing this semi-humorous column for the past four years, I have collected a fair amount of fan mail. I sorted through the bag and, while there was a copious amount of complaint mail, there were some good questions for an average run-of-the-mill missionary athlete like myself.

Dear Gibby, What is your favorite prison memory?- INQUISITIVE IN IRVINE

Dear Inquisitive, It would be impossible to choose just one. I have special memories of playing softball and sharing the Gospel in places like FCI Greenville, Danville CC, Toledo CI, and Louisiana State Prison. But my most favorite recent prison memory is doing an open field tackle to tag out a runner at Avon Park CI in Florida…it was the 3rd down stop that we desperately needed!

Dear Gibby, What exactly are your plans for the extra COVID weight?- NOSEY IN NETTLETON

Dear Nosey, Putting a spin on a quote from former Philadelphia Phillies’ great, John Kruk, “Lady, I’m not an athlete, I’m a softball player!”

Dear Gibby, I’m writing in regard to your bus warranty. The warranty is up for renewal but only if you act now. Please call us at 555-3226 and please have your credit card number, social security number, mother’s maiden name, name of the street you grew up on, your MySpace.com password, and first-born child ready to renew your warranty. – LEGIT IN LEWISTOWN

Dear Legit, You sound like a great guy who likes to help people and I’m sure your credentials are impeccable , so I’d like to make you an offer! If you will please call me back with your mailing address, I will send you all the information you requested – and the title to the bus!

Dear Gibby, Who is your favorite baseball announcer? – WONDERING IN WITCHITA

Dear Witchita, Living in the Midwest, we have been blessed to hear such great voices such as Pat Hughes, Bob Uecker, Steve Stone, Jack Buck, and Ken Harrelson, but the soundtrack to my childhood is Cubs baseball with the broadcasting of Harry Caray. While he never helped me pronounce Mark Grudzielanek correctly, he helped me to have an appreciation for the fun parts of the game when you are getting beat 12-0. But to accurately answer your question, anybody but Joe Buck…

Dear Gibby, As part of a non-denominational parachurch ministry, how do people from different backgrounds get along? – FUNDAMENTAL IN FULLERTON

Dear Fundamental, this has never been an issue during my tenure with the ministry…as long as you don’t bring up music styles, Bible colleges, Bible translations, online church, smoke machines, multi-site services, pastors who wear ties, pastors who don’t wear ties, anyone who has a radio ministry, or John Piper’s Twitter account. T

hank you to everyone who has been writing in! As we return to the field this summer, I will be looking forward to more inspiring questions amidst all of the complaint mail!

Inside the Mind of Gibby – Confessions of a Useless Missionary

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

I wish I had a more epic story about how I have spent the last 12 months. I wish I could tell you a tale of how I spent my year of social distancing at a forgotten village in the Himalayas being trained by Liam Neeson, John MacArthur, and Jedi Ghost Don Zimmer. Once the pandemic was over, I would be ready to be the best prison minister, missionary athlete, and vigilante of all time. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything quite that interesting.

But even in the pandemic, God chose to encourage me as a missionary athlete. One of the highlights of my past year was attending my church’s annual missions conference. This conference always rekindles a spark in my heart for what we do in prison. This year, more than others, it made me really, really miss a normal Saints season. Here are some of my major takeaways from our missions conference.

I Underappreciated Spending a Day in Prison

A visiting missionary to Bradley University had a term for time spent discipling college students – he called it Life-on-Life time. This involved his living room being filled with college students who piled their shoes up at his front door, ate all of the food in his kitchen, and learned the Bible together with him in his living room. As he showed the slides of them spending time ministering this way, my heart sank and missed spending a day in prison. I missed the games, but I really missed the conversations in the grass by the softball fields, sitting across from inmates during a prison meal, and praying with guys who may have heard the Gospel for the first time. Life-on-Life time as I know it!

God’s Word Changes Hearts

Another missionary was a young lady who is translating the Bible into the different Nigerian languages. She talked about what it meant for people to hear God’s Word in their own native language; how people’s eyes would light up or even fill with tears when they finally heard the Bible in their own language. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I reflected on what a privilege it is to preach the Word to the inmates that we see. My teammates and I have also seen eyes light up and men start to cry when the Word pierces their heart and strikes at the core of who they are! There are several things I miss about our visits, but I really miss sharing the life changing news of the Gospel out on the prison yard.

Confessions of a Useless Missionary

One of the things that struck me the most was something that one of the missionaries said in passing. He talked about all of the mistakes that he had made over 20 years in ministry and jokingly said that he could write a book called, “Confessions of a Useless Missionary.” We discussed how God extends grace and works through us, despite our sin nature and imperfections. This hit home for me as I have made more mistakes as a missionary athlete and as a coach than I ever care to admit. I keep a small journal on my phone, with the title of one section being “Things I would tell myself if I could go back to 2011.” One of my entries is: “It takes 10 years to get 10 years of experience.” Since launching the IL team in 2011, I have spent a few Saturday evenings discouraged after a prison visit; about something I may have said incorrectly when sharing the Gospel, of not having the right answer for an inmate’s question at the correct moment, or with struggling over some aspect of trying to lead our team. This missionary’s conversation was an encouragement to me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” If we didn’t make any mistakes or didn’t have any discouragement, we would be tempted to take all of the glory for ourselves and not give it to God. This missions conference showed me that God is still at work and that the Gospel is still going out. I have never had a better appreciation for missions and I can’t wait for our first Saturday visit, whenever that may be!

Inside the Mind of Gibby

Putting the Fun in Fundraising

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

We did it! We made out of 2020! With the super weird year full of pandemics, politics, and church services over Zoom behind us, it is time to start looking forward to what is ahead in 2021.

Will we still remember how to play? Will we remember how to get to the prisons? Will we have to wear hazmat gear on the field? Who knows for sure, but in the meantime, we need to figure out how to pay for it all. As we look forward to a more normal prison ministry season, we will have to figure out some ways to do some fundraising so we can be ready to hit the road in 2021.

Late Night Infomercial: Did you ever stay up late watching your team play a game on the west coast but then you wake up and find yourself watching the commercial to buy the piece of workout equipment that can also be used as a steak knife and gets the hardest stains out of your shirts? Of course you have! Cue up that one Sarah McLachlan song they play for the animal adoption commercials, because we are going to have a spot that airs between 2:45 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Thursday mornings on the Weather Channel!

Softball Team Hit-a-Thon: Get your credit card ready, because there shouldn’t be anything more impressive than a bunch of middle aged guys who haven’t swung a bat in 18 months trying to hit. You can sponsor a missionary athlete as they see how many balls they can hit that day. You can donate $1 per hit…or miss depending on who your favorite MA is… But wait, there’s more! If you act now, we will include an autographed picture of Cliff Goller [OR UNSUSPECTING INFAMOUS MA] absolutely free!

Used Book Sale: Missionary Athletes, do you know of that one book that you got from that one men’s retreat that you just don’t have time to read? Or maybe the fitness book that is supposed to get you in shape for playing recreational sports? Or the one you got for Christmas from your aunt that is written by that one TV preacher who has all of that crummy theology? Maybe you really are going to get around to actually reading these or maybe they are propped under a table leg somewhere but here is your chance to get the most value out of it by selling it at our used book sale! Of course, part of the plan to success is having that person to also not read the book and donate it again next year!

50/50 Raffles: Whoa, whoa, whoa… I’m pretty sure that our Sunday school teachers call this gambling!

PBS Style Telethon: I’ve already made the calls and set it up with our local PBS station. We should be able to get someone like Tony Danza [OR FADING CELEBRITY WHO IS DESPARATE FOR A GIG] to host the event. The North Georgia team will perform a choreographed melody of Backstreet Boys songs to start the evening. They will be followed by [INSERT UNSUSPECTING MA HERE] who will be juggling softballs, bowling pins, and chainsaws… [MA NAME HERE] knows how to juggle, right? Later on in the evening, board president, Jeff Marthins will do a comedy bit on the life of prison ministry and being mistaken for Glen Beck. As of right now, I am doing a five hour drum solo between 1 a.m. – 6 a.m. as I haven’t found anyone else to take those spots…

Do we know what 2021 is going to be like? Absolutely not. But with a little help from some foolproof fundraising and Tony Danza, we should be ready for whatever happens!

I Guess it’s not all Bad…

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

Let’s face it, producing an article that pokes fun at prison ministry while trying to live through the Medieval Plague of 2020 is a really tough task. I mean, do I write another passive aggressive article about how the Northeastern guys drive, or yet another article about our bus with yet another secretly-coded message desperately pleading for anyone to come rescue me with their fleet of new reliable buses?

This year has been tough as our season was postponed, postponed again, postponed some more, and then eventually cancelled. We all miss sharing the Gospel in prison. We all miss the games and the competitive fellowship and comradery that we have among our teammates and the inmates. We miss talking about the stories that we hear from the men that we see and how some of them chose Jesus in their darkest hour. We miss the long bus rides and meals after the games. But here are some of the things that I haven’t missed in the slightest!

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Waking Up at 2:40 am

It is physically impossible to be in bed before 11 p.m. the night before a Saints prison visit. There is always a kid’s activity on a Friday night that will run late. There is always one part of your uniform that didn’t make it into the washing machine yet. The printer will run out of ink as you are printing your Gospel message the next day, resulting in a trip to Walmart. And, of course, there is always that elusive right-handed batting glove that is somewhere between your garage and diamond #2 at the local park. Of course, you are playing at Mayberry State Prison which is on the other side of the state and 4 hours off of the highway. Of course, they have requested that you arrive at 7 am. This will require meeting in the middle of the night with several other zombies who also left a batting glove at diamond #2 earlier in the week!

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Gas Station Food

Naturally, there isn’t a restaurant nearby Smallville State Prison so, of course, we will dine at the local Shell Gas Station. No, it’s not the nice one near the interstate with the Subway or Arby’s attached. It is the one in Middle-of-Nowhere, IL that has the four rolling hot dogs and the out of order fountain soda machine. There is always the gas station pizza option… but everyone is afraid to try that. There may be some local stuff like Farmer Jenkins’ Beef Jerky, or Junior’s Boiled Peanuts but this meal will most likely consist of Jack Links and a bag of Hostess frosted donuts.

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Prison Food

I take back all of the bad stuff I said about the gas station pizza…

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Getting Blown Out by a Prison All-Star Team

We have a pretty good record overall when we play against the inmate teams but sometimes you play a team of destiny. They got the notice about your August visit back in February and they have been doing a Rocky IV training montage-type practice every day since that Saints poster went up in the prison gym. They will recruit the guy who played AAA baseball and some guys who played in the NCAA tournament a while back as soon as they hear about this prison visit. This game is usually ugly. Your outfielders will either quit on the spot or go hide in the crowd. Your team will either leave the field humbled or ready to retire and join a basket weaving ministry.

Don’t get me wrong, I would be more than happy to get up early and eat some bad gas station food before playing against the prison all-stars tomorrow if asked – but those aren’t at the top of my list of things I missed the most about not going to prison in 2020!

Inside the Mind of Gibby – I Declare a Do-Over

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

As of this writing I am social distancing in the basement of the Mind of Gibby headquarters. I am hunkered down with quarantine survival supplies, which amounts to delivery pizza and the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series DVD.

Yes, 2020 is off to a flying halt thanks to the COVID-19 that took America by storm the first half of the year. Doing home projects and playing video games replaced the grind of getting up early and traveling to prisons on Saturdays. 2020 could use a lot more hand sanitizer and a lot less Facebook; but the one thing that 2020 needs most is a do-over!

I repeatedly wished I had a do-over after a crummy math test or a bad at-bat in little league. After 33 years, The Saints Prison Ministry would like to have a do-over or two. There have been countless transportation gaffes and several prison softball/basketball/volleyball games gone awry, so there are plenty of missteps that we wish we could have back.

Do-over #1 – Man vs Food

Playing sports in prison works up an appetite. We often will get a quick meal in between yard times before returning to play more games. Occasionally, that food can be a Mexican, Italian, or breakfast food buffet in between games…on a 95-degree day…against the Kentucky State Reformatory all-stars. Was it nice to have an authentic Mexican meal with some pals? Absolutely! Can you be a competitive sports ministry team when half of your outfield cannot – or should not – move? Absolutely not!

Do-over #2 – The Illinois Bus

There is also that one time we bought a bus for the IL team…Ok, Ok, I know telling this story again is like beating a dead horse. Of course, buying a dead horse would have been a better deal than that bus! If we had a time machine and had the ability to go back to that fateful day, we would have tackled our lead negotiator Kurt Hand before he shook hands on that deal.

Do-over #3 – Uniforms

Picking out uniforms is fun! Picking uniform colors that don’t mix well with dirt and sweat stains is the pits! To my knowledge there have only been two teams guilty of this offense: The IL team (white pants with blue pinstripes) and the GA team (white jerseys). We always looked

good on Opening Day, but both teams looked like they had been changing oil with their Saints uniforms on by the end of the year. All the Illinois and Georgia wives would like this do-over…

Do-over #4 – That Time we Visited that One Prison

We have a good team of professional staff that makes arrangements for our prison visits and there are professional staff across the country that invite our sports teams in to play and share the Gospel. Sometimes miscommunications happen and things go haywire. Did we book a softball visit to a prison that did not have a softball field? Yes. We. Did. How about the day a chaplain told us that we would see only 30 guys, but it turned out there were 300 guys in the yard? You should have seen the look on the guy’s face who packed our literature that day! Ha! You should have seen the look on the guy’s face who had to walk back to the bus to get more literature.

With the COVID-19 messing up 2020 plans for everyone, it reminds us that we need to be flexible when doing prison ministry…or we could just start declaring do-overs!

 

Announcements

October Crusades

The fields in Florida continue to be “white unto harvest,” and the prison administrations continue to invite us at an unprecedented pace!

October 21-24, a softball team of mostly NJ and PA missionary athletes will descend on the northeast part of FL.

Join us in praying for this exciting opportunity!

Hot Topics

Due to the prison systems in the NE Region remaining closed to volunteers, we have come to the tough decision to cancel the seasons for the NJ and PA softball teams. We continue to stay in touch with our contacts in each state and hope to hear better news as we move into the Fall.