Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Standing at the Start

 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
- 1 Corinthians 9:24

The beginning of August marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I was going to Pittsburgh to play in my first Pro PDGA World Championships and for the first time I would actually be doing some work with Eagles Wings Disc Golf. I am so blessed to be starting a new job where I get to combine my passion for God with the game of disc golf. In this moment, I literally felt like I was standing on the starting line of the longest race. I was so anxious and excited for what was about to happen.

Eagles Wings Disc Golf had organized and offered a mission trip to some local disc golfers in Pennsylvania where the organization is headquartered. These six people also decided to take the time off work and volunteer at the Pro PDGA tournament as part of Eagles Wings Disc Golf. Along with the three of us (Dustin Leatherman, Jim Schultz and myself) that will be full time staff and a few other associated with the full time staff, we had a large presence at the tournament.

We set up a booth at the fly mart, which took place during the field events day. This was a place where people could look and see at what all the top disc golf companies were up to. It was a chance to rub elbows with people who are trying to help grow the sport of disc golf. It was a chance for us to promote who we are and what we are planning to do, while inviting people to join us for our first chapel service. We had a number of people what were excited about various aspects of the ministry of Eagles Wings Disc Golf. Many liked some of the unique course design elements that Jim Shultz had done for a camp in Mexico. Several people were glad to hear that we were looking to run youth programs like what Dustin Leatherman has done in Sellersville, PA.

The evening that marked the half way point in the tournament brought our first chapel service. It was well attended by people of all ages. We spent time in fellowship, getting to know one another and being able to show support for each other. It was great to meet new people who were passionate about disc golf and passionate about God. We had one visitor who made a point to be at the service so that he could learn even more about Eagles Wings Disc Golf and learn how he might be able to get involved. Jim gave a short message on purpose and how God is the real reason we are doing anything in this life. We were even able to end the service with a song, because Jim ran into an old friend who was a worship pastor and he offered to play his guitar and sing for us.

We also had four people, myself included, who were playing in the tournament. Hannah Leatherman was the first person to get an ace at the world championships! Dustin Leatherman, Jim Shultz and myself all enjoyed rounds getting to know new people and seeing old friends. Jim did well enough to make the semifinals.

By all measures, this trip was a success for Eagles Wings Disc Golf. One of my favorite stories from the event came from one of our volunteers, Elijah. Elijah is just 10 years old and came to volunteer on our team with his dad Seth. They spent time working at the distance competition as well as spotting on the course during the tournament. One day Elijah and Seth were spotting on the course at Slippery Rock University while the top male disc golfers were playing. Elijah was sitting deep in the woods and watching for discs as they approached on a difficult par 5. Will Schusterick, who was leading the tournament at the time, threw a big up shot that crashed through the trees a bit deeper than most, right where Elijah was standing. Elijah had just enough time to look up before he was hit by the disc. Will, being a nice guy, signed a disc and gave it to him and Elijah became a celebrity. Several other top players knew his name and came up to talk with him between rounds. Later as Elijah watched the second round, he was getting high fives from players as they threw good shots. Elijah is even more excited about disc golf than he was before. He is already looking forward to participating in future Eagles Wings Disc Golf events.

We are standing at the starting line for some amazing things that God is going to do in and through the disc golf community. I feel so blessed to be part of an amazing team and am looking forward to seeing how God uses this team in the future.

Prayer Requests:
1. I am continuing to raise support and have recently been encouraged by some dear friends. Pray that God would continue to provide. Pray also for Jim Shultz as he also continues raising support. Pray for all our supporters, that they would be blessed by the impact they are making.

2. Pray for Elijah, that he would grow in his faith and be someone who shares his love for God with those he meets on the disc golf courses.

3. Pray for the next Eagles Wings Disc Golf chapel service to take place at the next PDGA National Tour Event. It takes place the morning of Sunday August 23rd, 2015.

My Story

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

- Romans 8:28-30

As I sit here and ponder God and how He works in our lives, I am continually amazed at the stories He creates. There is no way I could ever have imagined what life was going to look like for me at any point along the way. There is no way I could have dreamed what was going to happen next. Life is simply too good and I am beyond thankful to God for that.

I grew up going to church and accepted Christ as my savior at a young age. I struggled through life trying to figure out who I was and who God made me to be. I was blessed to have a great church to grow up in. I was blessed to go off to college and find more than one genuine Christian community to be a part of. I had some of the most incredible opportunities to learn and grow. There is no way I could have planned life. After college I knew I wanted to learn more about God and the Bible and so I went off to seminary, not knowing where God might lead me.

I have had wonderful experiences working at Christian Camps, substituting at Christian Schools, teaching kids to play games at a non-profit devoted to character development, and now teaching preschoolers at an inner city ministry in Denver, CO. All of this, along with my education, has prepared me for something great.

We all go through life with interests that come and go. We find ways to spend our time and money and hopefully build community along the way. I have always loved sports of all kinds. But when God brought disc golf into my life, something was different. I started playing disc golf nearly seven years ago. I enjoyed watching my discs fly through the air and there was a drive in me to get better. I started playing tournaments and began meeting other people who played. It became very clear very early on, that disc golf was going to be a huge ministry opportunity for me.

Almost a year and a half ago I was watching a video on YouTube of a disc golf tournament in Florida. The winner gave a speech and thanked God. I emailed him and a month later I was praying with him before his first round at The Memorial Championship, the first national tour event of the year. JohnE McCray became a good friend who shared his faith and cheered for me on the course. A year later, at the Memorial Tournament, I had dinner with JohnE and his wife Jen. Jen, after hearing about me and my story asked if she could introduce me to someone she and JohnE knew who were starting a disc golf ministry.

The very next day I met Dustin Leatherman for the first time. He had been working with an organization called Push the Rock for a few years and had successfully pitched the idea of a disc golf ministry to them. When I talked with Dustin it seemed that we were on the same page about disc golf being an incredible mission field with lots of people who needed Jesus in their lives.

I was hesitant at first to join Dustin and Eagles Wings Disc Golf.  But God used people in my life to show me how I could trust Him, even when I was not sure I could see how God would provide. A guy in a small group I lead literally sat me down in a time of prayer and said, “What are you afraid of?” I knew right then that I needed to apply to work with Eagles Wings Disc Golf and Push the Rock. Interviews, phone calls and a trip across the country to Pennsylvania allowed God to confirm this direction in my life and that He had something big for me in working with Eagles Wings Disc Golf.

I am now at the beginning of the final steps before I join staff full time. I am terrified and excited all at the same time. I know the support raising process will be long and tough. I will be discouraged and encouraged on a daily basis. There will be times I want to ask God why. And there will be times of complete joy. I know God has made me for a purpose and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to combine my passion for my relationship with God and my passion for disc golf. I am excited to see how God moves in the lives of everyone I meet along the way. I know I can trust God and I know He will provide.

Prayer Requests:
1.       Pray for the support raising process, that it will go well and in God’s time.
2.       Pray for those who will join my support team, that God would bless them through this commitment.
3.       Pray for my relationship with God, that it would be strengthened through this.

4.       Pray for the people I meet working with Eagles Wings Disc Golf and playing disc golf; that their hearts would see something different in me and have hearts open to hear about the love of God.