Boyce Bulldogs put faith into action by sharing the Gospel with inmates

Communications Staff — April 30, 2009

Boyce Bulldogs head coach Jed Coppenger enjoys teaching his players how to excel on the basketball court. He delights in training them how to hit a three-pointer, play hard-nosed defense and execute a 3-on-2 fast break.

But more than that, Coppenger delights in teaching them what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The Bulldogs’ prison ministry is one example of that goal in action.

The Bulldogs took their second trip to Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (LLCC) in LaGrange, Ky., April 7 to play the Ballin’ Eagles, a team comprised of inmates. The Ballin’ Eagles regularly play teams in the area and defeated the Bulldogs 113-95.

During halftime, Bulldogs assistant coach David Hamilton shared his testimony and the Gospel. After the game, the players and coaches met one on one with several of the inmates.

Senior forward Ben Ward said a dunk by Hamilton, a former collegiate and semi-pro player, in the first half brought down the house, setting things up well for his halftime presentation.

‘We were in the second quarter and it was a run and gun game,’ said Ward, a NCCAA division II All-American and the leading scorer on that level this season. ‘Anytime we got a rebound we would push it up the floor. One time, Hamilton beat a guy with a crossover and dunked the ball hard. The crowd went crazy. The dunk served as a great platform (for his halftime presentation).’

Hamilton played college basketball at NCAA division III University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark., and then a year of semi-pro ball, but did not find the career and life he had dreamed of to be very fulfilling.

‘I shared that I had everything that I thought I wanted and it wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be,’ Hamilton, who played on the Mississippi Miracles of Cleveland, Miss., in the American Basketball Association, said. ‘I quit playing, returned to Houston and became a Christian in March 2007, with my brother (SBTS professor) James Hamilton being instrumental in that. I shared that my belief in Christ has ramifications for my life.’

After sharing his testimony, Hamilton read Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a prophecy about Christ undergoing punishment for sinners, and shared the Gospel with the inmates.

‘I shared briefly that the passage in Isaiah was written 600 years before Jesus was born and this was clearly about Him,’ Hamilton said. ‘I shared some things about Exodus 34:6-7 that God is gracious and merciful and forgives iniquity, but He will by no means leave guilt unpunished. I shared about how Isaiah teaches that Christ pays for our guilt with His death on the cross, dying in our place.’

Hamilton said several inmates came up to him and thanked him for sharing. After the game, the Bulldogs players interacted with inmates one on one. Ward was able to continue a relationship he started when the Bulldogs first visited LLCC in the fall.

‘I spoke with Dave, who handles the LLCC newspaper,’ Ward said. ‘He has been there four years and is going in front of a parole board in late May or early June. Dave said his wife died before he went to jail and then being in jail has been tough for him. He said since being in jail he has been able to get back to his faith. He started strong as a teenager and then stopped going to church.

‘Since being in prison, he has started praying again and ‘found faith.’ I don’t know exactly what that means. I did get a good chance to talk to him about how to follow Christ and the importance of reading your Bible and I was able to pray with him.’

Bulldogs point guard Terry Webster, who will be a junior in the fall, was glad to be able to share the Gospel with men in a situation he recognized anyone could be in apart from the grace of God.

‘It was definitely an eye-opener on life behind bars,’ said Webster, who played at Kankakee Community College — an NCAA level junior college — in Kankakee, Ill., for a year and a half, before transferring to Boyce in January. ‘All of us, if it wasn’t for the grace of God, would not know where we would be. I saw people who messed up and made the wrong choice. It was good for me to reflect on how all of us could be in that situation, but how Christ’s blood covers our sin.

‘It was great to able to play ball with those guys and then share the Gospel with them. I was able to witness to a couple of guys and we ended up exchanging mailing addresses to be able to stay in touch with each other.’

Ward said ministering in the prison made him want to see the local church impact people’s lives.

‘You go in there and you think ‘okay, these guys are going to be completely rough or quiet and to themselves.’ It is convicting though, because they are more well-behaved than people in church,’ he said. ‘That doesn’t say anything about their heart, but their behavior is great. To see how a human institution can help people’s behavior change was cool to me, but how much more should be the church be about changing people’s lives like that?’

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