Faith In Action

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

It might have been the strangest football game that people ever encountered. It was played in Grapevine, Texas a couple of years ago with the Grapevine Faith High School Lions taking on the Gainesville State School Tornadoes.

Everything about the game was upside down. You didn’t expect it. It was real Christian gospel with “the first being last” and “honoring the humbled,” etc.

When the Gainesville Tornadoes took the field at Grapevine Faith, the Grapevine Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through. They made banners which said, “Go Tornadoes!” This was the Faith fans holding the banners and cheering for the opposing team!

Faith won the ballgame 33-14, but the Gainesville kids were so happy after the game that they gave their head coach Mark Williams a Gatorade bath – really it was a squirt bottle shower – just like he had won the state championship. Gainesville had ended the season 0-9, and now the coach was getting a victory dousing!

Then things began to make a little more sense when people saw 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field. They handcuffed them and marched them back to the team bus. The reason is that Gainesville State School is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. All their games are road games.

This unique idea goes to Grapevine Faith’s coach, Kris Hogan. He wanted Faith to put their faith into action. He came up with the idea.

Coach Hogan knew that his team could beat the Tornadoes as badly as they wanted to. Gainesville had only scored two touchdowns all year. His Grapevine Faith team had 70 kids, 11 coaches, and the latest equipment. Gainesville just had kids who were incarcerated for drugs, assault and robbery – many of whose families had disowned them – all of their equipment was greatly outdated.

So Hogan suggested that half of their fans would cheer for the other team. He wanted them to send this message to the opposing team – “You are as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”

One of his players asked Coach Hogan why he was doing this. He said, “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

The players from Gainesville were overwhelmed. One boy said, “This is the first time I ever saw somebody who cared for me.” Another said, “Most people look at us like we are criminals but these people, they were yelling for us! By our names!”

At the end of the game they met in the middle of the field to pray. Before the prayer one of the players from Gainesville asked to speak and said, “I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”

As the Gainesville Tornado team went to their bus, each kid was handed a bag for the ride home. The bag contained burgers, fries, candy, a soda, a Bible and an encouraging written note from one of the Faith players.

The Gainesville coach said, “You will never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You will never ever know!” When the bus pulled away the Gainesville players crammed to one side of the bus and pressed their faces against the window staring in amazement at people they had never met before, yet had made them feel so special.

Faith that is put into action often times runs counter to what people expect or have experienced in life. The Christian Gospel turns situations, institutions, and people “upside down.”

Grapevine Faith won the game, not because of the score, but because of what they did. They put faith into practice.

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