Soccer and Sunrise

Connections are an integral part of sports. Evan Gattis, connecting for a mammoth home run. Floyd Mayweather, connecting on another vicious uppercut. Some connections you expect, like Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning, who connected 112 times for a touchdown, the most ever between one quarterback and one receiver. But this past Saturday, I got to be a part of a connection that I never anticipated.

I was hired at the beginning of the year as JCBC’s new Recreation Director and joined the team, led by Connections Pastor, David White. Familiar with the word “connections”, but not fully versed in the application of it in JCBC’s iMAGiNEXT, I was excited to get started. Immediately thrust into JCBC’s busy basketball season, I began connecting with hundreds of people. Some were members of our church, residents of our community, and one Saturday afternoon in January, Jeff. Jeff is the father of a young girl who plays on one of the Johns Creek United Methodist Church’s basketball teams, with whom we play inter-league games.

Over the course of the next few months, Jeff and I developed a mutual respect for the jobs that we were doing within the basketball program, so I was glad to see him coaching soccer when basketball season ended. He approached me with an idea early in the season about engaging the residents at Sunrise Senior Living. He thought that our soccer fields would provide the easiest access for the residents to come out to see a game and asked if that could be arranged.

Sunrise2I thought it definitely could, so we got to work. He took his team over to Sunrise to meet the residents – they had a pizza party and watched some videos of their past games. The most important part of this project was building the relationships between the team and the Sunrise residents.

I made sure that any accommodations here at the church were taken care of. Jeff’s team would be playing one more game at our church this season and it just so happened to fall on Mother’s Day weekend.

On a day we celebrated mothers and family, we got to enjoy connecting with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It was a blessing for me to see this group of second grade girls making signs and cheering for their new friends as they got off the bus. In a time when it’s more common to hear our elders complaining about the carelessness of today’s youth, and those same youth ignoring the older generations because they don’t, or won’t understand them. However, seeing 8-year olds and 88-year olds smiling and laughing together, inspired and blessed me beyond measure.

sunrise1The Sunrise residents loaded the bus an hour before they were supposed to because they were so excited. The girls arrived early and made signs welcoming the residents and thanking them for coming to cheer them on. They set up in the seats we had prepared for them – under tents originally intended to shade them from the summer sun, but now protecting them from the threat of rain! Both teams gathered around the Sunrise community, enveloping them with love and care as I got the amazing opportunity to lead this special group in prayer.

After the “Amen,” we kicked off the game and the Sunrise cheering section got to work. Cheering every goal and encouraging after every slip or stumble, our Sunrise guests were every bit as engaged as the parents on the sidelines.

I am only just starting to get my feet wet in our wonderful Connections ministry, but this one unexpected connection has me looking forward to getting completely submerged in our Savior’s love.

Nathaniel Ballance
Recreation Director
Johns Creek Baptist Church

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Marsha Hunter
    May 17, 2014 12:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a blessed event. So much is said about the problem youths – hearing about young people loving and caring for others is uplifting and heartwarming. I have been blessed to work with young people for years and have come to understand – the quality young people far outweigh those causing problems. Bless you and Jeff for coordinating this opportunity for young and aged to share in support of each other!

    • Nate, thanks for sharing this wonderful, heart-warming experience in your new ministry. We are so blessed to have you in this new leadership role and have no doubt that our JCBC communities will continue to be blessed through your commitment to this ministry. You’ve always ministered to me in our JCBC Choir/Music Ministry as you shared your God-given musical talent, but more importantly, God’s Spirit manifested through your life. Thank You!

  • Margaret Pease
    May 18, 2014 8:49 pm

    I loved this story, and it touched my heart. God bless you, Nathaniel for all the connections you are making and for all the ones He has in store for you!


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