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OPINION

SPORTS: Church reaches high school team with pre-game meals

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (BP) -- Prior to their Friday night football games, players and coaches at Sullivan Central High School do not know whether they'll will win or lose.
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But they can be assured they will have a good pre-game meal each week thanks to Indian Springs Baptist Church.

The church has provided with a pre-game meal to the team for both home and away games for the past five years.

Indian Springs members "have a heart for ministry outside the walls of the church," said Roc Collins, pastor of the Kingsport, Tenn., congregation.

One of Indian Springs' deacons, Bill Allen, sparked the idea, saying that his former church had a similar outreach to encourage the players, coaches and community at large.

"We said, 'Let's do it.'" Collins recounted. "God has blessed it."

The meal is provided at 3 p.m. each Friday at the church, featuring a different menu each week.

The favorite among the players is a country breakfast, complete with biscuits and gravy, Collins said.

"I'll go to practice during the week," the pastor said, "and the players will ask what they are having to eat this week. They look forward to it."

The meal is prepared under the supervision of Wayne Droke, the church's minister of food services. He is assisted each week by six to eight volunteers who serve the food.

The volunteers are not just church members, Collins said, noting that the ministry became the entry point for some people in the community into the church.

The meals are provided at no cost to the team or school but are a budgeted item by the church, the pastor said.

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Sullivan Central High School is only a couple of miles from Indian Springs, Collins said, adding that it is where most of the church's students attend.

A program is planned during the meals by Tiger Brooks, the church's minister to students. Both Brooks and Collins have led the devotionals, but other local pastors or Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsors also have been featured.

The outreach has enabled the church to build relationships with the players and many of them began attending the church, especially on Wednesday nights, Collins said.

One of the highlights of the ministry is that last year one of the players accepted Christ as his personal Savior, Collins said.

The meals are labor-intensive but that one decision for Christ "was worth it all." The young man was baptized and is now in college, Collins said.

"It has been a great thing to see the relationship with the players blossom," Collins said. "We feel it is a way we can make an impact in our community. We are privileged to be a part of it."

Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector (www.tnbaptist.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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