It was on this day (June 19) in 2016, that Cleveland shocked the world…but in a good way. Their hometown professional basketball team pulled off one of the sport’s most improbable comebacks, defeating the nearly almighty Golden State Warriors in a seven-game series after falling terribly behind 3-1. It was this night that the (in)famous LeBron James shouted for all of northeastern Ohio to hear: “Cleveland! This is for you!” Since then, some fan(atic)s have fallen out of love with their Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary high school phenom after a couple departures to, perhaps, more glamorous coastal cities. Some insist on following him as he continues to impact the NBA from the City of Angels, as the debate will forever ensue on whether he is, in fact, the greatest to ever play the game.

Unfortunately, it was on that very night that I was unable to watch The Block or The Shot that seemingly countless Cavs fans will never forget. Instead, I was settling into Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the first night of a mission trip with several high school youth. I think while the Hollywood-esque drama was ensuing around San Francisco for Game 7, we were in the middle of some kind of orientation or icebreakers as we joined with scores of youth from around the Midwest and beyond. But…it ended up being worth it.

The company our youth group used for this week-long experience was intentional about maximizing the experience for the teenagers as they split them up from their respective home congregation group, and randomly matched them with other adolescents. So, I was responsible for three other boys, who I never met, taking them to a day-camp for differently-abled individuals about a half-hour away. We were expected to help the respective site staff in organizing and running the various events during the late morning and early afternoon hours.

I remember this younger man being off by himself as the four of us arrived to meet everyone for the first time. I don’t necessarily know what drove me over to him. Some would say Holy Spirit/God/Jesus. Maybe it was just the right thing to do. Maybe I just wanted to avoid some of the other tasks that needed done to get things going for everyone there. Regardless, I went over. He didn’t ask for the attention, but something about him drew me in not just for that one instance, but throughout the week.

I also don’t remember what made him different from the rest of us: whatever he was diagnosed with as a child years before. That didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of maximizing his living. I just remember sitting beside him coloring through the numerous pages of books on the tables or putting sticks together for whatever architecture he was envisioning around the playground or kicking the ball around in the gym. I remember a pretty decent feeling after spending time with him, while also recognizing that ministry in general isn’t so much about trying to find as many nice, warm, fuzzy feelings for ourselves as possible. Those cozy heart moments are lovely and all, but mission trips and Communion visits and random sharings of life aren’t supposed to be about the more well-off server/giver trying to maximize themselves as they minister to the…not as well-off.

Instead, Steven helped me realize the power in the seemingly simple acts in the sharings of life. As if the Holy Spirit/God/Jesus can be just as vibrantly active in the coloring books and the stick constructions and the ball-kickings as in the ministerial moments that may somewhat rival national basketball championship triumphs (not that we ever have quite that worldwide audience in the organized church realm, but minor detail). For Steven, I suppose he wasn’t asking for much: not that he asked for much of anything. But I suppose just someone being there, someone going along with whatever he enjoyed, anyone to perhaps be under the impression that he wasn’t that different in the grand scheme of God’s adoration.

In that sense, when I think back to June 19, 2016, while a decent chunk of the world only wanted to see what LeBron could pull off in the clutch, I like to think about the ushers, the parking lot attendants, the ones standing behind the concession stand counters: the ones who may not be as well-off as others. And yet, in the eyes of God, the people behind the scenes are just as treasured as the ones who make it big on any center stage court: professional basketball stadiums or government or church buildings or whatever else. The carpenter’s son seemed to insist on that throughout his earthly life, and still most certainly does today. Thanks be to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad