Holy Hoops

On February 26 tender seeds were planted during Live @ The Landing  (our weekly St. Paul OS Youth gathering--featuring worship, community groups, games, give-aways, food & fun). The message that night was simple, yet full of possibility. We were studying the Gospel account detailing a few friends ("stretcher bearers") doing this crazy thing by lowering their paralyzed friend through a roof to be healed by Jesus. During our Small Group time Leaders posed the question to our students: "How can we be 'stretcher bearers' in our community?" The High School Guys Community Group stepped out of their session buzzing about a 3-3 Basketball Tourney for Charity! Our High School Girls got the party started the following week by praying for Sophia and making heartfelt signs. 
We posted this on our St. Paul OS Youth Facebook Page and it became a living embodiment of our Youth Group being "stretcher bearers" for Sophia and her family.  This simple act of FB sharing resonated with many others and got SO MANY likes and shares! (Over the next few weeks our entire Ocean Springs community was rallying around Love for Sophia. NOTE: Sophia Myers is precious 7 year old Greyhound recently diagnosed with an in-operable brain tumor--DIPG. 
Our High School Girls & Guys Groups melded their idea of a 3 on 3 tourney and Love for Sophia together and Holy Hoops: A 3 on 3 Basketball Benefit for Sophia Myers was birthed!
Over the next few weeks plans were hashed out (sometimes quite fiercely when opinions diverged) on our Student Leadership GroupMe. William Evans and Andrew Bowie took the lead in this effort, and so many students and parents got the buzz and begin to forge ahead. From March 6 to April 30 with Holy Week, Easter and Spring Break falling during this time period what transpired was electric and a "God thing" worthy of sharing.

Our resident Bishop, James E. Swanson, Sr.encourages our clergy, churches, districts, etc. to be in the regular practice of naming ways you are seeing God show up in your midst and he calls these "Glory Sightings." I must admit I have thought this was a bit on the cheesy side (no offense) and always feels bragadocious lifting up "great things" that are happening, so I rarely (if ever) lift up a "Glory Sighting." However, Holy Hoops has made me a Glory Sightings believer compelling me to lift up this "great thing!"  Glory! So here goes...

On Monday, I honestly thought this thing was dead in the water and was contemplating canceling and worried about how I would tell our Youth Leadership. It was a great idea, but was just not getting the needed traction. We were sitting on 8 registrations--and 3 of those later I would realize were duplicates (Someone accidentally registering 3 times.)
Wednesday evening, I get a text out of the blue from a fellow cheer parent asking, "What can I do to help with Holy Hoops?" Coach Juliane had already said that Cheer could volunteer to help. I said we needed to get the word out, and now! 

That night OSHS Cheer led the effort creating an absolute Instagram/Twitter Storm encouraging students to Sign up! So much so one of our St. Paul OS Youth Student Leaders shamed our students that had not posted yet saying, "Cheer is posting more than you!" (Oh, the power of positive peer pressure).

Thursday morning at Breakfast Break registrations doubled! Up to 12! There were ballers still wanting to sign up, so our leaders agreed to  set up shop the next day, too!

 In a few days time we went from 5 registrations to over 30! People kept signing up and the end result was a 36 team bracket and an additional pre-bracket to accommodate over 40 teams. 

Somehow Buckalew Enterprises was able to pull off tshirts in a record 3 days time. (T-shirts that an anonymous donor completely underwrote!) Our Holy Hoops shirts, coupled with a generous donations of pulled pork plates, drinks, candy, prizes and an AMAZING Bake Sale along with entry fees and other donations brought the total to over $4,000 raised for sweet Sophia Myers! GLORY! All of which is wonderful in and of itself...

However, words and even pictures/videos fail to capture the spirit of Holy Hoops. I have never felt so much raw energy in our church building. Period. I have never witnessed so much "sportsmanship, character, love and respect" (thanks Michelle Smith). Respect for players and friendly, passionate competition for a great cause set the tone.

There are so many individuals and businesses in our community that came together to make it happen: Baking, refereeing, publicizing, sweeping, selling, donating, dunking, snapping pictures and
the list goes on and on and on.... HOLY HOOPS was an All Hands on Deck effort and we needed EVERYONE that pitched in to make it happen! It was way bigger than we could have pulled off ourselves and truly was A GOD THING--A GLORY SIGHTING! 

My overall take away God peeled back the veil and offered us a little slice of Heaven on Earth--Baller Style! I am so proud of William, Andrew and our youth, OSHS Cheer, and parents and all the other "Stretcher Bearers," especially my sweet tough as nails nephew, Eli, that came out to help set up and ended up needing a stretcher himself--God bless him! 
I can barely contain the love I have for our church family and our tiny town, Ocean Springs! GlooooRAY! 


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