The other day my secretary handed me an article she found in one of our recent missionary publications. What she wanted me to see is one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve read in a long time.
In my denomination, the Free Methodist Church, we are arranged in the U.S. by geographical regions called Conferences. Each conference has the responsibility of financially supporting different Free Methodist missionaries around the globe. There are three missionary couples/individuals our conference, the Sierra Pacific Conference, supports. The story I want to share with you comes from a missionary school where the Williams family is serving. Two of their daughters play on the high school girl’s basketball team. What follows is what can happen when God is glorified and not man.
After years of avid rivalry between girls’ basketball teams at Grace International School (GIS) and Chiang Mai International School (CMIS), both in Thailand, one act of kindness restored the relationship damaged by competition.
In the fourth quarter of the final game – in haste to let everyone play – Coach Walden of GIS accidentally put an eleventh girl on the court. But when GIS beat CMIS by at least thirty points, their victory was too quickly claimed. A referee verified the error, and then debated with other coaches and authorities. Should Grace be disqualified for their violation of the rules even though it was a moot point, since Grace was so far ahead, or should Grace be recognized as the champions?
Other athletic directors agreed to bend the rules and accept a GIS championship. But Coach Walden adamantly refused. “We made a mistake, and we’ll take the consequences,” he stated.
As GIS received their Second Place awards due to disqualification, Grace girls graciously received the silver medals, hugged Coach and Mrs. Walden, and then sat down.
Moments before, the Grace girls had huddled around Coach and Mrs. Walden. “We told them it was okay. Second Place didn’t matter. The glory goes to God, not to us anyway,” one GIS senior said.
Then the CMIS girl’s varsity made a huge sacrifice. After being presented with their gold medals, they asked the Grace girls to stand. The rivals faced each other; then a CMIS player said, “Girls, let’s trade.” The CMIS girls removed their gold medals and placed them on the GIS girls, who then took the silver medals for themselves. In so doing they honored the Grace girls as champions. Coaches, teammates and folks in the stands were in tears!
One Grace player said, “We haven’t had the most peaceful rivalry this season, so I honor them. I was wowed by CMIS’ decision.”
In the annals of sports legends and lore, this championship between two schools of missionary kids played somewhere in a faraway country that most of us couldn’t locate on a map, won’t even merit a footnote. ESPN will know nothing of this act of God’s grace. The NCAA won’t be contacting Coach Walden to return to the U.S. to be the coach for the championship UConn Lady Huskies. No four-year athletic scholarships will be offered to any of these girls. But let me ask you: Wouldn’t you want to have any one of these girls on your team?
But! I would venture to say that in the holy halls of heaven this story is told and retold as one more example of what happens when people live for God; when they put him first in their lives; and don’t care about the baubles and bangles of this life’s rewards. Instead, because hearts have been changed through faith in Jesus Christ, it is God who gets the glory!
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
As you look at your life, who is the one being glorified? You or God?