(Highlights Of The Past Year series)

With two minutes left, Ryan says he’ll sit out the rest of the game so we can put Kenny back in.  Kenny had never touched a basketball until December.  He’s short, a little nerdy looking, and had no clue what to do on a basketball court.  My son and I have been working with him this season to give him some confidence.  But he still hadn’t scored a basket.  Actually, he could barely get the ball to the rim.

But these last two minutes are Kenny’s time.  Whatever we need to do, even lose our last game, Kenny was going to get a basket!  We designed a special play just for him called “the Cannon”.  The first few times we ran it, our bench started yelling “CANNON!  CANNON!  CAN…”  The ball came to Kenny…and he missed the pass.  The next time, Justin hands him the ball and Kenny tries dribbling… and dribbles the ball off his foot out of bounds.  Next time down, Blake makes a beautiful pass to a wide open Kenny and – zip – the ball flew right past him.

The whole gym knows what’s going on.  Parents from both teams start yelling “CANNON!  CANNON!”  Kenny misses the pass again.  “CANNON!  CANNON!”  Kenny gets the ball and shoots…and the ball somehow goes behind him.  “CANNON…”  Aaron gets the next rebound, runs the ball down the court, gets it to Kenny, who shoots…there’s a huge sucking in of breath in the gym…and it hits the rim and bounces out!  “NOOooo!  Come on, Kenny!  CANNON!…”

Our team is standing up.  Parents are yelling.  Thirty seconds left.  Nobody’s paying attention to the score.  It’s just pure fourth grade basketball mayhem!  Blake gets the ball, passes it to Justin, who hands it to Kenny who is already facing the basket!  Kenny sets, raises the ball, the defender jumps, giant sucking in of breath, Kenny shoots…

If Kenny makes this basket, who’s happier – the kid who scored his first basket ever?  The crowd cheering on the underdog?  Or two coaches who got to see the kid they have been working with for three months make the biggest shot of his life? 

By the time you read this, we’ll have a team heading to Africa for two weeks.  We’ll be training a thousand believers.  But that’s not nearly as exciting as what happens two weeks after you read this letter.  A thousand people will be back in their villages telling stories.  There will be Muslim families hearing about Jesus.  Many won’t know what to do with this.  They’ll argue, they’ll miss ideas, they’ll have questions, they’ll get confused when what they’ve been told to believe clashes with what they are hearing, and they’ll get restless in their hearts.  But these thousand followers of Jesus will keep “getting them the ball”.  It’s their time.

Do the crowds in heaven watch, cheering the names of people playing in this “game”?  Do they suck in their breath each time a story, a truth, a biblical reality is passed to them, shout “NOOooo” when it’s dropped, and then stand up to cheer them on with even more adrenaline?  How big is God’s grin when it all comes together for that one lost person, that family, and they finally get it? 

We’ll never know what happens in most of these villages until we’re in heaven and can ask people how in the world they ended up here when all the odds were against them.  But we’ll have plenty of time to hear the story.

And you can ask Kenny what happened in the last thirty seconds of our game, too.

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