PIERCE COUNTIAN DON GANUS SELECTED FOR HALL OF FAME INDUCTION AT ALABAMA HIGH SCHOOL
Alabama native and current Pierce County resident Don Ganus is being inducted into his high school alma mater’s hall of fame in August. Ganus, who has resided in Pierce County the past 15 years, was a four sport standout at Andalusia (AL) High School from 1952-55. He received a total of 13 varsity letters with four coming in baseball and three each in football, basketball and track.
During his senior season of football in 1954, Ganus was named to the first team all-state squad as a halfback by The Montgomery Advertiser and to the third team by the Birmingham Post Herald.
The 1955 track team won the Class A title with Ganus winning an individual title in the discus with a toss of 116’3/4”.
Ganus was elected Andalusia’s permanent co-captain during the 1954 football season and received the J.J. Motes trophy (MVP). He received numerous scholarship offers to play football at the collegiate level including one from the University of Alabama.
Ganus passed on the Crimson Tide and signed with the then Milwaukee Braves. He played eight season in the organization.
Ganus would show his true athleticism later winning the Andalusia Country Club championship in 1972. Some 23 years later, he won the Greenville (AL) Country Club championship. What made the titles even more remarkable was that he won the first one playing right-handed and the second playing left-handed.
Ganus retired from Liberty National Life Insurance in 1999 after a 32-year career. He was the District Manager in the Greenville office at the time.
Along with his wife, Barbara, the pair moved to Blackshear after his retirement to be near their two daughters (Kim and Dave Rowland, Sandi and Kevin Sport) and four grandchildren (Holt and Hunter Rowland, Kassie and Kalyn Milton).
Holt Rowland was tragically killed in a car wreck four years ago.
James Holton "Holt" Rowland
Mr. James Holton “Holt” Rowland, 16 of Blackshear, passed away Wednesday (November 10, 2010) from injuries he received in an automobile accident in Pierce County.
Born in Waycross, GA on May 15, 1994, he had lived in Pierce County all of his life. Holt was a Junior at Pierce County High School where he was a member of the varsity baseball team and the leadership team of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He had also been a member of the 2006 11 & 12 year olds Midget Baseball State Championship Team. Holt was a member of Bridge Community Baptist Church but had also been actively involved with global mission work and the Youth Ministry through Emmanuel Baptist Church and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was employed at Pierce Timber Company.
Survivors include his parents, Dave & Kim Ganus Rowland of Blackshear; a brother, Hunter Rowland of Blackshear; his maternal grandparents, Don & Barbara Ganus of Blackshear; his paternal grandparents, David & Joyce Rowland of Waycross; three aunts, Sandi & Kevin Sport of Patterson and Lisa & Les Evans and Pam & Tommy Sweeney all of Waycross; five cousins, LeAnna Evans, Leslie Evans, Kaitlyn Young, Kassie Milton and Kalyn Milton and several other relatives and friends.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers please make contributions in memory of Holt to FCA Baseball, 525 W. Magnolia Circle, Alpharetta, GA 30005. This will support FCA Ministry in the Dominican Republic.
Interment will be in the Blackshear Cemetery.
Mama, Daddy & Hunter
Words cannot express our deep love for you. We feel so very honored and truly blessed by God to have raised you. You have brought such joy into our lives. Your love for all people inspired us to love more. Your smile brought hope to the world. Your laughter made us laugh.
Many lives you have touched and so many people you have loved. Your passions for Jesus, family, friends, community, missions and baseball will leave a legacy that will continue to live on in our hearts forever. How you loved to talk and laugh with others. We are so greatful for those memories.
Many times we have prayed for your life to be in the center of God's will. We knew that God's plan for you would be very special and we knew that his plan would be perfect. Knowing your heart for Jesus Christ gives us peace that you are in the center of His will now and you are celebrating.
While we miss you immensely, we so look forward to the day that we see each other again. Thank you for being the kind of person that you were. We are so proud of you.
We will still love God, no matter what. See you soon. We love you tremendously.
Mama, Daddy & Hunter
For each of you, I hope you may find comfort and pride as I do in the Christ-Like "Foundation" that we have here in Pierce County. My heart is saddened and hurts for this tragic loss, but I find peace in knowing that this "Foundation" has and will continue to comfort each and everyone of us. GOD Bless Us All. I offer this Prayer:
"LORD, we don't know the future. But I want to declare that whatever it holds, YOU will be the focus of it all. Every dream, hope, accident, tragedy, disappointment, challenge, and desire......LORD, we pray that you will be right there in the center of our everythingness. We confess our inadequacy to do this thing called life on our own. May your grace carry us through terrible sorrows and unimaginable joys. We cling to each other as we cling to you, JESUS."
Head Football Coach
Pierce County High School
(912) 449-2055 ext. 144
Holt & His Friends
Luke 10:27 says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the parable of the Good Samaritan, and that is Holt Rowland.
Two years ago I got the chance to really get to know Holt. We both had had shoulder surgery and I was fortunate enough to drive Holt to and from Douglas twice a week for therapy. This went on for four months where not only did we build a strong bond, but Holt, the Good Samaritan, became close friends with our physical therapist, Steve Miller. Mr. Steve chose to come see Holt and I play during the worst weather we ever played in; extremely cold, pouring rain, and dangerous lightning. Worst than the weather, was Coach Gay’s threat for us to stay on the bus until the game was officially called. Holt spotted Mr. Steve trying to stay out of the weather, and immediately insisted we go speak to him.
Now I am friendly, but I am also a rule follower, and not a huge fan of dangerous lightning. Holt, the Good Samaritan he is, was determined to acknowledge Mr. Steve. With no regard to the weather or fear of Coach Gay, we were wet, cold and also in trouble, but Mr. Steve left knowing how special he was to Holt. Holt loved the Lord, and you could tell that easily by just being around him. And Holt treated everyone as his neighbor.
I was continuously having to corral Holt last year at Anytime Fitness while we were doing baseball workouts. Holt was busy being Holt; it was his nature to speak to everyone and anyone who walked in the door. He would finish his workout, but it was secondary to him taking the time to let everyone in place know how special they were to him. This helped him earn his nickname, “The Governor.” Holt was learning to combine his friendly nature with being a leader. The day of his accident, he worked out with the guys on the team, and the guy I had to corral, now was pushing his teammates to stay and give him 15 more minutes of work outs. That extra time that Holt called “Bro Time” November the 9th, me and the guys call a blessing.
Holt stole my job. Well not only my job, but my whole business, Pierce Timber. Holt worked at Pierce Timber two and a half months and already the secretaries had fallen in love with him. I was quick to find out when I came home, Holt did EVERYTHING better than me. I was no longer the “sweetheart” of the women of Pierce Timber. He left his mark. Not only figuratively, but literally. During renovations at Pierce Timber, Holt playfully stomped around on the new floor, which had residue left over from the work. The new floor HAS been cleaned, yet Holt’s footprint still remains. I believe this truly speaks to how many of Holt’s friends can view him today. He left his mark in our lives.
1Corinthians 2:5 says “Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Holt picked a deerstand this year that we all gave him a hard time about. Not once has a deer been shot OR EVEN SEEN at this spot. But Holt meant that was his spot.
Mr. Mitchell Dowling and Holt were setting out trail cameras a few weeks ago. Holt insisted Mr. Mitchell put one near his stand. Mr. Mitchell laughed; knowing like all of us that the camera would prove to Holt that there were no deer there. But just because Holt was so insistent there was a deer there, he set one up. Two days after the accident, Mr. Mitchell went to check the cameras and you wouldn’t believe what was on the one near his stand. Holt’s faith in his stand proved correct. This is what Holt somehow knew was there for him. This gives me comfort. I know that Holt’s faith in the Lord was even stronger than the faith he had in his deerstand.
Last Wednesday, November 10, the day of Holt’s passing, was my birthday. Many people expressed how sorry they were that I would have to remember my birthday this way. That’s not the case. That’s not the way I look at it. I feel truly blessed. Now, every year I get to share this day with such a special friend. Holt chose his favorite quote and put it on his Facebook page. I found great comfort in this quote because it is obviously how Holt felt and lived his life. John 3:30 states “He must become greater; I must become less.” I know that on that day, He became greater when Holt was called up to heaven. That’s why I think of this day as one so special to me.
Thank you Mr. Dave and Mrs. Kim and I love y'all.
Holt’s Speech (My Hero) by Leslie Evans
Holt was my first cousin, but I loved him like my brother. Holt was not only my cousin, but he was my role model and my friend. I always told Holt I looked up to him. And I always will. Today I want to share a story about Holt that really stands out in my mind.
The Dominican Republic Scene: Last summer, I had the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic for an FCA baseball mission trip. It was my first mission trip, and the only reason I went was because Holt had asked me to go. One of the main reasons I wanted to go was because I knew I would get to spend a week with Holt. I had already planned on going down there and spending the week with Holt, playing on his team, and doing mission work with him; but God had other plans.
After we got down there, I realized that I would not be on Holt’s team. There were two different high school baseball teams and each team did their own mission work throughout the day. For example, in the mornings we would all get up and eat breakfast together. But after that, each team split up and went separate ways playing different games and doing different mission work.
In the evenings however, we would come back together and eat dinner. After dinner, we would split up again and have separate bible studies. I’ll never forget this one night- Holt and his team had split up and were doing their bible study, while our team was doing ours. Every night after bible study, everybody came back together and had “hang out time”(free time) for the rest of the night until bed time. I’ll never forget this night, because after we got through with our bible study, I went downstairs ready to play cards and have me some fun. In my mind, I had already finished bible study, so it was time to go have some fun. On this night, Holt’s team had finished bible study before our team, so some of them were already playing cards, so after we finished I was on my way to join them.
However, when I got downstairs, I saw everybody playing cards, but when I looked to my left, I saw Holt sitting by his self. So I walked over to him and said “Hey Holt wassup?” and he looked up at me with a smile on his face and said “nothing much”. I saw that Holt was writing in his journal (about all of the things he had saw God do that day and throughout the week). He also had his bible out and was reading it. Here I was wanting to find some “joy” in having fun playing cards; and here Holt was finding his joy in Jesus Christ, and in reading his bible, writing in his journal, and reading and writing in his devotionals. Holt’s Joy was Jesus. Holt’s treasure was Jesus Christ, and that is where his Heart always was.
Family: When they asked me to speak, I felt that I should ask each family member what stood out the most about Holt.When I asked the family members what stood out to them the most about Holt, these were some of their answers:
His smile, his hugs, his laugh, his wink, how he made everyone feel special and loved, his I love you’s coming in and going out the door, his kisses on the cheek, his love for others, his heart for people, his genuine love for people, his heart for missions, his ability to be trusted, his sweet spirit, his unselfish spirit, his humble spirit, how he never talked negatively about people, his giving heart, even to the point of giving his heart and organs away as an organ donor, how he would always tell you he loved you and always encourage you, how he never had to say a word to know he was a Christian, and most importantly, his love for God . Holt loved Jesus, and it was evident by the way he lived his life.
Matthew 5:14-16 says “You are the light of the world” This verse describes Holt in such an amazing way, because that is what Holt was- A Light. But not just a light, Holt was a tremendously BRIGHT LIGHT for Christ.
The verses go on to say that the light “gives light to everyone in the house”. That was Holt. I know for me and my family that’s how he was. Every time he walked in at my nanas for our Sunday “get togethers” for lunch, he lit up the whole house and everyone in it; and I know that’s how he was everywhere he went. Holt was just such a bright light.
The verses go on to say that “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Holt was the kind of person that made others want to be better people and better Christians. I know for me, he made me want to be a better person and a better Christian, and I know that it was the same way for everyone that he was ever around. (Holt was a bright light)(He brightened everyone’s day when he was there)(Holt was the most Christlike person I knew).
Last Thursday night, my mom and dad were driving Uncle Dave and Aunt Kim back to their house late, so they asked if I would stay with Hunter at their house, so that when they got home, he would be there, and then I was going to go back to my house. That night, after me and Hunter layed down, I just felt like I wanted to go and look through Holt’s Bible; so I got up and told Hunter, “Hunter, I’ll be right back”, and then I went into Holt’s room and flipped through his Bible- and it was amazing to me to see that one of the verses that Holt had highlighted in his Bible was Psalm 139:16 which says… Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
See, God knew when Holt’s last day on this earth would be, but Holt didn’t. Holt had just been hitting baseballs, enjoying one of the things that he loved. He had no clue that he would get into a car accident on the way home. However, Holt was prepared. Holt knew Jesus, and he had asked Jesus into his heart, and he had a daily relationship with Jesus. And I’m here today to tell you that Holt Rowland would want nothing more than for all you here today to have a relationship with Jesus, and to ask Jesus into your hearts and to trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And Jesus wants the same thing.
Greg Gay's story about Holt
1. When he was 12-years-old and pitched the final 3 innings over in Berrien County to clinch the 12 and under state championship. The first for any Pierce County team.
2. I could tell you about his 8th grade year pitching the final out to clinch Pierce's 3rd Middle School Championship.
3. I could tell you about the day he had last April at the plate when he went 4 for 5 as we beat Tattnall County.
4. I could tell you about the 1st inning in game one of the Sweet 16 series versus Howard in Macon. In the top of the 1st with two outs and bases loaded, Holt ripped a fastball deep into the left-center gap to score all 3 runs as he coasted into 3rd base with that big smile, pumping his fist.
I remember all those things, but I also remember these:
1. How Holt kept things going in the dugout. And we always heard his laugh and knew somehow he was involved in the pranks.
2. How fun it was to watch he and Terry Carter do their special hand shake that ended with them jumping up in the air together. Especially the time they did it on the bus and Holt almost knocked himself out when he hit his head on the roof.
3. Holt working extra to improve in baseball whether it was asking Coach Mobley for extra ground balls, or Coach Brooker to throw him some more batting practice or him showing up at the house on the weekend asking for the keys to the facility so that he and his dad could go practice together.
4. How every home game it touched my heart to see Holt and Nate praying in front of the mound as the National Anthem played.
I remember those things, but I am also overwhelmed by Holt as a young man. What better way to dig into the heart of Holt but to share with you two daily journals he wrote while on a missions trip this past summer with us in the Dominican Republic.
Day 4, Holt wrote:
One of the best days of my life! The clinic we did was awesome. The game we played was incredible, no fence in the outfield, grass up to your knees and chickens and horses all around the field. The coaches said we were the only team that interacted and made a difference. Their coaches are so passionate.
Joe Bishop, founder of SCORE International (which is the company FCA partnered with to make the trip happen), spoke tonight during our devo time. He did an awesome job. What quarter are you in? You never know when the game of life will be over. Clock strikes 0:00. (That was the message shared as several young men gave their life to Christ.)
Day 5, Holt wrote:
Today was another awesome day. We went this morning and got groceries, carried them to the villages. After lunch, we went to the Giants D.R. facility and played 6-innings until we got rained out. Wesleyan Coach did our devo, it was awesome to hear him speak out of:
Philippians 4:5-7 -> Let graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don'1 worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Then Holt challenged himself in his journal:
1. To be different at home. He wrote to Love—Love Hunter (He looks up to me).
2. To bridge a community, to be a leader.
3. Starts at home with those closest to you.
As you can see, Holt's influence for me goes well beyond baseball. His testimony will be shared with others for a long time and in various ways:
1. Holt will have a plaque hung at two facilities in the D.R. Every young man that wears a FCA baseball jersey in the D.R. will hear his story and the power of his testimony.
2. Every FCA jersey worn in the D.R. from this day forward will have his initials and #10 on the sleeve. On the last day of the trip, after the final game each player takes off his jersey and gives it to a kid from the D.R. What a way to share the gospel as they explain what "HR#10" represents.
3. A scholarship fund in Holt's name has been set up through FCA baseball/softball Atlanta to help fund other young men and women and give them the opportunity to participate in the trip to the D.R. and to allow them this experience.
4. The donations given to the family for flowers, at Kim and Dave's
request, have been sent to the ministry of Mike Shaheen. Mike is the head
baseball coach of Wesleyann, a high school in Atlanta, who recently won his third state championship. Mike has accepted the call from God to become a full-time missionary in the D.R. and was one of the coaches with us on the trip. Not too long ago, Holt was on the FCA website reading about Mike's decision and thought it was neat that he would walk away from such a great job to go and minister in the D.R.
5. Holt's influence will be strong here. Just the other day 5 students were saved after his brother, Hunter, spoke to his fellow students at the middle school in an FCA huddle.
6. Sunday night one of Holt's teammates accepted Christ.
Great things are going to come from this.
In closing, one of the awards that I never gave as a baseball coach was an MVP Award. I never wanted to elevate a player to a status where they were considered "more valuable" as a player than their teammates. I am going to make an exception today. When you consider the life of Holt and the impact he made on his family, the baseball team, his community, and now through FCA, I think it is very fitting to say that Holt deserves an MVP award in the game of life.
Winning the Final Victory by Coach Keith Mobley
On the Sunday before the accident, Dixon sat with his parents at First Baptist Church of Blackshear. This was not normally the case as he usually sat with his friends in the youth group. The church was having a communion service and Layne told his father he wanted to take communion with the family. The freshman football and baseball player at Pierce County High School spent his last Sunday sharing the Lord's supper with the people he loved most. This atypical act was typical of Dixon.
Four days after the accident, Pierce County's baseball team had a meeting at the field. The players were joined by parents, coaches and players from other counties and former players. The ensemble included Bob Wiedemann from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Wesleyan School head baseball coach Mike Shaheen who brught his family and several players. Others in attendance included Brent Slade who coached Rowland's mission trip team to the Dominican Republic as well as Joe Padgett and his son Cole, all of whom came from Atlanta to pour their love upon the Pierce County community. These relationship's were fostered when former Pierce County head coach Greg Gay and several Bear players including Rowland teamed with players from Wesleyan and several other schools for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic through FCA baseball.
Players gathered in the home dugout but because of the number of people in attendance, everyone moved to the infield. Coaches sat on buckets as this was the custom for their "bucket talks," the weekly Bible studies conducted during the season and produced by FCA. The players told stories concerning their favorite memories of Dixon and Rowland. Some were funny, some were sad, but all demonstrated the Christian nature of their two fallen teammates.
Coach Gay introduced the Atlanta guests. Weidemann spoke to the group and presented the Rowland family with a plaque that represents a scholorship established to help other players attend an FCA mission trip to the Dominican Republic and the "HR10" patch that will be worn by every FCA player who goes on a similar mission trip.
As worship music played in the background, everyone mingled with tear filled eyes and shared their love for Rowland and Dixon. The amazing thing was the worshipful tone of the gathering - this was not a sorrowful event but a celebration praising the God that saved both young men.
Wiedemann wrote of the experiance that day: "I found myself sitting on a bucket on the infield of the Pierce County High School baseball diamond surrounded by high school aged young men with looks of shock, bewilderment and sorrow on their faces. I was there, four hours from home, to be part of a baseball community that touched me and impacted me greatly just four months prior but was now reeling with pain. I was there to lend comfort to those who were hurting, to pray with those and for those who needed comfort and to deliver a message of hope to those who may have felt that hope had abandoned them.
In this time of brokenness for so many, it was my prayer that God would shine His light though the storm clouds and reveal Himself to many that either did not know Him or who had drifted away from their dependance on Him. As is so often the case, it was I - the one who went to minister to others - was abundantly blessed. I witnessed the unwavering faith of a grieving mother and father - Kim and Dave Rowland. They praised God for who He was and what He had done 2000 years ago by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to open up the gates of Heaven and create an eternal home for their son Holt. I witnessed that kind of faith that I personally pray for.
The greatest victory in Pierce County baseball history was celebrated on the field that day, not with a victory over an opponent but with two Bears rounding third and going home to win the victory over death. When you round third and are headed home, who is going to be waiting on you? Will it be Jesus and victory or will your soul spend eternity seperated from God? It's your choice.
The Beginning of a Journey
Its been close to 5 months since Jodi and I made the decision to start the ministry in the Dominican Republic (DR). Gosh, the time has flown by so fast. It will be the end of June before a blink of an eye. Since it has been 5 months since I have blogged, I thought now would be a great time to fill y'all in on what has transpired in our lives and in the ministry. It is truly amazing how God has worked on us since September. I have never been more busy in my life, yet I have never prayed so much and felt His presence so much. It's awesome what happens when you hand Him the keys. Let me now fill you in on what has happened.
I took a trip with Bob Wiedemann (FCA) to the DR in October in order to meet Herb Rawlings (Rawlings Foundation) and Gus Hernandez (SCORE staffer and leader of the Highlands sports complex). It was amazing to see three ministries come together in order to better serve Him. Herb has 12 sports complexes throughout the world in order to use athletics to bring people to Christ. My conversations with Herb were priceless. He is a wealth of experience in evangelism and his heart is enormous. We are blessed to have Herb support us in the DR by letting us live in one of the homes at the Highlands Complex. Gus was the head baseball coach at Tennessee Temple and made the decision (along with his wife Illeana) to become a missionary for SCORE in the DR about a year ago. Since my time with him in October, I have had the honor to have dinner with them over Christmas break and skype with him and learn more about how to prepare for this journey. We are extremely excited about being the neighbors/friends of the Hernandez'.
In November, sadly one of of new friends from Pierce County, Holt Rowland left to be with the Lord. Holt was 16 years old and a member of our group from FCA that spent a week in the DR this past summer. Kim and Dave Rowland invited our family, Bob and our guys from the trip to their house shortly after Holt's death. It was one of, if not the most influential moments in Jodi's and my life. The faith and trust that Kim and Dave have in Jesus inspired all who spent time with them. Holt was and still is a huge mentor to my players and me. There will be plaques memorializing Holt at the SCORE and Highland's Complexes as well as a scholarship in his name for missions support. He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
Since October, I have worked diligently to learn as much Spanish as possible. It has been very difficult, but a lot of fun. God has blessed me with a passion to learn Spanish in order to speak to people about Jesus. Several hours per week I use Rosetta Stone, on the computer and through audio cds. I also have been tutored by Adrienne Christian. Adrienne is a Spanish teacher at Wesleyan and part-time missionary in the DR (summers). She has taught me so much about the language and culture in La Republica Dominicana.Another blessing has come through the relationship with our new friends, Richard and Mariann Call. The Calls just moved to Duluth last year from Venezuela. We met the Calls at our subdivision pool in September and have dined with them once or twice per month since. They have children Grace and Wyman's age and they have a lot of fun playing the wii together. Richard and Mariann know about as much English as we know Spanish, so it is pretty funny when we get together. God has put Adrienne and the Calls in our lives for a reason and it has been a huge blessing getting to know them. They will be friends forever.
There is so much to be thankful for during this period of preparation. As I have written earlier, God has blessed us in so many ways, none more important than Him becoming a bigger part of our lives. Through pray and the reading of His word, Jodi and I have felt a great peace each step of the way. Lately, our petitions have been for our housing situation. As we all know, the housing market is not good. In fact, it is downright awful. The world has told us that it is not the time to become missionaries. But, we know that is not true now and will never be the case. God is far bigger than a recession, no matter how bad it seems. Currently, we are waiting on the decision of our subdivision homeowner's association on whether or not we can rent our house. We actually have a family that would like to rent our house with the possibility to buy sometime in the future. A rule was passed by our subdivision to only allow 5% of our homes to rent. As of today, there are 10% renting. Tonight (February 22nd, I will be able to ask the board to allow us to rent because of the housing circumstances. Although we hope that they allow us to rent, we know that God may have different plans.
The Shaheen family is very excited about our trip to the DR from March 20th-25th (Spring break). It will be an opportunity for us to get acclimated to our future home and surrounding community. We plan to take our kids to their future school and possibly sign them up. We plan to bring a lot of our stuff (sheets, towels, summer clothes, etc...). We also have several meetings set up with people that will be new friends and fellow missionaries. The part of the trip I am most excited about is meeting and spending quality time with our new family on the Highlands Complex. There are 30+ facilities workers and guards that I am excited to speak Spanish with. Gus and Ileana will be free in the evenings to spend time with. We are also excited to reunite with Eddie Jesus Gill, who led our team this summer and is now working full-time at the Highlands. Eddie is also a Red Sox fan. There are never enough of them.
Jodi and I would like to thank each and every one of you that has supported us in so many ways. It has been amazing to see God work in our relationships with y'all and others in the community. Our hope is that this new ministry becomes a blessing for all involved, whether it is through financial support, prayer, or in future short-term missions.
*For those of you that would like to support our ministry in some way, please see our support page at http://dominicanfcabaseballministry.com/. Although we have received a lot of support, we are still in need of monthly commitments for a 3 year period.
God is good...all the time!
I am exhausted physically from the trip to Jacksonville with my baseball team, but I am riding a spiritual high will last for long, long time. This past Saturday night, my baseball team had the opportunity to spend some quality time with our friends in Pierce County. We were just coming off of a long day of baseball. We started the day with a 6:00am wake up call and finished the afternoon with a second baseball game in 75 degree heat. Although tired, we knew that we had friends waiting for us 60 miles away in Blackshear, Georgia. Several players on our team spent time in the Dominican with some Pierce County players last summer. The bond between the Wesleyan and Pierce players is strong. We showed up at the high school baseball field in Blackshear at 6:45pm to a happy group of Bears and enough BBQ to feed an army. Good food, good friends...nothing could be better.
Three of the people waiting with open arms for us that night were Dave, Kim and Hunter Rowland. As I wrote in an earlier post, The Rowlands lost their beloved Holt this past November. Holt is with the Lord and loving it. The reason why (other than spending time with friends) we decided to stop off in Blackshear on the way home was to celebrate Holt's life along with Layne Dixon's. We are truly honored to have been invited to be with the Pierce County community. The fact that they see us as friends is so amazing. The hugs we received from the Rowlands and the Mobley's (Coach and wife) cannot be explained in words. It felt like the feeling of seeing old friends that you have missed for 20 years. We ate a lot of food, shook a lot of hands, hugged a lot of friends, and told a lot of stories. Just like old friends. The best moment was seeing Wesleyan and Pierce County players playing the game of "flip" in the batting cage together, laughing and joking. Young people do not care where they are from, they just want to have fun. After a few hours of fellowship and the opportunity for me to tell a little bit of my story and our future in the DR, we headed back to the hotel in order to get some much needed rest.
The following morning we met 300+ people from Pierce County at the baseball field for a church service and dedication for Holt and Layne. I can with absolute certainty say that it was the best and most memorable day of my coaching career. To see the influence that those two young men had on their community and beyond is inspiring and a testimony of God's amazing grace and love. 300+ people from many different churches and towns praised Jesus for who He is and gave thanks for the gifts of Holt and Layne. At the end of the emotional and inspiring service, with the sun and and blue sky behind him, the Pastor asked the 300+ if anyone would like to receive God in their heart. At that moment, as I always do at those occasions, I thanked God for what He has done for me and my family. I also asked Him to reveal Himself to my players that were in the stands at the time. Not but a few seconds went by that one of my players raised his hand. In front of all these people, one of my players (Joseph) made a decision that will change his life forever. Soon after, a very happy coach with tears in his eyes told his players that this was his best day in his coaching career. In 3John 4, John tells us that their is no greater joy than to hear that one of his children are walking in the truth.
To top the morning off, if it weren't already emotional and inspiring enough, Coach Mobley and the Rowlands surprised us by giving the collection from the service to our ministry in the DR. WOW. Jodi and I were once again brought to tears. Last November, the Rowland's asked their community to support our ministry in lieu of flowers, in Holt's memory. (Holt spoke about his trip to the DR often to his family and showed excitement for the future FCA ministry) Our friends from Pierce County once again want to be a part of our ministry. We are so excited to bring each person from that county with us to the DR. Holt will no doubt be with us in the DR and because of his influence in Blackshear, the whole community is now involved. The Pierce community will be blessed by God's work in the Dominican Republic through FCA baseball. God is good...all the time!
Each of the times I have spent with Dave Rowland I thought of this Psalm. Although he does not understand why he lost Holt, Dave is steadfast in the Lord.
Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.
He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Next week we head out to the Dominican Republic from March 20th-25th in order to get settled. We plan on spending time with our neighbors, having dinner with our new teachers (culture/spanish), signing up our kids for their new school, and of course, resting. Please pray for our trip. Also, please throw in an extra prayer for our process of trying to sell our house in Duluth.
We love each of you and pray that God draws you near each day.
In His grip,
Holt Rowland Dominican Republic Scholarship Fund
On Wednesday November 10, 2010, Holt passed away as the result of a traffic accident the night before. This scholarship fund has been set up in Holt's honor to help other young men & women experience the life changing perspective that Holt experienced on his trip in 2010. Holt's mom & dad have shared that there was nothing in Holt's life that compared to what he experienced the week that he was in the DR.
If you wiah to make a donation in memory of Holt, please visit the FCA baseball website at https://secure.teamfca.net/northeastatlantabaseball/DonateLocally/HoltRowlandDominicanRepublicScholarshipFund/&lsid=5024E1B5-C29A-EE7A-E37E36C010F5998B.
Remembering Holt and Layne: One man’s recollection
Football season is finally back and in full stride, and without really even looking for them, I am seeing constant reminders of my two young friends Holt Rowland and Layne Dixon. It’s been nearly a year now since Holt and Layne went to be with Jesus, but their memory lives on through a game that they both loved dearly. As I watch my favorite teams tee it up on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, I will smile and think of them, and recall some of my favorite memories of two of Pierce County’s finest young men.
Being a few years younger than Jordan, Layne had not yet started driving on his own and he could often be seen in the passenger’s seat of Jordan’s truck following practice or a game. Jordan recently told me the he missed “hauling Layne’s tail around after football practice.” Having two High School kids in our family, I can attest that Layne is very often on both of their minds, especially now that football season has returned. That being said, I know he is missed by all of his teammates and classmates as well. It really did my heart good and brought a tear to my eye when I saw Layne still listed as an active player on the Bears roster. Although only in print, there was #53 and #54 once again, side by side.
Layne’s love of football was apparent through his never ending quest to get bigger, stronger and faster. He always worked hard at becoming a better player. Although I never witnessed it personally, Layne’s uncle, Ray Dixon told me how Layne would routinely mix up some type of disgusting, high protein, weight gaining concoction that he would drink daily. Upon finishing his secret mixture of ingredients, he would immediately run to the nearest scale to see how much weight he had gained. You have got to love that kind of enthusiasm and dedication. Usually after any of his JV football games, he would come up to me and say “Mr. Jeff, did you see me hit that guy?” I would always like to respond differently every time, telling him “Yep, sure did Layne, you really laid the wood to that guy” or “Layne, you really cleaned his plow.” Layne would then just smile and then swell up a little bit, knowing he had gotten the confirmation he was looking for.
My own personal favorite memory of Layne was about this time last year when Pierce visited Brantley County in another JV matchup. I remember sitting next to proud mama and daddy Teresa and Randy. We all were yelling and shouting words of encouragement to the defense as Pierce was making a stand against the Herons at midfield. After one particular play, Layne got up from the pile with a noticeable limp. As Layne looked towards the stands, I remember Randy yelling down to him, telling him, “play through the pain son, play through the pain!” And Layne did play through the pain because on next play or so, he made a big hit on the ball carrier, causing him to fumble AND then recovered the ball as well! As Layne held the ball aloft, showing off his prize, I don’t know who was more proud, Layne or his mama and daddy. I’ll never forget that day.
After Friday nights’ win against visiting Windsor Forest, I was still thinking about Layne and how proud he would have been following Pierce’s 15-0 shutout. I was still excited myself and anticipating the Georgia game that was to be played later that night. I turned on the TV to watch the beginning of the much anticipated college season and the very first game I came across was the Alabama game. Immediately, a vision of Holt Rowland’s smiling, curly headed face popped into my mind. There was Holt’s beloved Crimson Tide right there in living color. Although not a huge Tide man myself, I stopped and watched Alabama roll to victory in their home opener, knowing Holt would have been glued to the TV until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
As I watched Alabama easily cruise to victory, I recalled my all time favorite Holt memory. It began a few years ago as I accompanied the Emmanuel Baptist youth to a UGA football game which was sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. UGA was playing Ole Miss in Sanford Stadium. Holt and I sat right next to each other, there in the upper deck. I was dressed in my UGA Red and Black and there was Holt, head to toe in Crimson Tide garb. Georgia played a tough team and eventually won the hard fought contest, but during the entire four quarters, there was Holt, cheering for Ole Miss and doing the one man wave every time Georgia messed up or Ole Miss scored. “Dadgum you Holt” I would say. “Sit down and shut up before I get mad”…knowing I really loved every second of it. That’s part one of this story…
Following the game, as we walked down the railroad tracks back to our parking spot, Holt said, “You know Mr. Jeff, Georgia will never beat Alabama in a few weeks” and I stupidly replied to him, “you wanna bet?” And so begins the second part of this story.
Holt and I wagered that whoever’s team lost, the other guy would have to wear the opponents jersey all day the following Sunday. I was so confident that my Dawgs would win, that I had already gone out and bought a red #7 Matthew Stafford jersey that Holt would be wearing. I intentionally bought a men’s Medium. Those of you who knew Holt can already see the humor in this. Well, as things usually go whenever I make I bet, the Dawgs blew it and Alabama easily defeated Georgia on that dreadful Saturday. I say dreadful, because I knew I would be wearing a Crimson #14 John Parker Wilson jersey the next day. Sunday morning arrived and I dreaded having to go to church and see Holt.
As luck would have it, I was assigned to “golf cart duty” on Sunday morning, so I was confident that I would be able to see the Rowland’s arrive before they saw me, and then hide from Holt to avoid his wrath. Well, once again, luck was against me and by the time I saw Holt, he and the entire Rowland clan were already headed my direction; with Holt in the lead and wearing a huge smile. I decided I needed to go ahead and take my medicine like a man, so off I went to greet him. When we met there in the parking lot, I noticed something amiss. No Alabama jersey. The first thing Holt said to me was, “Mr. Jeff, I tried to tell you ‘Bama was gonna win.” I told him, “Yes, you did Holt, now give me the stupid jersey and let’s get this over with.” Holt responded by giving me a big Holt sized hug as he said, “Mr. Jeff, you know I wouldn’t ever make you wear an Alabama shirt”, “I reckon its punishment enough knowing your team got beat on TV.” That was classic Holt Rowland for you, and looking back, I sure wish he would have made me wear that jersey.
This Friday night, The Bears travel across the river to Ware County, to do battle with the Gators. That alone reminds me of another Holt story, but we’ll save that one for another time. I’m sure if those guys were still with us, Layne would be at least 20 pounds heavier and Holt would be throwing little rubber alligators at Ware County fans. Time has moved on, but Holt and Layne surely have not been forgotten. I know through our common belief of Jesus as our Savior, I will definitely see both of those guys again in the future. Until then, we’ll all continue to “play through the pain”; knowing Holt and Layne both are seated at the feet of Jesus. And when that time comes, and knowing God has a sense of humor, I’m pretty sure the next time I see them, Layne will be drinking a protein shake and Holt will be dressed in Crimson and Hounds tooth. I miss you guys, but until we meet again, let me just say… “Roll Tide!” and “Go Bears!”