I’m a sports fan: sports live, sports on television, sports books. I’ll even read a book or watch a movie that pertains to a sport I have little or no interest in, say, Cinderella Man or A Good Walk Spoiled. But the books that are actually worth reading about sports are usually written by someone else examining the athletic contest or the athlete in question. Books written by athletes themselves are dicey, because they’re usually ghost written, and the story isn’t always as dynamic as the performance on the field of play. (Usual exceptions seem to be athletes looking back over their career after it’s all over.) And then there’s the story of Clayton and Ellen Kershaw.
To say this is a story about baseball would be incorrect. Or only partially complete. Instead, it’s the story of how they came together as fourteen-year-olds, who got married as twenty-two-year-olds, and who embarked on a journey to Africa together weeks after their wedding. It’s inspirational from a faith perspective, and powerful from personal experience testimony of faith, marriage, and mission. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity” (I Timothy 4:12). Those are the words of Paul, but that’s the banner the still-young Kershaws are carrying, and from the book, carrying well.
Written by Ellen’s sister, Ann Higginbottom, the book shares Clayton’s dreams of playing baseball, and Ellen’s desire to make a difference in Africa, all interspersed with the stories of David from the Old Testament and the wisdom of Paul. I think that the words of Isaiah (6:8), “Here I am, send me,” apply to the way that the Kershaws responded, but it’s not just a historical account of their lives, but rather a call to others to respond as well. You can read more about their commitment at www.kershawschallenge.com (the Kershaws donate $100 per strikeout, which in 2011 was over $200,000!) but again, you should consider where God is calling you to get involved and make a difference.
Again, as a sports enthusiast, I think that Clayton’s words ring true to us regardless of what we do for a living or where we are in life. “We should want to be known as Christians who happen to play baseball, not as baseball-playing Christians.” What are your priorities? Do you have them “straight?” Is your witness of worship and action one and the same or are they compartmentalized? From the tales of the Kershaws, it’s clear that they live a fully integrated life.