We were young, immature, selfish, and ignorant.
In my Junior High years, me and my friends often played basketball indoors at First Christian Church of Florissant in, of course, Florissant, MO.
I don’t remember every detail of this story because it was over a decade ago, but I remember one Wednesday evening me and 10 other friends played longer than we were supposed to. The same indoor court where we played basketball was the same court an adult service (or something like that) was to be held. We knew we had to stop at 6:00pm because service was at 7:00pm but we played past 6:00pm anyway. Because we were cool like that.
A little after 6:00pm, an older man with gray hair walked in with a friendly smile. He looked so darn approachable — so much so that, even though he was a stranger, I just wanted to give the guy a hug! I knew of him, sort of, but I didn’t exactly know who he was. Though all of us could tell he was important. After all, he was wearing a suit.
He grabbed our attention immediately when he entered the gym.
He didn’t need a microphone to get our attention. Or a whistle. He didn’t yell. There was something about him — that surpasses respect — that attracted us to him. We just wanted to be around him. Listen to him. Learn from him. Ask him questions. Hang out with him. All of this, and yet we really didn’t know who he was.
With his sweet, southern accent, he gently said, “Gentlemen, it’s a little past 6:00pm. We have service here in less than an hour. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to have you guys stop playing.”
We were a little bummed, but this man then said something that made things exiting.
He continued, “But. . . I’ll at least do this.” And pointing to my little brother, Robert, he said, “You. You with ball. Go to the Free Throw Line. Shoot until you miss. Once you miss, then we’ll be done.” The pressure was on.
Robert shot the ball. And made it. And again. And again. And again. Eight times in a row. We cheered him on. With every make, we got louder. After shot five, I looked over at the man. He had a huge smile on his face! It was almost as if he knew he had other responsibilities to attend to, but was caught up in the game so much that he himself didn’t want Robert to miss!
He was impressed that Robert didn’t miss; we were impressed that he took the time to hang out with us.
Robert missed after shot eight, to which we simultaneously said, “Awwww.” We all congratulated Robert. Any Junior High kid would have thought they were awesome after that. . . and this man set it up. He made Robert happy, and that made us happy.
And that was it. We left the gym and life resumed.
I would later find out that the man who set this joyous experience up went by the name of Charles Wingfield. He was the Sr. Minister of the Mega Church we were playing basketball in. His Bible study that started in his home turned into a Mega Church where kids like me played basketball in. He preached the gospel to thousands, baptized a myriad of people, lead a Church for decades, influenced many people to live for Jesus, and left a legacy that was unprecedented.
At the time of this story, Robert and I were not Christians. We got saved in Junior High. When? I do not know exactly. But I know we started regularly attending FCCF shortly after this experience we had with Mr. Wingfield. We would later meet some dudes who were College Interns at the Church. They explained the gospel to us often and bought us Bibles. Shortly after, God convicted us of sin, granted us repentance, and we turned to faith in Jesus Christ. All of this shortly after this experience we had with the grey-haired main with the suit.
At 9:39 pm Tuesday night, Charles Wingfield passed away.
I began to scroll down his Facebook Page and read the many wonderful memories people had of him. Many were deep, profound. Life-changing stories. They were big. Really big. Though I experienced that too, most of my memories came from the little things he did no one knows about. That no one else was around to see.
Because just as incredible as he was in front of thousands of adults, he was just as impactful in front of just a few Junior High kids.
I had many to choose from, but this was my fondest memory of Charles Wingfield.
See you on the other side, Charles.
Post your comments below.