An Encouraging Word
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV
The sun shined and children giggled. Adults sat in conversation at and around picnic tables in Olden Park in Price Hill April 24. They were gathered for the weekly cookout at the park organized by The Lord’s Gym.
It seemed like a typical evening until Johnny, a volunteer at The Lord’s Gym, spotted a car parked near the park.
I thought to myself: “Something ain’t right.”
The car eventually pulled away and the fellowship continued. About an hour later as Johnny and other volunteers were wrapping up the cookout, the car driving by.
“The guy in the backseat stuck his hand out the window like this,” Johnny said making a gun symbol and waving his hand.
The next thing Johnny knew the man in the back seat opened fire.
“Some… even parents ran, leaving their kids. Others just stood there,” Johnny said. “My first thought was the kids. ‘We’ve got to get these kids out of the way.’ I yelled, ‘Hit the ground!’”
Other volunteers pulled kids from the playground equipment to the ground and shielded them with their own bodies.
“I was in Vietnam and I saw a lot of stuff, but that’s the first time I’ve ever seen something like this,” he said. “We had so many kids there.”
Later, a bullet was pulled out of one of the pieces of playground equipment where children had been playing until volunteers pulled them to safety. Another bullet hit a young man in the ankle and he was taken to the hospital. None of the children or volunteers with the The Lord’s Gym, however, were harmed.
“God is good,” Johnny said.
Johnny knows first hand that work in ministry is a blessing. However, even in Cincinnati, it can be dangerous. The Lord’s Gym staff and volunteers are on the front line. Sometimes the battle is in the form of physical bullets, other times it’s darkness of man’s heart.
Often in battle, a soldier will sacrifice his or her own life for another. According to Jesus, in John chapter 15, there is “no greater love.” Jesus was referring to the sacrifice He would soon make on the cross, but also a sacrifice His followers are to be willing and ready to make.
It’s a sacrifice on April 24, that The Lord’s Gym volunteers were ready to make. It’s also a sacrifice they make everyday. They give of their lives… their time, their heart, their talents… to reach people for Jesus. To not only tell them of His great love, but to show them His great love.
The next afternoon, Johnny was back at the park, passing through to get to The Lord’s Gym that’s next door.
Johnny said he found the courage to come back for the kids.
“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “The Lord’s Gym has got it going on. I thank God for this place.”
Arah, 14, a regular at The Lord’s Gym in Price Hill, witnessed the shooting and called 911.
“My heart was outside of my chest,” she said. “It was scary.”
But deep down, she said, she knew she was safe. She’s been going to The Lord’s Gym for three years and it’s like home.
“They let you be you and have fun,” she said. “And they protect you.”
The Lord’s Gym is more than gym. It’s a shelter. A shelter in a swarm of bullets, a shelter in the storm of life. A shelter where you’re clothed and fed, both literally and spiritually. A shelter where “no greater love” is lived everyday.