Baseball Ministry

baseball field

There are a lot of kids at the park I practice baseball at. Sometimes when I’m practicing by myself, kids will come and watch. Some of them will come out onto the field, and ask if they can play.

I have a little pitching machine where I load all of the balls at once, then the machine will pitch them to me. I then go and pick up the balls, reload them, then hit again.

One day these kids were watching as I did batting practice. There were about 7 or 8 of them, ranging in ages between 2-11. There was a good mix of both boys and girls. After watching me for a couple rounds, the oldest of the kids (a boy we’ll call “Andrew” – he was 11 years old) said to the other kids, “Let’s go help him pick up the balls.”

They weren’t the first kids to do this. For some reason, kids like helping me pick up the balls. I don’t know why. To me, it’s a chore. But I guess I can kind of see the fun in it. I painted the balls pink to help make them easier to find, so when they’re lying in the green grass, it’s sort of like an Easter egg hunt. Anyway, it was nice having them help me find all the balls. (I use these small, spongy balls. They don’t fly as far as normal baseballs, and they don’t hurt if you get hit by one. I like using these, since I don’t have to worry about accidentally hitting people, since there are plenty of people walking around the park.)

I started hitting another round, and the kids went out onto the field to catch them. They made a game of it. They competed to see who could get the balls first. They then rushed to load the balls before the machine ran out. Andrew stood by the pitching machine and acted as the leader, shouting to the other kids, “Hurry! We can’t let it run out! Throw it in!” It was intense, like some kind of war game. The kids ran frantically trying to collect all the balls. All the while, I continued my non-stop batting practice. It was a win-win situation: the kids were having fun, and I got my training in.

We did that for a while (until I was too tired to hit any more), and then I began the next phase of my practice session: the running and agility drills. I went through my normal routine – doing crossovers, running backwards, high-knees, ect. The kids lined up behind me. Andrew instructed them. “Get in line,” he told his companions. “No cutting. Watch him (referring to me) and do what he does.”

One by one they followed behind me, trying their best to do the drill exactly as I did. All of the kids – even the girls – were into it. (Who says girls don’t like baseball?)

The kids followed my every move. Whatever I did, they followed me. When I stretched, they stretched too, doing their best to follow the exact pose I was in. (Some of them fell over during the more difficult poses.) When I stopped for a water break, they also stopped.

“How often do you practice?” asked the kids.

“Almost every day,” I said.

“Are you going to come here tomorrow?” asked one of the boys.

“No,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Andrew. “Tomorrow’s Sunday. Church day.”

“That’s right,” I said.

We continued our practice. We had just finished doing a drill, when I stopped for a moment. I felt convicted to tell them something.

“The most important thing about playing baseball,” I told them, “is to play for God. Before I start any practice, I pray. I thank Jesus for allowing me to play baseball, and I ask him to give me strength, and to be here practicing with me. I play baseball only for Him. Whether I hit a home run, or strike out, I play only for him. And after a practice or a game, I thank him.”

We prayed, then continued our practice, playing for a while longer.

After practice was over, Andrew and I sat on the grass and started talking. Turns out he’s a strong Christian. We sat there talking about our faith, how we got saved, and our walks with God. Some of the others kids sat near us, listening in.

Andrew told me about how he tries to follow God, but sometimes it’s difficult, especially at school where there aren’t many Christians. I did my best to encourage him. We talked for a while longer about Jesus, the Bible, and about how great our God is. We talked about Paul, heaven, hell, God’s love, carrying our crosses, dying to ourselves, and other deep subjects. I was surprised that an eleven-year-old was knowledgeable and interested in these things. I was also surprised by his passion. A lot of adult Christians don’t even care to know much about these.

“Wow, you know a lot about the Bible,” he said. “You should be a pastor.”
“Actually, I want to be a missionary, like Paul” I replied.

“Oh, cool!” he said. “I want to be a football playing pastor.”

It was getting late, and his parents were calling him. “You should get going,” I said.

“Yeah…” he said. “Do you need help carrying your stuff to your car?”

“Oh, thanks, but I think I’m going to keep practicing more,” I said. “But would it be okay if I prayed with you before you have to go?”

We prayed together. When we were done, he thanked me over and over again.

“Wow! You’re the first Christian guy athlete I’ve ever met!” he said, as if it had just hit him. I told him I would continue to pray for him.

“Thanks!” he said. “I’ll pray for you too!”  He continued to thank me.

The blessings went both ways. It’s always a huge encouragement to me to meet people who are passionate about the Lord, especially someone as young as Andrew. I love having deep conversations about God.

Contextual – Cultural Analysis

 

The following is a paper I wrote for my educational portfolio. It deals with what I believe are some important concepts for teachers to include in their teaching philosophy, and centers on a student I have previously worked with. 

 

Contextual-Cultural Analysis

 

Part I: Introduction

I did my service learning at the Hawaii Baptist Academy (HBA) elementary campus, where I led various groups of children in grades K-6 in the after school enrichment program (ASEP). I also had the opportunity to observe a 6th grade science class taught by Mrs. Tracy Morihara, as well as a 2nd grade computers class taught by Miss Rachel Kaneshiro. These experiences provided some great opportunities to describe, analyze, and evaluate events that connect to students’ places, lives, and cultures.

 

Part II: Analysis

I noticed in Mrs. Morihara’s classroom a bulletin board containing nature photographs and poems. She had assigned each student to choose a photograph (or take one themselves) of a nature scene of their choice. Many had chosen gingers, hibiscus, mango trees, or other Hawaiian flora. They then had to compose a poem about the scene. Many chose to write about how beautiful the plant was, and how thankful they were that God made it. They also wrote about how the scene made them feel. This struck me as a great way of teaching students ‘Ike Honua – the value of place, by taking into consideration students’ cultural situation by getting them to think about the world around them. The assignment also assessed the students’ literacy skills via creative writing.

At one point I was placed in charge of a group of 2nd graders during ASEP. There was a girl in my group who we’ll refer to as “Bella.” Bella was a quiet girl; she didn’t say much. She was distant, and didn’t seem to be close to any of the other students. She often sat alone on the playground while everyone else played. I and my coworkers would try to get her involved with the other students, but she was reluctant, and chose to sit by herself. But perhaps the thing that stood out most about Bella was her race – she was the only black student in the group. Furthermore, she was one of (if not the only) black student in the entire elementary portion of the school. (Perhaps there are others, but she is the only black student I’ve ever seen there.)

At one point during the school year, Bella was placed on behavioral probation. Many of the other students complained about her, saying she was being mean, or misbehaving in other ways. She had been fighting with other students, and her teacher considered her attitude to be in need of improvement. From what I gather, I believe she was also falling behind in her grades. Following HBA’s policy, I’m sure her teachers met with her and her parents. The school councilor, the vice principal, and perhaps even the principal also likely met with them. As her ASEP leader, I treated her the same way I treat all of the other students: with care and attention, but also with discipline when necessary. Eventually she passed the probation period successfully, and the evaluators deemed her attitude to be sufficiently improved.

As the semester wore on, Bella grew clingy to me. She began coming up to me every day, hugging me, trying to hold my hand, and telling me she loved me. While this was cute and all, it did cause me some concern. While many of the students showed obvious signs that they liked having me as their ASEP leader, Bella’s behavior was different in the sense that she was more clingy and excessive about it than the others, and I viewed this as an unhealthy form of attachment. I believe she did this because she lacked strong friendships with any of her peers and saw me as someone who was caring and willing to be close to her. I am always honored and humbled when students like me, but ultimately what I want most is for the students to live healthy and happy lives, and to continue to grow into successful individuals. I did my best to mentor her and help her in any way I could for the remainder of the semester.

 

Part III: Reflection

How much does Bella’s race play into this? Perhaps it is a factor. Being the only black student is probably an awkward situation to be in. But I think the bigger factor is her social background. This is just an assumption, as I don’t know her parents very well, but judging from her behavior, I’ve got to believe that her relationship with her parents is not the best. The way she clung to me and ostracized herself from others indicates that she is likely not getting enough attention at home.

I think the faculty, my coworkers, and I all did our parts to reach out to her, and help her in whatever ways we could. I think she made some improvement, but there is much to be desired. I hope that some day she is able to make close friends and be apart of groups she feels she fits in with. I continue to pray for her.

As teachers, we may not always know the exact cause of a problem, and even if we did know it, we wouldn’t always be able to do much about it. However, what we can do is empathize with the students, show that we genuinely care about their well-being, be willing to listen and talk with them, and make appropriate adjustments to their academic life that may help them deal with the issues they are going through outside of school. We may not be able to control what happens to them outside of school, but we can greatly influence what happens to them inside the classroom. In that way, we just might end up making a significant impact on students lives, and in doing so, help create a positive change in the world, which is what I believe teaching is truly about.

 

 

 

2nd Grade Memories

Working with kids makes me think back to when I was a kid. Oh, the memories…

One day when I was in 2nd grade, I was the last kid to come into the classroom. I don’t remember why exactly, but the entire class was already there by the time I came in. I must have been coming back from the bathroom, or maybe the teacher had sent me on an errand. The entire class stared at me as I walked to my seat. Some people were snickering. You know that feeling you get when you know everyone knows something, but you’re left out of the loop? Everyone around you is talking about a hot piece of juicy gossip, but they’re not sharing it with you. And because you’re the only one who doesn’t know what it is, you start to get the feeling that it’s about you. This was one of those times. It’s a bad feeling. It puts me on edge, and gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach.

To this day I hate it when people talk about me behind my back. Even if they’re not saying anything bad, it still bothers me. I guess it’s because I’m not entirely sure what they’re saying, so I’m imagining the worst. My mind automatically assumes it can’t be something good, because if it were they could have said it in front of me. I think I tend to overreact when I realize people – even people I consider friends – have been talking about me when I’m not around.

I looked at my teacher. She looked back at me, and I could tell even she knew what it was, but wasn’t telling me.

“What is going on?” I thought.

The teacher told the kids to stop laughing, but she still didn’t clue me in as to what the big secret was. (Well, I guess it wasn’t a secret, since everyone knew except me.)

There was a girl in my class named Mary. She had short blond hair, and was tomboyish. Later at recess Mary and I were somehow the only kids on the playground. Maybe the others were playing in a different area or something, but for whatever reason, Mary and I were the only ones out there.

Mary came up to me and bashfully said, “Hey. I like you. I just think you’re cool. Sorry everyone else was laughing about it.”

My reply to her was something along the lines of, “Oh. Okay. Wanna play 4 square?”

(4 Square was the game back in the day.)

Yeah, I could have handled it better, but really, I was 7 years old, and had absolutely no interest in girls at the time.

Of course now that I think about it, it took a lot of guts for a 2nd grade girl to say what she said. But at the time I was too confused and sad that people were keeping secrets from me and talking about me to really process things. But at least I finally knew what everyone else was talking about.

Big Girls Don’t Cry…But Little Girls Do

Some of the kids, like Mary Ann, stand next to me, then bang their head into me before asking whatever question is on their mind. It’s their way of getting my attention. A simple, “Mr. Robert?” would work just as well, but I guess it’s not as fun that way. Mary Ann also likes to hug me from behind, or hug me and face-plant into my stomach.

Mary Ann is a really nice girl. I think she’s a bit more mature than the average 2nd grader. But for some reason I frequently find Mary Ann and Michelle butting heads. They tend to disagree and have conflicting ideas and opinions, different ways of doing things. (They also happen to be the same height. They’re the two shortest kids in the 2nd grade. That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but I thought I’d just throw that in there.) Michelle, on the other hand, is also a very nice girl, but being one of the youngest kids in the 2nd grade (she’s young enough to be a 1st grader) she’s one of the more immature of the bunch.

Mary Ann is an only child. I find that only children and oldest children tend to struggle with pride. So when Michelle sees things a different way from Mary Ann, it’s sometimes difficult for her to comprehend.

One day they were playing jump rope, and for whatever reason, Mary Ann and Michelle just weren’t seeing eye to eye. (Which is funny, because they’re both the same height, so seeing eye to eye should be no problem for them. Haha. I know. Bad joke.) Mary Ann was doing her best to be patient and to try and work things out with Michelle, but they just couldn’t seem to get on the same page. Finally her frustrations got to her, and she put her face in her hands and walked to a corner, crying silently.

“Uh oh,” I thought. Some of the kids make a big show of crying, and I don’t like that. I can tell when they’re crying just for the attention. And then there are kids like Mary Ann who try their best not to cry when their feelings are hurt. But sometimes they just can’t help it.

I went over to Mary Ann to try to console her.

“Are you okay?” I asked. But she wasn’t responding.

To my surprise, Michelle came over to try and cheer her up. They had been arguing just a moment before, and now she had done a complete 180, and seemed to have a lot of compassion for her classmate, saying that they could do things Mary Ann’s way. But Mary Ann just kept her face in her hands, walking away not because she was trying to avoid Michelle, but because she was trying to stop crying.

“Just give her some time,” I said to Michelle.

A few moments later, after she regained her composure, Mary Ann was back playing as if nothing had happened, and the two girls got along.

2nd Grade – The age where kids might argue and bicker, but they’ll put it behind them at a moments notice and seek reconciliation, especially when they can see that their friend’s feelings have been hurt. And they’re all friends. No cliques here. (Well, the boys are friends with the boys, and the girls are friends with the girls. Boys and girls aren’t friends. Not at this age.)

How-Many-Girlfriends-Do-You-Have?

Some of the kids were playing jump rope and asked me to play with them. They asked me to jump in the middle.

The girls started swinging the rope, singing: “How-many-girlfriends-do-you-have?”

“What…?” I asked. But they had already started to swing, so I had to jump.

They were counting, and every jump meant I had another girlfriend. “1, 2, 3, 4…” I ended up with 36.

“Wow, you have a lot of girlfriends!” said the kids.

“That’s not a good thing,” I replied.

Every couple of weeks or so they ask me if I have a girlfriend, checking, I guess, to see if anything has changed since the last time they asked. Kelsea, who is the biggest matchmaker of the group, keeps close tabs on this.

“Kelsea,” I said. “Tell you what. I will let you know if I get a girlfriend. Okay? You don’t have to ask all the time. If I get a girlfriend you’ll be the first person I tell.” She might also be the only person I’d tell. I’m not big on telling people things. But anyway, I don’t think it’s going to stop her from asking.

If the kids see me with any female roughly my age outside of the normal work environment (meaning, outside of the normal females they see me working with), they freak out. And if they see me with multiple girls, they freak out even more.

“You lied to us! You have two girlfriends!”

“No,” I said. “Those are my coworkers.”

“You lie!”

The irony of it all is that I’m so honest with the kids.

Some of the boys were snickering, thinking it’s cool that I have “so many girlfriends.”

One of my coworkers walked by.

“There’s your girlfriend,” said a boy we’ll call Ryan.

“No. She’s not,” I said.

“Yes she is. I saw you with her.”

“She’s my coworker. And one of my other coworkers was there with us. She was there too.”

“So you have two girlfriends!?”

“No. We’re coworkers, and sometimes we hang out together.” I don’t think they believed me.

Later, they asked me again to play jump rope. So I got in the middle, and they started chanting, “How-many-girl-friends-do-you-have?”

I felt this was a good opportunity to teach them a moral lesson. So I jumped once, and stopped.

“One,” I said. “Because you should only have one girlfriend.”

Girls, Dogs, and Tomatos

One day Yuna asked me to help her carry her backpack since it was heavy. I offered to carry it for her, but she didn’t want me to.

“Can you just hold the top?” she asked, referring to the handle at the top of the backpack used to hang it up. She wanted me to hold the handle while she walked with her backpack on, which would help take some of the weight off.

“Um…Yuna…I don’t want to do that. It’s like I have you on a leash.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I like to be on a leash. I did it before at home! Like a dog.”

“Um…” I said. Really. What am I supposed to say to that? “That’s cool…but we can’t do that at school.”

The next day Yuna came up to me carrying a folded piece of paper.

“This is for you!” she said. “But don’t open it till you get home!”

I wear those shorts that have lots of pockets on them. She stuffed the paper into my lowest pocket. But just a moment later she decided to show it to her friends, so she reached into my pocket, grabbed the paper, unfolded it, and showed it to them, while still making sure that I couldn’t see it. Her friends laughed and said, “That’s cute! And also funny.”

After showing all her friends, Yuna folded the paper and stuffed it back into my pocket.

“Promise, okay? Promise you won’t look at it till you get home!”

“Okay, I promise.”

“Pinky promise me?”

“Okay, I pinky promise.”

I had absolutely no idea what was on that paper, or why she wanted me to wait till I got home to look at it.

So I opened the paper when I got home. Turns out it was a drawing of a girl holding a dog on a leash…or rather, a dog holding a girl on a leash…or something like that. See, the dog’s head was on the girl’s body, and the girl’s head was on the dog’s body. The girl looked just like Yuna. Next to it was a picture of what I thought was a baby holding a rattle. She’s a good drawer.

Yuna's Drawing

[Sorry it’s blurry. I don’t have a camera. All I have is the camera that comes on my cell phone, but the resolution isn’t good.]

“That was a nice picture you drew,” I told her the next day. “It was funny.”

Yuna is a very outgoing girl, but she has her shy moments. “I remembered you’d said the backpack was like a leash,” she said bashfully.

I laughed. “Yeah. The girl looks just like you,” I said.

She glared up at me. “It’s not me!”

“Oh. Then who is it?”

“Just a girl!”

“Oh okay,” I said. “That was also a nice baby you drew.”

“What baby?” she asked.

“You know, the baby you drew right next to the dog and the girl, the one holding the rattle.”

“It’s a tomato!” she said, stomping her foot. I think I offended her. Of course it’s tomato. Duh. I should’ve known that. I mean, what kid doesn’t like drawing tomato’s?

I love it when kids draw for me.