Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to – Go and proclaim what God has done for us. Even Jesus’ last words on earth were… Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
At a young age, my parents showed me in the Bible what is God’s standard of right and wrong and explained that I had sinned against a holy God. Thankfully, they didn’t just stop at the bad news that I was guilty before God but also shared the good news that I could be saved from my sins through repentance over my sin and faith in Jesus that his death on the cross was sufficient to pay for my sins. I truly saw my sin problem and looked to Jesus to save me. One of my favorite Bible verses has always been Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Throughout my life, as I read the Bible again and again, I’m convinced that I can be used by God no matter where I am and no matter what situation I’m in – the disciples were fisherman, Jesus was a carpenter, Paul was a tentmaker. Ok, so now I’m going to explain how this fits into the big story of my life.
When I was 6-years-old, my parents and my sisters and I were going on a cruise to the Bahamas. They advertised that there would be a ping pong tournament on the ship. My mom said that if I played every day, she would let me play the tournament. We played recreationally for a few months then went on the trip… NO Tournament! NOooooooo… There were no ping pong tables and no tournaments. However, it did get me started playing and I enjoyed playing with my parents and grandparents and uncles for the next 6 years.
At 12-years-old, I had risen in the family rankings and was now probably around 600-700 level after 6 years of basement pong. Then suddenly, I had a breakthrough… A flier came in the mail for a free lesson with a coach at the church just down the road from us. I went there and found coach Terri Weaver to be very welcoming and helpful in teaching basic strokes, rules of the game, and getting me some real equipment from Paddle Palace. After playing with her once each week for 6 months, she took me to the Canton table tennis club where I met very welcoming players like Roy Dietz, Rick Akers, Tere Akers, Don Varian, Darrel Shiffano, Pat Shriver, Bob Allen, and others.. I continued playing there every Tuesday night for about 2 years. After 2 years, I had lost almost every match and was still near the bottom of the club level.
With the assistance of Carl Hardin and others, I began elevating my skill at 14-years-old and eventually became the youngest Ohio Champion at age 17. At 21 years of age, the Canadian National Team asked me to move to Ottawa, Canada to train professionally with the team as they prepared for the Olympics. I moved there with no difficulties… or so I thought.
One night, Xavier Therien and I were traveling back to Canada (at 1am) after competing in a Pennsylvania tournament. Immigration refused entry because I was practicing there will just a visitor visa. They recommended that I wait until morning and check back at the customs/immigration counter to appeal my case. At my request, Xavier dropped me off at a rest stop and headed back to Canada. To my dismay, the rest stop was closed for the winter and it was cold outside. To stay warm, I huddled up in a phone booth to wait until morning. Hypothermia was setting in. I decided to walk to the toll booth in hopes of finding shelter. At the toll plaza, they told me that I could sleep in the restroom around the back of the building. So, I took their advice and found a nice warm spot right under the urinal for the night. In the morning, I went back to customs and immigration to appeal my case. They said that I could not get a work visa to play tt because tt wasn’t one of their listed jobs. So, until I got a work visa to work as a paramedic, that I had to leave the country. My possessions were in Ottawa, so I was given a 24 hour visa to get my things and leave – if I didn’t check back with them in 24 hours, they were going to put out a warrant for my arrest. I called a local taxi, and some strange guy arrived in a very very old van with 2 prostitutes in the back seat. I decided to pull out my Bible and steer the conversation in a different direction. After the 1.5 hour drive, I made it back to Ottawa, got my things, and headed back to the US. Eventually, I got my Canadian paramedic license and was allowed to work in Canada as a paramedic! Awwww… perfect! Dream job and dream team to practice with… Well not exactly? Immigration informed me that my work visa was only for EMS. They informed me that they would check the national training center, and if I got caught playing ping pong there or anywhere in Canada, I would spend jai time for ping pong.
Imagine that… Jail time for ping pong!
With a few changes to my visa, I was later allowed to do both – table tennis for fun and paramedic work to pay the bills! After being there a total of three years, I decided it was time to head back to Ohio. After graduating from Stark State College, my plan was to work as a firefighter/paramedic. Even after getting married, that was the plan. I was coaching full-time as an in-between job, but coaching was never the end-game. After much prayer and council, I decided to continue my coaching career instead of becoming a firefighter/paramedic.
I felt that I should coach table tennis for a couple reasons…
- Family environment
- Talented in coaching
- More opportunities to share the gospel
During recent years, I have been thankful for many opportunities to share the Gospel. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and what he has done in my life. My prayer for myself, for my family, and all my students is that we would keep table tennis in perspective realizing that physical activity is good, family fun is good, working hard is good, but it is all to be done for the glory of God. God can be glorified through living in Canada or the US, through sleeping in your own bed or a phone booth, through winning an Olympic medal or losing a match.
1 Timothy 4:8
Bodily discipline is only of little profit, but Godliness is profitable for all things because it holds promise of this life and also the life to come.