Ray Kinsella could never have imagined the acres of land around his home could be of much significance. Aside from growing some of the best corn the state of Iowa was producing, Ray never considered making an impact beyond the crops he sold each harvest to provide for his wife and little girl. Until one evening working in those very fields, he heard a voice whisper to him a simple phrase.
“If you build it, he will come.”
The “he” was Ray’s father, John. The “it” was a baseball field. The quote is from the classic film Field of Dreams. In it, Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, plows over his valuable cornfields to build a baseball field. He’s not exactly sure why but just knows it’s what he’s supposed to do.
For Bill Gallahair and Dave Hicks from Harvest Fields Community Church in Deatsville, Alabama, they weren’t sure of the results that would come from using their church fields for sports ministry. But they knew God’s voice was calling, so they followed.
If You Build It ...
"At one particular meeting, it was just clear for everyone that we were to recreate community through recreational ministry. And we knew God was in all of it. He was the author of it. And we weren't hesitant or confused. We were absolutely clear. We just were given our directive, and we haven't waived. We haven't moved."
Dr. Bill Gallahair, along with a few others, planted Harvest Fields Community Church on August 8, 2008. God provided ten acres of land for the church, and Bill, along with co-pastor Dave Hicks knew that land was not for the church but for the community.
“We’ve partnered with Upward now for over a decade, and we’ve done flag football, cheerleading, and soccer.” People aren’t just coming for sports, though. Bill and Dave have partnered with the community to provide a variety of things. “We have neighborhood people that come and use our fields, from flying kites to launching rockets to go-carts to a variety of opportunities for family recreation. We use our building for the neighborhood to do their HOA meetings. And we have a homeschool group that uses our facility for meetings.”
On average, Harvest Fields’ soccer and flag football leagues bring in 62 participants per season. On the surface, that might not seem impressive. But when you learn the church only has about 30 members, having 62 kids sign up for a soccer league is incredible. So how does this small church plant pull off such successful leagues year after year?
“It’s all a God thing. He makes it happen. He has brought to us wonderful people over the years that have embraced what we’re doing,” Bill states. He believes there’s a key ingredient to getting volunteers. “I think perhaps people buy into our enthusiasm, to our commitment. Then they come and we have coaches.”
Dave says finding the right people to serve comes down to two basic questions. “There’s really no concern for us as church leaders locally about denominational lines. The thing we’re concerned about is do you know and love Jesus Christ? And can you instill that into your players? If you can do that, you can serve here.”
People Will Come ...
In one memorable scene in Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella is at a crossroads. He’s plowed under his corn to build a baseball stadium. But he’s bankrupt and facing the bank repossessing his land. He has to choose: sell or stay? If he stays, how will he afford it?
Then, Terrance Mann, played by James Earl Jones, speaks. He tells Ray that people will come. He’s insinuating that people will pay to come to watch baseball and, in turn, allow for Ray and his family to stay. Terrance ends his speech: “This field…this game…it’s a piece of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good. And that could be again. People will come. People will most definitely come.” So it is for Harvest Fields. People have been coming for a decade now to watch games, laugh, and remember how much fun it was to play sports.
“Families feel it’s a safe place to come. I often tease and say it’s a no-drama zone. They drop their drama at the driveway. There’s no drama in the fields. So it’s a very pleasant place to come on a Saturday morning. And families want that, and they don’t always get that in every other sports experience.” Bill continues sharing about the gameday experience. “It’s a place where parents can have a fun family opportunity every Saturday. It’s not just the children and the mom and dad. It’s the grandparents. It’s the relatives. They have uncles. It’s a big family deal and a fun family deal. They go away feeling like this was a great opportunity. This was a fun day.”
It's a God Thing
Bill and Dave will be quick to tell you the reason their sports ministry has done so well. “God says do this. So we do this, and we trust him for the result of bringing people in, bringing in volunteers, and bringing in coaches. And he has never not done that.”
Dave continues talking about their reliance on God by sharing a story he used to tell his son when he was younger. “I used to tell my son all the time when he would be working on something in the yard that he couldn’t quite get done. I would ask him, ‘Are you using all the strength you have?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m using all the strength I have. I’m pulling as hard as I can. I’m using every muscle.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re not because you’re not using me.’ And so he had my strength available to him, too. I think for us, we do that with God all the time. We say, ‘God, I’m over here, I’m doing my ministry, and I’m using all the strength I have.’ And he goes, ‘No, you’re not. Because you’re not using me.”
Is This Heaven?
Field of Dreams climaxes when Ray Kinsella looks out on the field to see a young man with a glove. He realizes that it’s his father, John, who died when Ray was a teenager. As Ray approaches him, his dad asks, “Is this heaven?” Ray smiles, shakes his head, and says, “It’s Iowa.”
Deatsville, Alabama, isn’t heaven. Harvest Fields Community Church isn’t heaven. But it is most certainly a place that shows people how they can one day get there. As Bill says, “It’s a God thing. And I don’t make that light. I make it absolutely what it is. Ask him, call upon him, trust him. He will do. He does. It’s all for him anyway. It’s not about our kingdom. It’s about his Kingdom.”
For both Bill and Dave, their Upward Sports ministry isn’t an outreach of the church; it’s “one of the places we do church. It’s as much church on Saturday morning during Upward as it is on Sunday morning during worship.”
Harvest Fields might be a small church in a small town, but there’s no question they’ve turned ten acres into their own “field of dreams.” And much like the movie, their fields are painted with potential, hope, and promise. It’s been that for over ten years now and shows no signs of stopping.
After all, it’s a God thing.
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