Source: Memphis Athletic Ministries
Brad Cummins began coaching an inner-city basketball team two years ago because he wanted God to use him to make a positive impact. As empty nesters, Brad and his wife Becky knew God was calling them to invest their lives in the city. Combining this calling with his love for coaching his sons’ basketball teams as they were growing up, Brad looked forward to sharing Christ with his band of 14-year-old boys and seeing life change. What he didn’t anticipate was how much he would change.
“God allowed me to coach a team that’s about a half mile away from where I work,” Brad explains. “I’ve worked the same job for 20 years, and I would drive in this neighborhood and frankly have a bad attitude about that area.”
All of that changed about a week or two after Brad began working with Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM). With 12 neighborhood youth centers across the city, MAM seeks to engage and mentor at-risk youth through sports and other programs.
“I was driving home from practice one night after being with the guys for about an hour, and I just started crying,” Brad remembers. “I was convicted of the sin that I had harbored in my heart for 20 years of driving through those neighborhoods and thinking that those people were not worthy of caring for or loving. I confessed my sin right there to God and asked him to give me a love for the boys, and He basically did it overnight. These boys are often disrespectful and refuse to listen to me a lot of times, but I can sincerely say that I love and care for them.”
As Brad spends several hours with the guys each week in practices and games, he has earned their trust. The leagues are year-round with short breaks between seasons, so the team is together week in and week out. The guys know Brad cares, and they share parts of their lives with him.
“At 14 years old they have experienced and seen more than I have even thought about in my 50 years,” Brad shares. “Many of them stay with a different aunt, grandmother, or friend five out of seven nights a week. If I take them home, I may take them to a different home each time I’m with them. It’s just overwhelming.”