Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
You probably saw the catch on TV. Or maybe you saw it on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The grab made by New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree may be the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. It certainly was a pivotal moment in the Giants' victory over the New England Patriots. But it was not the most pivotal moment in young David Tyree's life. That would be when Tyree found himself behind bars in a jail cell.
"What looked to be the lowest point in my life ended up being the greatest thing that ever happened to me," Tyree told the New York Times, referring to his 2004 arrest.
Tyree drank and smoked pot from an early age-habits he carried with him into the NFL. In 2004, to pay a $10,000 fine for being late to a team meeting, Tyree decided to sell marijuana-and was arrested. That is when his girlfriend issued an ultimatum: "her lifestyle or his." He began reading a Bible he spotted on her bed.
A month after his arrest, Tyree went to church and listened to a woman singing with joy. He realized he had none. He hung his head and sobbed. "I had no joy. I had no peace," said Tyree. "My life was in disarray."
Now committed to Christ, Tyree's story is "bigger than his Super Bowl catch," he says. "It is about destiny and purpose." He is more concerned with "changing lives," which he and his wife do through an organization called Next in Line, counseling teens.
Caron Butler of the NBA's Washington Wizards has a similar story. He made his first drug deal at age 11 and was in juvenile court 15 times before age 15. Then grace broke down his front door at age 17, when the cops barged in to arrest him for drug possession.
Before that incident, while at a juvenile institution, Caron had decided to clean up his act. He read Bible verses his grandmother sent him. While there, he spied a basketball court outside his window. "God puts stuff in front of you for a reason," he says. He honed his basketball skills, promised to stay out of trouble, and was headed to college before that day the cops broke in to arrest him.
One of the officers, Richard Geller, exercised grace when Butler's mother promised Geller, "If you give Caron a chance on this, you will never look back." Geller felt confident the drugs the police had found were not Butler's and let him go.
"God put his hands on my life," Butler said. "[God] said, ‘I'm going to touch you so that you can touch others.'" Today, Caron uses his NBA success to give back to his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin-with coat drives, bike giveaways, and holding a basketball camp for youth.
"The good that has come out of it has benefited this community a whole lot more than Caron's arrest would have," said Officer Geller.
From being caught by police to being caught by God: These are the kinds of transformations we see every day at BreakPoint and Prison Fellowship. No matter whether you join with Prison Fellowship or reach out through a local jail ministry, you can become a part of God's transforming work among prisoners and their families. As with David Tyree and Caron Butler, it is a transformation that will bless your entire community and perhaps the world.