They were still clearing puddles of water off the rain soaked court when the basketball team pulled up to play in the town of Baltaraga, Palawan Island, Philippines. The town had no electricity that night but officials had secured a generator to run the string of lights above the court to guarantee the game could go on. As people gathered to watch the game so did these strange black stick bugs which swarmed over the south half of the court.
Six’ nine” Bobby Jones
The coach, Tom Randall, sent his starting five to the court that included six’ nine” Bobby Jones and the crowd immediately started to smile, clap and bounce around with anticipation. Bobby Jones was an eleven year veteran of the NBA, eight times on the NBA All-Defensive Team (only Jordan and Pippen have eight to tie with Bobby), winning the NBA championship with Philadelphia with Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Mo Cheeks, Andrew Toney, etc.
How Tom Randall got an NBA champion player to Palawan to minister using basketball has only one explanation! That is Jesus! Bobby Jones brought his son, Eric, who played at the University of North Carolina because they love Jesus and wanted to serve Him using their basketball abilities.
Well, the bugs continued to swarm and drop like loud rain on the players and the court during the first half as Bobby swatted shots and bugs then shot jumper after jumper swishing a dozen shots to the crowd’s joy and amazement !
At time-outs Tom picked the stinky black bugs off the players’ uniforms and used stick brooms to sweep the black bugs off the court gathering them in piles at the end line.
As players tread on the falling bugs the smelly squishing made for sliding, slippery conditions on the already wet court. In this age where there are often ill tempered, spoiled, and selfish athletes under the best playing and paying conditions, Tom had this team of Christian athletes sliding around spitting bugs! This was the team’s third game of the day, they had paid their own way to come, and were doing it with a child’s pure joy!
At half-time 16 year old Jeremy joined Tom
At half-time 16 year old Jeremy joined Tom as they juggled basketballs back and forth while the bugs kept falling like black snow.
Jeremy had seen my show when I was near his home area and our dream of doing the show together in the Philippines was now a reality because he prayed, practiced, and even improved my tricks and then came to the Philippines! While riding the tall unicycle and pumping furiously to keep balanced on the slippery court, Tom’s breathing became quicker and stronger as he sucked for air. Suddenly, one of those irritating black stinky bugs passed right through Tom’s big space between his front teeth! Yuck!
But the show must go on and soon we were singing and giving our testimonies before offering the opportunity to receive the free Bible study and Gospel of John. The crowd was able to sign up for this correspondence course on the back of the brochure handed out at the game. Several hundred people signed up and handed their names and addresses to the players.
A plague of millions of black stinky bugs
The game was called after the half-time because of the bugs. For the first time in the 2,587 games Tom played over the 24 years the game was called because of a plague of millions of black stinky bugs! Not a volcano, typhoon, ambush, or gunfire but big black stinky bugs swarming the place!
But whether is was Jeremy, a freshman in high school, or Bobby Jones, an NBA Champion, we found joy in serving Jesus in town after town finishing with 3,500 Filipino people responding to begin Bible study and to read the Word of God in their own dialect. We were believing all things to all men that by all means in all places using all ages and backgrounds in all circumstances that we might share Christ!