User ID: Password:

September 15, 2010

Tech group delivers and receives following visit to Roanoke Rescue Mission

By: Jimmy Robertson

Several members of the football team had dinner at the Roanoke Rescue Mission. Kory Gough (bottom) listened to the stories of those sitting at his table, as he and his teammates delivered a message of hope.

Without question, football team chaplain Johnny Shelton has made an impact on Virginia Tech football since joining the program full time in 2007.

Now, numerous players want to have that same type of impact in other people’s lives.

Before preseason practices kicked off, a Shelton-led group of more than 20 players visited the Roanoke Rescue Mission in nearby Roanoke, Virginia. The Roanoke Rescue Mission is a Christ-centered organization that helps people in southwest Virginia. It provides meals – more than 350,000 of them last year – clothing, shelter (separate men’s and women’s areas), recovery classes, learning classes, counseling and health care, and each person staying overnight in the shelter goes to a chapel service. It receives no government funding and operates through donations from individuals and corporations.

On Aug. 3, the Tech players made the trip to the shelter with Shelton, and each player sat at a different table for the evening dinner to meet with the individuals, to share their stories and to listen.

“Our goal was to sit and talk with them and share with them a message of hope,” Shelton said.

More than 300 people were there on this particular evening. Usually, the rescue mission averages 340 people per night. The numbers have gone up the past couple of years because of the economic downturn, which has resulted in people losing their jobs and homes.

If nothing else, the Tech players provided them with a brief escape from their current situations.

“Going in, I was expecting to see people who were sad and depressed,” David Wilson said. “But once you get to talk to them and know them, they were happy. I don’t know if it was because they were happy to see us, or if they just were determined not to give up because a lot of them were talking about how the shelter was helping them, giving them food and shelter and class, and keeping them on the right track. They were happy to have a place to go.”

Wilson, for all of his 19 years of age, is a veteran of working with and helping those less fortunate. A devout member of both his hometown church and of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he has been to Louisiana to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and he’s also been to South Carolina with FCA and a local church on a mission trip there to repair and rebuild homes.

Wilson, Collin Carroll, Martin Scales and Shelton all spoke at a chapel service following the meal at the shelter. Carroll relayed the story of Abraham, who, along with wife Sarah, waited 100 years before being blessed with their first child, Isaac, only to have God ask Abraham to give Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham nearly did it, but an angel of God stepped in at the last minute and provided a ram for the sacrifice.

“My hope was to encourage them to trust that, even when the situation seems tough or seems bad, God is drawing us closer to him,” Carroll said. “And He’s challenging us to make us stronger.

“It seems like the guys [at the shelter] were appreciative of us coming and bringing hope to their lives by presenting the gospel. Hopefully, we did that. All we can do is plant little seeds. God does the watering, and it’ll be cool to see what fruit God bears among that homeless shelter.”

The visit not only helped those at the Roanoke Rescue Mission, but also benefited the players. They got to see another side of life – one that made them appreciative of what they have.

“I think the homeless people impacted us much more than we impacted them,” Carroll said. “We saw how much we take for granted that we’ve been given, whether it’s the opportunity to play football here or all the resources we’re given. It’s such a huge blessing and we take it for granted. Being around the homeless people really put things in perspective. We’re so blessed and so fortunate. I think it made us more thankful for the blessings we’ve been given.”