HOLTS SUMMIT — It was Bobby and Jane Shows Night at Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit on April 18.
The surprise event produced its share of tears and laughs as friends and colleagues took note of Shows’ “transition” from leadership of the Sports Crusaders, effective Jan. 1, 2008.
Sports Crusaders started when Shows proposed the idea of utilizing sports teams made up of Christian young people to evangelize other young people in the United States and overseas.
The church recreation specialist was already on the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board staff when he pitched the idea to leaders back in 1994. Then-evangelism director Dave Bennett recalled hearing Shows out before he and others gave their blessing — and budget funds — to help the ministry start.
“I heard Bobby coming in every summer and telling us about all the kids who were saved,” Bennett told the audience. “We have this gentle giant as a model or a mentor among us.”
The event itself was a surprise, and it featured a string of surprises for Bobby and Jane Shows.
There was a proclamation from Gov. Matt Blunt and a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol earlier in the day.
There was a video with testimonials from his Mississippi State Bulldogs basketball team of 45 years ago, the one that made history when it defied university authorities to go to Lansing, Mich., and play eventual national champion Loyola University of Chicago, an African-American team, in the NCAA tournament.
That videotape also included greetings from current NCAA commissioner Myles Brand and Southeastern Conference commissioner Paul Atkins.
There was a basketball autographed by every member of the current Mississippi State basketball team, and a new basketball jersey from the school.
There were plaques from churches that Shows had served as church recreation director, including First Baptist Church of Springfield.
There was a heavy book of letters from well-wishers. Sports Crusaders staff member Tricia Alberts presented it to Shows, noting “the thread from the beginning to the end is love....”
The Sports Crusaders board passed a resolution recounting Shows’ founding of Sports Crusaders in 1994, and his incorporating it as a faith-based ministry in 2000.
They announced that the organization’s endowment fund had been renamed the Bobby Shows Common Ground Endowment Fund, and that the Missouri Baptist Foundation would match the first $10,000 in gifts.
The couple received a digital photo frame and gift cards to Roaring River State Park and Bass Pro Shops to enable the couple to take a fishing outing.
Cary Heard, a friend for 39 years and a fellow staff member at Park Hill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, Ark., and First Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., described Shows as “a man whose heart is as big as his body” and a minister with a “clear vision of his calling.”
“He’s an outstanding athlete and a servant of God,” Heard said. “His greatest gift is his love for the Lord.”
Heard said the Shreveport church has named its gymnasium after Shows.
Current Sports Crusaders staff members Alberts, Erin Allman, Randy Curless, Chris Sisk and Becky Uffman each described the impact Sports Crusaders and Shows have had on their lives.
“I’m honored; I’m humbled; and I’ve been embarrassed,” Shows responded with a smile.
He recounted the beginnings of the ministry, especially after it became a faith-based ministry that spent the first year in his basement.
“The future is in your hands,” he said. “And it is going to be even greater.”
Shows said he isn’t retiring but “transitioning.”
“Once a Crusader, always a Crusader,” he said. “I’ll always be there for you.”
The board has begun the search for Shows’ successor.