“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language” – Henry James
Summer really is a beautiful time. A time of year when one cannot stand to sit indoors a moment longer but must run outside to revel in the warm wind, grin at the sun still shining brilliantly at 8 o’clock at night, and laugh with friends at the freedom that a summer evening brings.
This group of enthusiastic twenty-somethings is no exception to answering the call of summer’s euphoria, and every Tuesday evening you will find them setting and spiking at the volleyball courts located near the center of their Thomasville Apartment complex.
Their excitement doesn’t stem just from the freedom of enjoying a summer evening, however. Instead, they meet to play volleyball with the distinct hope that they will be able to share with their friends the real hope that they have found in having a relationship with God.
It all began four years ago when a small group of Candlewood’s young professionals saw a need for an active summer event where they could invite their friends to come spend an evening with them. Their heart was to create an environment where they could share the love of God with their friends, coworkers, and neighbors at Thomasville. They hit upon the idea of a volleyball tournament which would start in May (once the sand had warmed up enough for bare feet to endure the chilly dampness) and would last through all the hot summer months until mid October. Multiple games would be played each Tuesday evening where as many as fourteen teams of six-plus players would compete each week for a chance at the championship game.
In the years since the initial tournament, many friends and Thomasville neighbors have tried out the volleyball tournament, and often they have found lasting friendships are created on and around the sandy courts. In the games’ excitement, they have seen much exclaiming and cheering, without the expected derogatory trash talk of the other team. Encouragement, even if it is for the other team, is one picture of how God has changed the lives of this group of men and women who have invited them. Other neighbors have seen the love of God as they bring their kids with them. They find that they are able to sit back and enjoy some adult conversation as other CWS men and women throw a Frisbee or join their kids in building sand castles in the far corner of the volleyball courts.
Though it may look like a normal summer volleyball league, the opportunities taken and the words spoken, show that it is anything but. God cares about each one of these people who are diving and jumping in the sand each week, and He is able to show that love through the men and women who are inviting their friends and neighbors to join.
And that is a beautiful thing, just like a summer afternoon.