This post comes from our newest blogger, Wes Baldwin!
He was listed as one of the top 30 basketball players in the nation out of the 2006 high school class. His name was right there with guys like Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Ty Lawson, Thaddeus Young and several others that were top draft picks in the NBA. But this guy’s path didn’t quite go as planned. His plan of playing for a major college, getting drafted and playing in the NBA turned into spending a year in the Broward County jail in Florida. He had so much talent, so much height and strength, a five star status, but he started breaking team rules, facing frequent game suspensions, and then eventually found himself handcuffed in the back of a police car, after being arrested for possession of cocaine and marijuana. All that talent, all the hype, his scholarship to Florida State, all his dreams……down the drain. But, not so fast, Jon Kreft, says it’s that experience that has shaped him into the man he is today.
Kreft sat in that jail and realized something had to change; he couldn’t let his life amount to nothing. While he was in jail, he got a call from Greg Heiar, who was the head coach at Chipola Junior College, in Marianna, Florida at the time. Heiar told Kreft that Chipola wanted him, but things were going to change. He would be required to check in with the coach daily with no exceptions. He was to attend every single class, take notes, take part in classroom discussions and achieve great grades…..average wouldn’t cut it. He would have absolutely no involvement with drugs, alcohol or any kind of illegal substance. Also, he would do things Heiar’s way on the basketball court. No more showing off, but he would learn how to play team ball, and if he didn’t …..he’d be asked to leave. Kreft jumped at the opportunity and ended up turning around his life at Chipola. Kreft formed a deep connection with Heiar, as he became his accountability partner.
Kreft ended up being a great player at Chipola and a great student. His determination and hard work paid off, as he was offered another scholarship at Florida State, where he has played the last two years as a key player off the bench. Kreft says if it had not been for Greg Heiar believing in him and giving him a second chance, he would probably be back in prison, or possibly even dead.
Kreft’s story reminds me so much of the Apostle Paul’s story told in Acts 9. Paul (Saul at the time) had been living a life of persecuting Christians for their faith. That was before he was blinded by a light on his way to Damascus. His life was turned upside down. He now had a calling from the Lord, to take up the very cause he had been persecuting people. People from both sides now didn’t trust him, Even the disciples didn’t believe he was telling the truth and they were afraid of him. But Saul had a man named Barnabas stand up for him.
Acts 9:27 says: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”
This was the beginning of a powerful mentoring relationship that existed between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas became Paul’s defender, motivator, encourager, and friend. Although, they later had a conflict over who to take with them on a missionary journey, it doesn’t take away from the fact that in a lot of ways, Paul wouldn’t have become the man he did, if God had not placed Barnabas in his life.
Paul and Jon Kreft both had to deal with naysayers. Having to deal with people refer to you as a hypocrite and murderer or a druggie and a waste of talent. Luckily these guys both had men who saw something in them, who invested their lives in these men, didn’t give up on them, and helped these men achieve lives worthy of living.
So ask yourself: Are you someone’s Jon Kreft or Greg Heiar?