I think most of you Iowa bloggers (any maybe even some Minnesotans) know about the fatal shooting of Aplington-Parkersburg Head Football Coach Ed Thomas last week. He was an incredible man, one of Caleb's coaching role models, and outspoken about his faith. Last May, the A-P community was hit with a devatasting tornado that flattened a majority of the town. Thomas was a huge leader in the school and town re-build.
One of Thomas' former players has been charged in the shooting. I heard someone say that as he was being arrested for another crime the week prior to the shooting, he said something about doing the "devil's work." I'm certain this is a situation the devil wants to turn into a hopeless, dark disaster...but I know that the Lord works in the midst of these tragedies to bring life and healing.
The funeral was full of past and current A-P football players, as well as players and coaches from neighboring communities. When someone lives their life for God in the way Coach Thomas did, the devil doesn't have a foothold! People knew what he was about, what he stood for. He was a fantastic coach, but that wasn't where his HOPE came from. I still get overcome with sadness for the A-P athletes and Coach Thomas' family and friends...but this man has set up the framework for greater things to come even as a result of his absence. Because his hope, drive and passion came from an eternal source.
I heard this song (God of This City) on the radio for the first time the day after the shooting. I love Chris Tomlin's lyrics, always, but this song especially caught me. I think it can apply to so many situations...large cities full of poverty and disaster, mission fields with a deep need for Jesus, etc. But Parkersburg has now suffered a natural disaster and the murder of one of their town's "pillars." YET - God has even greater things in their community. I can almost hear Coach Thomas speaking this to his players and community - urging them to believe and engage. You must listen!
As an athlete from a neighboring community, I'm sure I only knew a fraction of what this amazing man stood for. But because his roots were so deep in Christ and his community, I can't help but be driven and inspired by his work and his legacy. A coach, friend, father and grandfather whose life was, perhaps, cut short by earthly standards, but whose ministry will continue far beyond his physical passing.
Sports Illustrated wrote a fantastic article, you can read it here. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all involved in this situation. As a former athlete and a current coach, it has been on my heart constantly.
The June 29 edition of the Waterloo Courier states that there is a sign on I-57 in Parkersburg that reads, "God has a plan for us." - Ed Thomas.
Addendum to this post: My college friend, Alicia, let me know that "God of This City" was not written by Chris Tomlin, but by a band called Blue Tree. Actually, she interviewed them! Read the story behind this impactful song on her blog, Virginia Living. Thanks, Alicia!!