Bump, Set, Speak!

Volleyball expert has won 13,140 games out of 13,380, by himself.
by Lee Warren

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about a one-man volleyball team? Probably the same thoughts that the Miami Dolphins, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Washington Redskins, the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Bluejays had before he beat them in exhibition matches. In fact, as a one-man volleyball team, Bob Holmes has won 13,140 of the 13,380 games that he's played since 1986 when he started traveling the country playing in exhibitions.

But, Holmes is convinced that his won-loss record is not due to his talent, but rather to a burden God gave him to tell people that Jesus Christ died for their sins. "I tell everyone that only Christ could give me the strength to play four to five hours a day covering the entire court," Holmes said.

Holmes didn't play volleyball in high school or college. He just began playing as a way to stay in shape while he was traveling as an evangelist. He came up with "the one man volleyball team" idea as a way to illustrate that people can beat the odds in their own lives just as he was doing on the court. The Lord began opening up school assemblies to him as he traveled across the country.

During the assemblies, he plays a girl's team, a boy's team and finally, the crowd favorite, the faculty team. Principles and teachers often tell him that his games against the faculty really help to build the school spirit. Following the volleyball exhibition, he challenges students with the following three points:

1) Don't quit. Don't quit school and don't quit life. He tells students about a boy who approached him one day after an assembly. The boy revealed self-inflicted cuts on his arm from a recent attempted suicide and he told Holmes that his message on beating the odds challenged him not to give up.

2) Look ahead. "A boy came to me in New Hampshire and was dying with aids and said that he only had a few months left on the earth. He said, 'Bob keep going and make them listen, the rock singers sung to me about sex, but never told me I would end up like this.' I only had (played) fifty games when I met that boy. I promised him I would go as long as I could play, little did I ever know that I would have over 13,000 games," Holmes said.

3) Beat the peer pressure. Holmes wants to "offer help and encouragement as people fight the peer pressure exerted on them to abuse sex, drugs, and alcohol." By speaking to as many as nine schools a week, followed by his Wednesday night community outreach each week, he is doing just that.

Holmes works with local churches on Wednesday evenings to invite the entire community to watch his volleyball exhibition matches against local (professional or college) sports teams, local fire and police departments, and various other community organizations. Sometimes, he plays as many as nine teams in one night. Afterward, he preaches the gospel. "I am seeing over fifteen hundred (people) coming out the final night and many people coming forward (for salvation). In Pittsburgh recently, I prayed with over three hundred people who stood by me for salvation."

People of all ages are attending these community events on Wednesday nights and in the process, many of them are realizing their need for a Savior for the first time in their lives. Holmes works closely with local churches to make sure that those who respond to his message are plugged into a church right away.

Holmes was fifteen years old when he realized his own need for a Savior at a church camp that a friend invited him to. He remembers a speaker at the camp reading Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that lead to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which lead unto life, and few there be that find it." Holmes realized for the first time in his life that he was on the "broad" road that leads to destruction and he called out to Jesus Christ to save him.

Shortly thereafter, he felt the Lord calling him into full time evangelism, so he attended the Word of Life Bible Institute (Schroon Lake, NY) and Tennessee Temple University.

Looking back, Holmes is amazed at how God has used such a simple thing like the game of volleyball to glorify Himself. But he points to 1 Corinthians 1:27, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty".

Some may wonder why Holmes never attempted to play volleyball on a higher level. Holmes remembers playing an exhibition match at Penn State University several years ago when a couple of Olympic volleyball players approached him and said, "You could make the Olympic team the way you cover the entire court." But Holmes said, "My message is more important than Olympic tryouts, I will just continue to do my exhibition to reach people with the message." He's known all along that God called him to be an evangelist and that volleyball is just a tool that God gave him to preach the gospel. He also knew that there was no "higher level" than the one God called him to.

In essence, what Holmes is doing is taking the gospel to the streets. In an age where believers are hoping that the unchurched will just show up for church on Sunday morning, Holmes is using the game of volleyball to help live out the prayer of Jesus in John 17:18, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."

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