The word crusade is one that is often associated with “war” a type of “holy war” at that. History tells us brave and honorable men went out during “crusades” to reclaim sacred and holy lands in the name of God. A “church sanctioned” campaign if you will.
On July 20th, a “crusade” of sorts is headed for Williamsburg. Y’all already know how I feel about my hometown. It’s a special place. This “crusade” isn’t to conquer enemies, instead it’s intended to restore hope to a region such as ours, that has seen far too much “defeat.”
I met Neal Sears as a 13-year-old seventh-grade student at Williamsburg Independent School. Neal was loud, opinionated, and honestly a bit intimidating. During the fall he sported a football jersey for the big orange, and during any other season, be it basketball, baseball, or anything else in between he was the hype man of WHS. Literally THE hype man. He waved flags, painted his face, beat drums, started chants, he was “that” guy. He even went on band trips and helped tote equipment during competitions. He was a dominant fixture throughout my high school career. If you were “in” his circle, you never called him Neal, it was “Nealbe,” this was exclusively a Williamsburg thing.
After high school all of us sort of scattered. I think that happens in most small towns. Years got lost. I found myself around Nealbe some five or six years into adulthood. Neither of us were in a “good” place physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. The bible states that the wages of sin are death, it goes without saying that each of us were moments away from an untimely end. There was even a span of time where we didn’t care for one another. The endless chaotic pursuit of contentment I think was to blame for that. You see both of us were eating from the same dumpster, and when you’re desperate you’ll fight for scraps.
After any season of sin, comes sudden and mass destruction. I feel confident Nealbe would feel comfortable with me sharing part of his journey, and within that journey was incarceration. Reflecting back, it’s hard for me to even remember my friend in such a peri less and destitute position, but it happened, and it wrecked and ravaged the former hype man of WHS.
But like any good story, there is a happy ending. Today my friend Nealbe is a free man in more ways than one. As he often says on social media as he uplifts and encourages, “God’s good y’all.”
Several years into sobriety, Neal now travels and ministers to those who will listen about the transformation God has made in his life. It’s remarkable. I will never forget seeing him for the first time in ages when he visited my dad’s church a few years back. I’m not sure I’ve hugged someone and cried as hard as I did that day in a long time. My dear friend hasn’t looked back since. He is a force of nature, a raw and unfiltered messenger of deliverance.
He is bringing his “crusade” home next Saturday, July 20th, at Briar Creek Park in Williamsburg. I think about the words honorable and brave that I used earlier to describe the ancient men of battle during historic “holy” wars and I instead see Neal Sears. He is unashamed and bold. Something I think more of us should strive to be.
There are several speakers set to speak at the Kentucky Crusade Picnic which is set to begin at 1:30, all of whom have fought their own battles and won. I feel this event is one the community should not only embrace, but be a part of, if nothing else out of encouragement. There have been far too many casualties in south eastern Kentucky, it’s time to defend and defeat what has been taken.
Take a lawn chair, an open heart, and an open mind to Briar Creek Park next Saturday. The battle may not be over, but there are victories that have been won, and they should celebrated to the fullest.