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Oklahoma City church hosts Midnight Basketball outreach for area youths

Christ Temple Community Church, 2717 N Kelley, was a favorite Friday night hangout this summer in Oklahoma City because of its popular “Midnight Basketball” outreach.
by Carla Hinton Modified: August 9, 2014 at 10:34 pm •  Published: August 10, 2014

Some youths show up in clusters of three or four, while others arrive alone on Friday nights during the summer.

For many onlookers, the young people’s destination is simply a church parking lot with a couple of basketball goals.

But to die-hard ballers like Jashean Taylor, 14, and Tywon Morton, 12, it’s a blacktop paradise.

“It’s all the kids from the neighborhood coming together to play basketball,” said Morton, a seventh-grader at Douglas High School.

“You get to play with bigger kids, and it’s a better challenge.”

What the teens and preteens might not say, if only because they don’t realize it yet, is that the “Midnight Basketball” outreach at Christ Temple Community Church, 2717 N Kelley, is about more than their beloved sport.

It’s street ball in a sacred space.

Just about a mile from the Governor’s Mansion and adjacent to a convenience store and funeral home, the church’s outdoor basketball area is a place where the “old school” concept of community is alive and well. It’s where preachers, teachers, law enforcement officers and other adults mingle and interact with young people on summer evenings not because they have to — but because they want to.

“The children needed somewhere to go and play and be safe. The church came up with a good idea,” said Marvin Sampson, 56, an Oklahoma County sheriff’s deputy who has helped provide security for the outreach in off-duty capacity.

“It gives them a chance to play without dodging bullets and to have a sense of belonging. It lets them know that someone cares about them.”

Once upon a time, community-minded people treated children in their neighborhood like their own offspring. Children didn’t have to wonder if someone other than their parents cared about them because the elderly grandmother two doors down offered them a dollar or two and maybe a Popsicle every now and then.

Or the older teen who lived next door took the time to show them how to count change or helped them find the school bus stop.

If a child acted out at someone’s home, in school or out in the neighborhood, an adult on the scene would have no qualms about administering swift justice — sometimes just a real good scolding — for the offense. And the child could expect no less once he reached home.

This concept of community comes into play at Christ Temple which has been offering its popular basketball outreach for 15 years, with limited resources but lots of love.

As part of the program run by children’s minister Priscilla Meadows, youths are invited to play basketball from 7 to midnight Friday nights in the summer on a blacktop court that extends from the church’s parking lot. Meadows said the outreach often lasts until 1 a.m. if there is a game not quite finished at midnight.

Older youths play on two basketball goals, while younger children play on a smaller goal nearby. An inflatable moon bounce and activities for the younger children like arts and crafts and easy games also are offered, along with free food such as hot dogs, nachos, bottled water and sports drinks.

On a recent Friday night, children and pre-teens gathered for the ballgames under the watchful eye of Meadows, her brother and Christ Temple’s pastor Krizzo Meadows, and several church volunteers. Krizzo Meadows said he knows something about hooping. He played basketball at Capitol Hill High School and for a short time at Oklahoma City University.

Priscilla Meadows said Midnight Basketball crowds sometimes swell to 150 youths, with the younger children showing up early and the older teens arriving at twilight, when it is typically cooler.

Several church members like David Simms, 64, and Antonette “CiCi” Downing, 28, serve as referees.

As the sun goes down, the competition gets more intense as youths begin to play “for real” and a chance to have bragging rights until the next week.

But church member Bobbie Dailey doesn’t want the young people to forget where they are.

This is, after all, the Lord’s turf.

Prayer in the midst

At dusk, Dailey, 63, announces that it’s prayer time and she has no problem stopping the ball games to get the youths’ attention.

“Hold the ball,” she said, blowing a whistle a few times to emphasize her point.

Before Krizzo Meadows leads the youths in reciting “The Lord’s Prayer,” Dailey asks them to bow their heads, hold hands and form a circle to show reverence to God.

“A lot of young people, if they could exchange places with you, they would, because to come together for fun is a blessing. We want to give God the glory,” she told the youths.

When the games resumed, Dailey said she taught public school for 35 years and now teaches in a private school setting. She said she likes working with the children who flock to Midnight Basketball because she knows they could be somewhere else participating in something less wholesome.

“For some children, this may be the only way they get to know God,” she said. “This is a way to keep them motivated in a spiritual setting. It’s getting them off the street.”

As for stopping the games for prayer, Dailey said the young people expect it by now.

“Prayer is important — it’s the key to the Kingdom,” she said. “It might be the only prayer they hear.”

For church member Simms, the basketball outreach is the latest of his volunteer endeavors since he retired as a construction worker.

Simms paid attention to the young hoopers’ conversations as they played ball, stopping to remind them to keep their words peaceful and not to call each other derogatory names like a racial slur they often hear in popular hip-hop and rap music.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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How to Help

To donate or provide volunteer help for next year’s Midnight Basketball outreach at Christ Temple Community Church, call Priscilla Meadows at 501-0367.

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