The U.S. Census Bureau statistics (2009) report that over 24 million Americans play basketball and over 10 million Americans play volleyball. Did you know basketball and volleyball were invented by instructors at the Young Men’s Christian Association – YMCA ?
James Naismith, a medical doctor and Presbyterian minister, invented the game of basketball at the YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. His colleague, William Morgan, as the physical education director at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, invented volleyball in 1895.
Charles Finney’s 1835 “Revival Lectures” inspired George Williams to found the YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association – in 1844. The Young Men’s Christian Association has grown to a membership of millions in 124 countries.
YMCA Founder George Williams, who died Nov. 6, 1905, wrote: “My life-long experience as a business man, and as a Christian worker among young men, has taught me that the only power in this world that can effectually keep one from sin, in all the varied and often attractive forms … is that which comes from an intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as a present Saviour.”
George Williams continued: “And I can also heartily testify that the safe Guide-Book by which one may be led to Christ is the Bible, the Word of God, which is inspired by the Holy Ghost.”
In Switzerland, Henri Dunant founded the Geneva chapter of the YMCA in 1852, before he founded of the International Red Cross, for which he became the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
During the Civil War, D.L. Moody ministered to soldiers on the battle-lines with the YMCA’s United States Christian Commission. When the the 1871 Great Chicago Fire destroyed Chicago’s YMCA, D.L. Moody raised funds to rebuild it.
Chicago White Stocking baseball star Billy Sunday began attending YMCA meetings in 1886 before beginning his career as a revival preacher.
Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute began a Bible Training school in 1893 to prepare students for Christian ministry. Students helped out at community churches on Sundays; staffed a Humane Society; cared for area sick and needy; and ran a YMCA.
Booker T. Washington spoke at Memorial Hall in Columbus, Ohio, May 24, 1900, as recorded in “The Booker T. Washington Papers,” Vol. 5: 1899-1900, (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1976, p. 543-544): “Dr. Washington began his address after a quartet sang. He spoke of the 91 YMCA Organizations for colored youths; of the 5,000 colored men studying the Bible, and of the 640 Bible students at Tuskegee.”
Booker T. Washington explained: “The Negro who does the shooting is uneducated and without Christian training. … Of all the graduates from Tuskegee Institute only one had been since sentenced to the penitentiary.”
Tuskegee professor George W. Carver wrote to YMCA official Jack Boyd in Denver, March 1, 1927: “Keep your hand in that of the Master, walk daily by His side, so that you may lead others into the realms of true happiness, where a religion of hate, (which poisons both body and soul) will be unknown, having in its place the ‘Golden Rule’ way, which is the ‘Jesus Way’ of life, will reign supreme.”
During World War II, the YMCA printed and distributed prayer books to U.S. soldiers and sailors. On Oct. 24, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson addressed the 70th anniversary of the YMCA: “Christ came into the world to save others, not to save himself; and no man is a true Christian who does not think constantly of how he can lift his brother.”
Woodrow Wilson continued: “I do believe that at 70 the YMCA is just reaching its majority. A dream greater even than George Williams ever dreamed will be realized in the great accumulating momentum of Christian men throughout the world. … These 70 years have just been a running start … now there will be a great rush of Christian principle upon the strongholds of evil and of wrong in the world. Those strongholds are not as strong as they look. … All you have to do is to fight, not with cannon but with light. … That, in my judgment, is what the Young Men’s Christian Association can do. …”
Woodrow Wilson concluded: “Eternal vigilance is the price, not only of liberty, but of a great many other things. … It is the price of one’s own soul. … What shall he give in exchange for his own soul, or any other man’s soul? … There is a text in Scripture. … It says godliness is profitable in this life as well as in the life that is to come. … This world is intended as the place in which we shall show that we know how to grow in the stature of manliness and of righteousness. I have come here to bid Godspeed to the great work of the Young Men’s Christian Association.”
Another organization which made a global impact was Goodwill Industries, founded in 1902 by United Methodist minister Rev. Edgar James Helms.
Rev. Edgar J. Helms stated in an address at the Council of Cities, Baltimore, Maryland, April 26, 1918 (E.J. Helms, “Pioneering in Modern City Missions, Boston, MA: Morgan Memorial Printing Dept., 1927, chp. III. “The Relation of the Church to Industrial Evangelism,” p. 126-7): “If the spirit of God is to dominate the whole social order, then must He be manifest as much in the family and industry and state as He is in the Church. The Church has a greater task of evangelism than to secure individuals who will lift their hands for prayer or sign a card or shake hands with an evangelist. Employer and employee must shake hands in mutual respect and cooperation.
“The era of exploitation and competition between nations and races must end in mutual helpfulness and goodwill. Jesus Christ and His Gospel must permeate industry and every human interest as well as preaching and education. The Church is His divinely appointed agency for this task.”
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