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Playing for God's team: Kellens plan basketball show fundraiser for trip to Africa

Candy Kellen shows off her own basketball-spinning skills in husband Gary's office at United Prairie Bank in Worthington. The ball she utilizes was provided by spinning expert Bruce Crevier, who will perform with his family at a fundraiser Saturday for the Kellens' upcoming trip to Africa.(Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Not too long ago, Candy Kellen remembers asking her husband, Gary, if he would ever consider going into ministry and raising money for it.

His answer, at the time, was an emphatic "No."

Nonetheless, through a series of very recent events, the Kellens have embarked upon an effort to share their faith in Africa alongside international evangelist Sammy Wanyonyi, and to do so, they need to raise about $14,000.

"We've known Sammy for about a dozen years, and he point-blank asked us," explained Candy, who works in marketing for a Redwood Falls company.

"We'd been thinking about it for a couple of years," added Gary, market president at United Prairie Bank in Worthington. "We'll be talking on leadership and marriage."

"God's thing was definitely there," Candy said. "I asked Sammy, 'How did you know this was our year to go?' He didn't even know those were our passions."

Wanyonyi is the founder of Shine in the World International Ministries (SWIM), based in Victoria. A native of Kenya, he moved to the U.S. to pursue his ministry calling in 1998.

According to its website, SWIM's purpose is: "We exist to proclaim Jesus Christ to all lost peoples around the world, to mobilize the Church to embrace the Great Commission, and to equip the present and next generation of leaders in their spiritual quest and service to God and society."

The Kellens will be part of Mission Africa, taking place in Huye, Rwanda, in conjunction with the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism.

"When we found out this was all going to happen, we had just two to three weeks, and we needed to raise the funds," explained Candy about how quickly the opportunity arose. "We need about $14,000 to do this -- we can't just pull that out of our hat."

And the Kellens not only needed to raise the money, they wanted to do so in a way that would reach out to their own community. Candy immediately thought of longtime friend Bruce Crevier, a four-time Guinness world record holder for spinning a basketball, who has his own ministry, Champions Forever.

Bruce grew up in rural South Dakota, the 11th of 12 children. He learned to spin a basketball from his older sister, Tanya, and played basketball at the high school and college levels.

"Bruce had to overcome many obstacles to compete in sports," explains the Champions Forever website. "He was the youngest and the smallest of his five older brothers, and what he lacked in talent and size he tried to make up for it by practice and hard work. At 5-foot 9-inches tall, in a sport made for giants, the practice paid off, for in high school, he was able to letter in three sports, and like his four older brothers became a first team all-state football player. He was riding high after high school, and he thought that he would continue with his success.

"Bruce had a goal to play college basketball. So he walked on and made the team at the University of South Dakota his first year, but the second year did not fit into the coaches' plans. At the beginning of his second season, Bruce was cut from the team. The college basketball dream faded, but the hope of making his mark was still there.

"... The inspiration that led Bruce to overcome his faults and inadequacies has motivated him to take the message of how God can make anyone into true champions -- for champions are not born, but rather they are made one positive choice at a time!"

Bruce and his wife, Diane, and their own 12 children now perform what they call a "Spintacular Basketball Show" that incorporates basketballs, unicycles and music.

"It's very family oriented, with a lot of energy and fun and involving the crowd," described Candy, who has seen the show multiple times, including a couple years at the LifeLight Festival in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Creviers live in Elkton, S.D., and were able to fit the Kellens' fundraising idea into their schedule. Bruce will fly in from a basketball camp and meet his family in Sioux Falls to make the short journey to Worthington for Saturday's show.

Candy and Gary expect the Spintacular will help them to raise the rest of what they need for their trip.

"We're about two-thirds there, and that's been in only two and a half weeks," said Candy, adding that they have been blessed by support from their own church, Grace Community in Worthington, as well as the community at large. "We're all part of God's team, and we've been impressed by how all the churches work together to accomplish the same goal."

A week after the basketball show, the Kellens will depart for Africa, where they will spend two and a half weeks. They will "hit the ground running," Candy said, and hope that sharing their own knowledge and talents will help others to discover their personal gifts -- and expand their own faith in the process.

"I'm assuming we're going to see God's work there," reflected Candy. "We've already seen that, with the funds coming in in this short a time, and we've been able to see God's hand in our lives. ... When you have that experience, you can't help but share it. So we can come back and share with others what we saw God do."

The Spintacular Basketball Show will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Worthington Christian School, 1770 Eleanor St. A free-will donation will be taken, and proceeds from concessions will also go toward the Kellens' mission trip to Africa.

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Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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