Tony’s family moved to Buffalo and joined Zion when he was five years old. He followed the lead of his parents and two older brothers, getting involved with a variety of ministries including Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, confirmation, middle and high school youth groups, mission trips, ushering alongside his dad, playing trombone in the brass ensemble, working at Zion Day Camp, serving donuts at coffee fellowship, and playing handbells.
Zion has been an integral part to my whole life, and I want to use the gifts God gave me to make it an even better place. Whether it’s someone from youth group, to ushering, to being in softball, I have been able to meet amazing people of so many ages as well as so many walks of life that I typically wouldn’t have met. When I am at Zion, I feel like everyone truly cares for one another….even with a lot of members it still has that small church feel.
Tony’s favorite Bible verse is his confirmation verse, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14:
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
I remember finding this at a Bible camp when I was in middle school and it kind of just stuck with me through the years. It’s simple but still very powerful. It reminds me to stand strong in my faith, especially in today’s society, that is important. It also reminds me to do everything with love, and I will admit, I don’t always do that. But because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, I am able to ask for forgiveness when I do fall short, and I can make the changes I need to be a better follower of Jesus Christ.
A favorite memory was the senior high local “Buffeapolis” mission trip in 2011
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the work we did when we traveled out of state for our mission work, but to be able to stay home and see the difference we could make in our own community was powerful. From visiting the nursing homes, to packing food for the food shelf, knowing that what we were doing could possibly help someone I knew made it so much more worthwhile. There are so many people who need our help in our community, and seeing Zion lead so many wonderful ministries that benefit the Buffalo area, is uplifting and incredible.
Myron Crawford was Zion’s youth director during Tony’s high school years, and made a big impact on Tony’s faith life.
He made Zion such an inviting place for me and so many middle and high schoolers, and had an amazing ability to be able to connect with each of us on both a personal level, as well as a spiritual level. He was always someone I could turn to when I just needed someone to talk to, and he never passed judgement on anyone. I don’t know if I can ever thank him enough…he made me a better Christian.
Tony works as a special education teacher at an elementary school in Elk River, where he recently bought his first house. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, sports, and hanging out with friends. He also umpires youth and high school baseball and softball, and referees youth and high school basketball. On Friday nights during the summer he plays on Zion’s team in the Churches for Christ Softball League.
I remember when I was little, growing up, we’d go every Friday to watch my dad play on the Zion softball team. So once I was old enough to play myself I signed up. I grew up playing baseball throughout high school, but decided continuing baseball wasn’t in the cards so softball was a good alternative. It’s a very laid back and fun league, but is still competitive enough. It’s not like your typical bar league softball team. We have guys of all ability levels and it’s our goal to make it a family friendly game. That means no swearing, no alcohol…just a night of fellowship and fun. After the game, we shake hands and then gather in a prayer around home plate. It doesn’t matter the denomination of the churches, or our individual beliefs, we all gather together for a prayer before we go on our way…truly a cool moment.
Zion is such a huge church, it’s impossible to meet everyone, so by being on this team I am able to meet people I wouldn’t typically get the chance to spend time with. I think having a softball team gives people a different way to be involved at church. Some people maybe don’t feel comfortable serving as an usher, greeter or reader, but being a part of a softball team can help them feel more comfortable with serving in other aspects of the church.
Church league games continue on Friday nights through July 31 at Bentfield Mills Park (behind Target), and spectators are welcome.