Profile: Hoopin’ for heaven

Published 3:00pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014

COMING TO ALABASTER

As a student pastor, Rick and his family moved around often.

“Everywhere God put me in my student ministry life, God did amazing things,” he said.

Eventually, the Swings ended up in Mississippi, and Rick and wife Linda decided it was time to build their dream family home. Not surprisingly, soon after the home was finished, Rick received a call from Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, offering him a position.

At first, Rick was determined to turn the opportunity down, but Shades Mountain’s administration was dogged in its pursuit. Finally, Shades Mountain called one last time and asked him to pray about the offer. When he and Linda did so, they felt God’s call to accept the opportunity. The family moved to Vestavia in 1996, and Rick worked at Shades Mountain for 12 years.

Five years ago, Westwood Baptist called and he made the move to the Alabaster church.

Rick, now 56, said his 30-year career in the ministry has been a continuous learning experience — one that has been helped by the discipline and obedience he learned during the years he spent shooting basketballs.

“I certainly see similarities in my faith walk and how difficult that is, and how I became a player that could be drafted into the NBA and how difficult that was,” he said.

Kelly said Rick’s experience dealing with different people and personalities throughout his basketball career has been invaluable to his success in the ministry.

“I think there’s a lot of discipline in being a pastor. It’s very difficult. You have to come up against adversity and criticism,” she said. “You’re around many different kinds of people. I think that’s very important. We’re very proud of him for his success in the ministry.”

His children followed in his footsteps, with daughter Danielle, now 19, playing basketball in high school. Sons Jordan, 22, and Josh, 23, both played college ball. Josh played at Bethel University in Tennessee, while Jordan currently plays for UAB. Danielle is a student at the University of Alabama.

Rick doesn’t spend a lot of time on the court these days, unless it’s with his kids.

“The biggest thing I do now is get out in the driveway with my boys,” he said.

However, he loves going to watch their games, and he and his wife can often be seen in the crowd at UAB’s Bartow Arena.

Kelly said her brother’s relationship with his children is an example for others to follow. She said she’s seen people in the ministry take time for everyone except their families, and Rick works hard to avoid that trap.

“We’ve watched him be around Jordan, Josh and Danielle, and he always makes time for those kids. He’s very involved with his kids,” she said. “It’s so admirable to see that. We want that kind of relationship that he has with his kids.”

Rick remembers what it was like to be a kid himself, and how basketball shaped him even then. One of his favorite memories stems from a Christmas gift.

“The Christmas I got my first pair of Chuck Taylor Converses,” he said. “I was probably 9. I slept in those shoes for a month.”

Another of Rick’s most treasured memories stems from a rite of passage every bourgeoning hoops star goes through.

“I think it was my sophomore year in high school. I was playing on the junior varsity team. About halfway through the year, my coach came to me and handed me a varsity jersey,” Rick said, smiling. “I’ll never forget that moment, and I’ll never forget going home and putting it on.”

But Rick will always have his priorities, and while basketball is a big part of his life, his faith in God is much more important.

“The most important thing about my life is my faith in Christ. God just used the game of basketball in my life to pull me (to the ministry),” Rick said.

 

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