FAITH: Building a foundation

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Editor's note: This article is from the recent "Homefolks: Faith" special section.

In 2018, former Cordova softball standout Emma Hyche, her father Shanon and family friend Chuck Cordell formed Mission 34 — a faith-based operation allowing softball hopefuls throughout North Alabama the opportunity to develop their skills who may not be afforded the opportunity for the training.

While the approach to learning the skills on the field carries a great emphasis with each lesson, the teaching of Jesus Christ throughout each training session carries an equally vital importance for those involved in Mission 34.

"I felt drawn to ministry — whether you see it or not, you can minister in several ways. While I didn't feel I was being called to preach, I did feel I was being called to lead. Young people have always been a passion of mine and the opportunity to work with them was the way to get the door open for us to spread God's word," Shanon said. "Both Emma and I are both faith-based people, and what what we're trying to accomplish is to sharpen these kids with moral values, to be productive citizens and handle adversity later in their lives — all of which Christ's teaching do."

One of Shanon's dearest memories and example of the spiritual effect on the young people he has experienced with Mission 34 was with an underprivileged player who was near quitting her travel ball team due to a lack of equipment.

"She was having to borrow a helmet, bat and glove, all of which of poorer quality and definitely couldn't stand up to the full rigors of a season. We were able to supply her with a helmet and bat, but the glove was a bit of a challenge, but I was intent on getting her the glove she needed," Shanon said. "The next lesson, I was able to give her a good glove — she was in shock and began to tear-up. It was the exact glove than she had looked at previously with her parents but couldn't afford. She asked me, 'How does that happen?' I told that was God working — he can use anything. He's in what you're doing and watching over you. It had me tearing-up too. It's not only affected the kids, it affects us as well. We see kids wanting to lead prayers that's a sign of opening doors — both on the young people and their parents."

Recently, Mission 34 received great news from the City of Cordova that a lot was being donated to the organization that would allow a permanent facility to be built — a 5,000 square foot building that will allow training of pitchers, catchers and hitters in both softball and baseball. The building will be heated and cool, with an area for parents to sit and watch their children during their lessons. The facility will also be used for community-based activities, fellowship and gatherings.

"We didn't think it could be done with as little as we had, but it's another instance of God working it out. We've got folks on board that are helping us and and the word is spreading even further," Shanon said. "We want our facility to represent what's great in our community and what we're all doing to make it better. Hopefully we can be a small part of what gets things moving again in this area and it's been blessing to us to have this opportunity."

Mission 34 also received some assistance with their new facility from Bevill State Community College's Advanced Engineering Design Program on the Sumiton Campus, which took two-dimensional blueprints of the proposed facility and drew it into a three-dimensional model — which will be of great use in submitting for a great to fund the building.

“We can’t thank Bevill State enough for their support on the Mission 34 project. It’s great to have institution like Bevill that is willing to help grow our surrounding community. Special thank you to Matt Bradshaw and the Engineering Design for providing the great illustration," Shanon said. "They did a wonderful job. It will be a great help in securing our funding for the project.”

Bradshaw expressed he and his students' enjoyment of working with Mission 34 and the fulfillment they all felt in helping out.

 “I heard about Mission 34 about a year ago when they first started. I was excited about something like this coming to our area. A few weeks ago, Mission 34 had on social media looking for someone to do some 3D renderings for their new building. A few people had "tagged me" in the post, and I knew right away I wanted to help. This is in my wheelhouse. I am an avid sports fan and I love design. I reached out to Mr. Hyche to see if there was any way my students could participate in creating this 3D model. Of course, being a nonprofit, he asked, 'How much will it cost?' There is nothing cheap about 3D design and what we do here in our program," Bradshaw said. "However, I believe that we are a “community” college, and we should give back to the people that support us any chance we get. I try to find my students at least one community project each year and this came at just the right time. I have enjoyed working with Mission 34, and I can't wait to see it come to fruition.”