Pastor shoots hoops to save lives in Africa

(photo by Julie Ryherd)
Reverend Kip Ryherd, left, with Mirranda, who helped at Ryherd's free-throw challenge that raised money for Imagine No Malaria.

It was the opportunity to play basketball that brought Reverend Kip Ryherd to church in his youth more than 40 years ago.

Ryherd knew little about the church and little about God. He was a teenager when a church started a youth basketball team that he and his brother decided to check out.

"The church required us to attend three out of four Sundays each month, either Sunday school or a worship service, if we were going to play on their team," Ryherd said. "After basketball season was over the first year, I quit going to the church."

But his older brother kept going and when a family was visiting the church from out of town to sing and share God's word, he asked Kip to come along.

"I went because my brother showed me a picture of the girl that was going to be singing with her family," Ryherd admitted.

But his heart was moved that night as he listened to the music and the simple gospel message.

"I went forward that night and accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior. He changed my life completely," he says.

Today he is a pastor in the United Methodist Church in western Kansas and using his same passion for basketball to save people from malaria.

He embarked on a free throw challenge, asking members of his congregation at Minneola United Methodist Church to guess how many free throws he could make out of 1,000 attempts.

For each guess, they had to donate $10 to Imagine No Malaria. In the end, he successfully made 722 free throws and raised around $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria.

The basketball challenge was actually set by Great Plains Area Bishop Scott Jones. Last February, he challenged pastors across Kansas and Nebraska to join him in shooting free throws for Imagine No Malaria.

Ryherd and Jones had a friendly agreement that whoever had the lower score at the end would buy five nets in honour of the other. Jones made 360 free throws so he bought five nets in Ryherd's honour. He also raised a worthy $1,150 for Imagine No Malaria.

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