Passion on the Court Compassion on the Street
On the court, he may be known as Bethel basketball team’s starting point guard and star player with more than 2,000 career points, but on Friday nights, Ryne Lightfoot (’10) is just Ryne — a guy with a big heart and food to share with people in need.
For more than 1-1/2 years, Ryne has coordinated a group of Bethel students to go out and walk the streets, feeding the homeless and needy near the Transpo bus station in South Bend, Ind. The idea was born during a Bible study when Ryne and his roommates were talking about what it would look like to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. So they collected food and went downtown looking for someone to help.
He admits it’s a step out of his comfort zone. “It has been challenging, I never saw myself doing this, but I like it!” says Ryne.
On a typical Friday night visit, Ryne says they feed about 50-100 people. Students donate food and Ryne has been known to buy bread and meat to make 70-90 sandwiches with the money collected from his Bible study. But he’ll be the first to tell you that this isn’t just about feeding people.
“Everybody has a story to tell and they just want someone to listen,” says the 6-foot-3-inch senior. “The more you go and listen, the more they open up. The main thing is, we want them to feel safe with us and to know we care.”
He says being the constant, reliable food source on Friday nights has helped to build relationships. Willy is one of the first people Ryne met early in the ministry, and their relationship has developed into a friendship. “The first time Willy came to a basketball game, it gave me motivation. Now he comes to every home game.”
Mike Lightfoot, Ryne’s father and Bethel’s head men’s basketball coach, has seen a change in his son. “I hear Ryne say over and over ‘Every person down at the bus stop has a story and it is not our job to judge them, but first show compassion.’”
This compassion has spread to other players on the basketball team too. “Some of our players have made sacrifices of their time to reach out to make a difference. They have built relationships and have shown compassion,” says Coach Lightfoot.
Ryne is graduating this year, but says he plans to “pass the torch” to someone else if he moves out of the area. He wants to always be a part of this ministry that has been so invaluable to him. “I think if we are supposed to live lives like Christ, then we should do ministry like this and do a lot more of it!” says Ryne.
When asked about what he loves more — basketball or these relationships — this superstar athlete doesn’t hesitate with his words. “Basketball is a passion. This [building relationships] is a love. This is something I can continue till I’m old and gray.”