Tuesday, August 09, 2022

William Morgan, Missionary Inventor of Volley Ball


By Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird

-an article in the Engage Light Magazine

Being made in our Creator’s image, is it any surprise that Christians keep creatively inventing? Few people know that two of the most popular sports, basketball and volleyball, were both invented by Christian missionaries in the 1890s as evangelistic sports?  Many of us first learned to play volleyball during our school gym class.  Who might have imagined that 127 years later, over 46 million North Americans and 800 million people globally would now participate in volleyball? Some estimate that volleyball has become the most popular team sport in the world.

Born in 1870 at Lockport, New York, William G. Morgan loved working at his father's boat yard on the banks of the Old Erie Canal. Like many young men, he wanted to be just like his dad. So at age 14, he initially ran away from home to work on a canal boat.  At age 15, William actually dropped out of school because he felt awkward about being larger than most of his classmates.  His godly mother, seeing his academic gifting, had him apply to the famous evangelist Dwight L. Moody’s Mount Hermon School.  A local pastor, R. Norton, supported Will’s application, stating, “He is very thoughtful and interested in spiritual things. He is very reliable and has much symmetry of character.” Willam’s Sunday School teacher wrote this endorsement of the Morgan family:

His mother is a remarkable woman. A devout Christian, a “main stay” in her Church; calm, quiet, dignified in her bearing, she purchases ably and shows great executive ability earnestly and most devoutly does she work and pray for the good of young people of East Lockport. Respectfully, L. F. Helmer (Mrs. J. S.)

William’s initial application sadly was not accepted.  Fortunately, his persistent Sunday School teacher sent a second endorsement letter, saying,

I simply write to ask attention to it, as his call is critical. If Will is not accepted now, for term beginning in Feb., there is great reason to fear he will never go to school again. Not from his wish, but from circumstances….A thoroughly established Christian, inheriting from his mother superior qualities of mind and heart, he is well worth polishing for his Master’s use. I beg your attention to his application. Respectfully, Mrs. J. S. Helmer.

Within a week, Will was accepted into Mount Hermon, where he had a steady diet of bible, academics, music, and sports.  While singing on evangelistic tours, he fell into love with the pianist, Mary King Caldwell, his future wife.  Football became his passion.  When the Mount Hermon football team held its own against the superstar YMCA Springfield team, William was recruited four days later by the Springfield Coach Dr. James Naismith.  Springfield College was part of the muscular Christianity movement, creating such a strong football team that they defeated the best of the University teams, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

After Dr. Naismith received a nasty concussion, he invented a kinder, more Christian sport, basketball.  William Morgan, who was mentored by Dr. Naismith, became the YMCA physical education director in Holyoke, Massachusetts. There, he noticed that basketball was too rigorous for middle-aged business people. So in 1895, he invented volleyball, as a gentler spinoff from basketball.  As a non-contact sport, there were far fewer bloody noses. It was a clear example of iron sharpening iron. In creating volleyball, William adapted ideas from handball, baseball, tennis, and badminton. His desire was to invent a new game which everyone could play, regardless of their age or physical ability.  Initially he called it Mintonette. Fortunately, he wisely listened to Professor Alfred Halstead’s advice to rename it as Volleyball.  Needing a lighter ball than a basketball, he asked A.G. Spalding to create one.  Writing the original rules for volleyball, William printed them in the first edition of the Official Handbook of the Athletic League of the Young Men’s Christian Associations of North America (1897). William Morgan left his job at the YMCA in 1897 to work for General Electric and Westinghouse.  Even though no longer a YMCA missionary, William said that he was "content in the knowledge that the (volleyball) game brought a richer life to millions of people throughout the world."

in 1900 Canada became the first country outside of the USA to adopt the game. YMCA missionaries quickly introduced Volleyball to missionary schools in Asia.  It became so popular that it was played in the Oriental Games as early as 1913.  Once again, it was YMCA missionaries who ministered to the body, mind and spirit through volleyball: Hyozo Omori and Franklin Brown in Japan (1908), Elwood S. Brown in the Philippines (1910), J. Howard Crocker in China, and Dr. J.H. Gray in Burma, China & India. Volleyball, like basketball, was truly a missionary sport with global impact.  In the early YMCA, founded by the evangelist Sir George Williams, they didn’t just play sports.  Before each game, they would have a time of Christ-centered bible study and prayer with the sports team.

Volleyball caught on in Russia through the YMCA. When the YMCA were kicked out in 1927 of Russia for being capitalist and religious, volleyball however was allowed to remain. Russia eventually became the dominant team globally.  During WWI, the USA troops brought volleyball to Europe.  Volleyball was first demonstrated in the 1924 Parish Olympics, but not added as an official Olympic sport until 1964. Beach volleyball did not get accepted in the Olympics until 1996.

We thank God for William Morgan, an amazingly creative missionary, who left us with a healthy, non-violent sport that has impacted the world.

Rev. Dr. Ed & Janice Hird, co-author of God’s Firestarters 


Wednesday, August 03, 2022

ANOTHER WAY by Eleanor Shepherd

          Emerging from the global pandemic, I am appalled at the level of aggression I observe in public discourse. I must admit though, it has not taken me by surprize.  
Glen, and I went to a movie a few years ago. During the previews, before the movie started, I was disturbed to note the number of new movies coming out that were characterized by violence.  

That evening, perplexed by the previews, I thought, “I wonder where is all this violence is coming from and where is it taking us.”  

Perhaps I am now finding out. We are emerging from the isolation and frustration of the global pandemic and don’t know what to do with the emotions being stirred up in us; emotions generated by the experiences created during a violent interruption to normal routines.

Already unbalanced by this, we are being thrust headlong into an uncertain future where all the goalposts have shifted. Serious questions come at us about topics that include all sorts of unheard-of questions about our sexuality, about racial injustice in so many parts of the world and about historic decisions made by, or creating consequences for, us and our ancestors. These pressing questions linked with current economic and social anxieties create strong emotional responses.  

In the confusion, we grasp desperately for some answers or resolutions to our unsolvable problems. Panic leaves us looking for scapegoats. We search desperately for an easy fix to ease our emotional pain.  

Political leaders, scientists, pollsters, government officials, religious leaders, as well as interest groups on both the left and the right politically, offer opinions and sometimes quick solutions. They state their views aggressively with the certainty that they are right and all others are in error. The result manufactures greater tension without resolution. 

In the contradictory rhetoric, we hear the offer of simple, certain and cost-free solutions popping up. Then, we realize few people have taken the time and effort to seriously consider all the aspects of these problems. Has anyone focused attention on figuring out any reasonable ways we might find a compromise or attempted to consider the merits of another point of view.  

Media giants place their bets on what appears as a popular viewpoint and amass all the evidence available to support that position. It is out of the question to consider positives as well as negatives of a contrary view. The dominating fear is having to live with ambiguity, and admit we do not have all the answers.  

I wonder if this reflects what the polls tell us. Many have jettisoned long held faith. Did they think all the questions would be answered by the technology we were developing? Ironically questions push much scientific research. Many life-giving solutions continue to be discovered, on the way by, as scientists seek answers to logical questions. Have we given up too easily on the serious issues that challenge our faith? 

What we, as people of faith, sometimes fail to realize is questions can nurture our growth and lead us into deeper spiritual knowledge and understanding. We need not resort to easy answers. Why do we assume that what always was is the way things must always be?


         As we ask ourselves and each other tough questions about how we are to live today, we grapple with the hard issuesTogether we seek real answers and create a solid base on which we rebuild our lives. That security can afford us patience to work through unanswered questions. With the accompanying courage we learn to accept and live with ambiguity. Only One knows everything. That is God, whom we ultimately trust 

His presence, with us and in us, is enough. Trusting Him, we have no need to resort to name calling or to see those who think differently as demonic opponents. Jesus demonstrated that God alone can give us the ability to offer sufficient love in our interactions with others to open doors for dialogue.  

Monday, July 11, 2022

Genesis 18 meditation



Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. - Genesis 18:4 NRSV

On a hot summer day, we loved nothing more than to play under the canopy of our walnut trees on the lawn. We strung twine from one tree to another, draped blankets over the sturdy line and likely secured them using our mother’s clothespins. There was a place we could play, imagine and relax.

We also planned to camp out there overnight. We tried to, but darkness, strange night sounds, and I suppose some fear of who might visit us in there had us scurrying back into the house. Mom and Dad knew us better than we knew ourselves. After all they were our protectors.

I don’t suppose that as five-, six-, or even eight-year-olds that we understood the complexity of a tree or its many forms of usefulness, but Dad must have taken it as a goal to teach us all he could. A place for shade on a hot summer day, which he also appreciated, and a place to hang our first swing.

We climbed trees, picked fruit from the orchard, and gathered at least a thousand walnuts that dropped on the lawn from the mature walnut trees. Our little Christmas trees came from our bush lot at the back of the farm. I don’t know how Dad did it, but he cut the top of a pine or spruce and dragged it home Christmas Eve to be decorated.

 In a special effort to honour those memories, our family provided white pine seedlings to people who attended our father’s memorial service in May 2016. I brought one seedling home; it was so tiny it sat in my hand.  


I had never grown a tree before, so this was a new experience. After planting the tiny seedling in a pot, I left it on the picnic table overnight. A squirrel, or some other critter, upended it, but all was not lost. The seedling needed more protection, and so we set it in the ground, and my husband made a wire cage to set around it as protection. We made sure the seedling got plenty of water in those first days. And it grew slowly and steadily over the next five years.



 A year ago, I inquired within our family who would like Harry’s tree — or Dad’s tree — for their property. It had grown to three feet and needed more room to grow. No one had just the right space for it to grow and thrive.

Earlier this year, my friend Doris wondered if my first home church cemetery would be a good place—where Mom’s and Dad’s ashes, and now my brother’s too, are buried.

The council members accepted the gift and prepared a place for it to be planted. While our little spruce is not a shade tree, it is now settled along the perimeter of that cemetery to beautify that sacred space. Dad would be pleased. I think the Creator might be as well.



When you wonder at creation and how it was so perfectly made, does it build in you the desire to protect and care for it? It does for me.


Carolyn Wilker, author and editor from southwestern Ontario.











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