Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

Former Inmate Finds Redemption Through Basketball

The way Brett Hollins looks at things, the worst thing that happened to him was also the best thing that could’ve happened for him. Back in 2016, Hollins was a 21-year-old reservist with the Marine Corps visiting with some friends at a party on the Southern Oregon University campus when a fight spiraled out of control.

Hollins said, “I really did try to de-escalate it.” At the bottom of the dogpile, Hollins was being kicked in the head and was afraid he would pass out. He grabbed the only thing he thought could help him – a knife in his pocket from an afternoon unboxing furniture—and used it to stab two of the men. Both men recovered from the stabbing, though one was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

The U.S. Marine Corps investigated the incident and concluded that the stabbing had been self-defense. Nevertheless, Hollins was eventually convicted of third-degree assault and served six years in prison.

During his incarceration, he turned to the only activity that regularly provided a sense of joy and focus—basketball. Brett played a season of college ball before his conviction, and he was determined to play it again after his release. When he wasn’t playing the game in the yard, he spent time writing letters to college coaches, trying to pave his own way toward an opportunity on the outside.

Wayne Tinkle was one of those coaches, and he recalled being impressed with the content of Hollins’ letters—the contrition and humility, but also the determination to find a way forward. “I know you’re a man of character,” Tinkle wrote back to Hollins, “and that’s going to take you really far in life. So, don’t let this setback change the way you view yourself.” Tinkle eventually told him that per NCAA regulations, he was too old to play Division I basketball, but he still wanted to help Hollins pursue his dream.

Through Hollins’ steadfast letter-writing campaign and Tinkle’s advocacy, he began getting responses from various college basketball programs. As it turned out, the dream manifested in the very place where his life took such a drastic detour. Hollins is now a 29-year-old senior captain for the Southern Oregon University basketball team, living out a dream that he’s been chasing for close to a decade.

As his senior season winds down, Hollins is filled with gratitude for where he’s been and the possibilities for where he might go next. He said, “If you can find a way to use it to develop your own character, you can see some amazing things come out of terrible situations.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

God will use our places of deepest pain to bring healing and wholeness to ourselves and others. It’s only in sharing honestly about our struggles and mistakes that we can find God’s redemptive power.

Related Sermon Illustrations

Redemption for Bank Robber

Some people might say that having a face tattoo would make you look like a criminal. But in the case of Tyrone Lamont Allen, it was his tattoos that helped pave the way for his freedom. ...

[Read More]

SpaceX Publishes Video Compilation of All its Failures

SpaceX, the California space technology company that has pioneered the science of safely returning used rocket boosters to earth in recent years, recently uploaded a YouTube video ...

[Read More]