For Hubert Davis, the road to knowing Jesus Christ as Savior would start by learning from his mother, who faithfully spoke gospel truth into his life from an early age. The road became much harder, however, when his mother passed away from cancer just before Hubert’s junior year of high school.
“I hated Jesus for taking my mom away, and that hatred affected all areas of my life,” Hubert said. “She was a Christian, always talked about Jesus and made us go to church, so I couldn’t understand why he would take her.”
The hatred consumed Hubert for several years until his sophomore year of college, when his roommate, who was not a Christian, unexpectedly encouraged him to visit a church to look for answers to the pain and bitterness he was harboring in his heart.
“I tried out just about every church in town searching for answers,” Hubert recalled. “I heard people saying things about Jesus that my mom always used to say growing up, but I still couldn’t believe a good, loving God could take my mom.”
It wasn’t until the last stop on Hubert’s church tour, as he calls it, that God brought Mike Echstenkamper into Hubert’s life to be the final catalyst for opening up his eyes to the gospel.
Mike, who was on staff with a campus ministry at the University of North Carolina, said he still remembers how nervous he was to approach Hubert, who was a star player on UNC’s basketball team at the time. But Mike couldn’t ignore God nudging him to go over and start a conversation.
“I was fearful walking up to Hubert, questioning why he would want to take time to talk to me,” Mike recalled, “but when we don’t obey and step out, we miss out on opportunities from God to have a major impact on someone’s life.”
Mike didn’t know the circumstances of Hubert’s life or that he had been hoping for several months that someone would reach out to him.
“I never would’ve known that, having never spoken to him,” Mike said. “So often we’re not aware of how God is working and preparing someone’s heart to hear the gospel before we even come into their life.”
Mike invited Hubert to meet for breakfast the next day, and after a couple hours of talking and walking through the gospel in the dining hall, Hubert accepted Christ into his life.
“I’m sure my mom wondered if anything was sticking all those times she quoted Scripture to us and reminded us of God’s truth,” Hubert shared, “but it all stayed with me even if I didn’t understand it. She planted these seeds throughout my childhood; it just took some time, God’s persistence, and Mike’s intentionality for me to believe it myself.”
Now, 30 years later, God continues to bear fruit through Mike and Hubert’s initial discipleship relationship, working through both men to impact students on UNC’s campus—Hubert as an assistant coach with the men’s basketball team and Mike as a leader with Athletes in Action, a campus ministry dedicated to reaching student-athletes.
“Discipleship isn’t always one-on-one,” Mike said of their joint effort in reaching UNC’s student-athletes. “We as believers need to know our role and how to influence others as a team. We don’t know how God will use each of us to reach someone. We just have to believe that God wants to do even more than we do and obey what he is calling us to do.”
Hubert believes without hesitation that his primary job is to share Christ, which takes priority over his job as a coach. His obedience to the Great Commission hasn’t just produced fruit in his players but has also greatly impacted his primary mission field: his family. Mike’s early discipleship and the memory of his mom laying the groundwork for his faith have significantly shaped Hubert’s purposeful approach to discipling his children: “I never know if they hear everything I’m saying, but I know that in time my mother’s words had an eternal impact on me, and that encourages me to continue to remind them of God’s truth.”
Hubert’s consistent intentionality as a father helped lead his son to Christ a couple years ago, and in a beautiful picture of discipleship relationships coming full circle, Mike recently baptized Hubert’s daughter, Gracie, alongside Hubert at the Summit’s Chapel Hill campus, where Mike serves as an elder.
“It was indescribable, having the man who led me
to Christ baptizing my daughter with me,” Hubert said. “I pray my children and the players I coach will have a ‘Mike’ in their life, someone to pour into them and invest in them through a discipleship relationship just as Mike did with me.”
Beginning a discipleship relationship isn’t difficult, but it does require taking a step of faith to be bold and reach out whenever you sense God’s leading.
“We have to show up, step forward, and then trust God,” Mike emphasized. “We have to do our part in faithfully pursuing others, but then we leave the end result to God, who will do more than we can ask or imagine.”
By Abbey Temple