Collin Smith: Karate, Soccer and Sharing Christ’s Message

This week, the Starting Friday Men’s Group is thrilled to welcome Collin Smith to the (Zoom) stage for an incredible testimony you won’t soon forget. I met Collin a couple months back when he and I randomly volunteered to help out on a habit build in the Grier Heights neighborhood in Charlotte. I was one of those sticky, hot and humid Sunday afternoons. Collin and I were tasked to fix a wooden fence on one side of the home’s backyard. And also to install a steel picket and wire fence along the back of the property. Within minutes, Collin and I were both drenched in sweat!

You learn a lot about someone when you sweat together, I believe. Such was the case in the few hours Collin and I worked on our tasks that afternoon.

Here’s a small sample of his bio and mission focus:

Charlotte Eagles, Neighborhood Coach, Collin Smith

“Born in Houston but I call Charlotte home! I drink coffee like it’s water. I love Isaiah 25. I would rather be outside than inside. I could watch Sahara over and over again.

I had the opportunity to be involved in few different branches of the Eagles during my time as a college student. God used the time spent with the PDL/USL2 teams as well as my time spent in neighborhood ministry to really shape me in meaningful ways. I love the game of soccer and have seen God use it to build relationships and form young people into disciples of Christ. I really believe Charlotte is better off with the work Mission Athletes International (MAI) does and I am excited I get to be a part of it.”

Read more about Collin’s local mission work in Charlotte at this blog:

Join us the Friday over Zoom. No “in-person” meeting this week. Message me if you need the dial information. We’ll start at 7:45 am ET.

See you then!

Eric Reeves: “Living Life Well Under Par”

Very excited to share another one of my friends this week for our brief speaker series. If you only knew Eric Reeves, Director of Golf for Myers Park Country Club, for his “golf prowess”…then you’d be missing out on so much more. In golfing terms, you’d be double-bogeying every hole on the back nine, and you’d certainly “miss the cut”.

Here’s a brief glimpse of his bio:

Reeves family, Charlotte, NC

Eric was born and raised in Macon, Georgia. He grew up playing sports and fell in love with the game of golf at the age of 14. He attended Mercer University on a golf scholarship where he met his wife, Kristen, of 15 years. They have four daughters: Emma (13), Olivia (11), Ella (9), and Madilyn (7).

After college, Eric began his career as a golf professional and has served as the Director of Golf at Myers Park Country Club since June of 2017.

Prior to coming to Myers Park Country Club, Eric was the Head Golf Professional at the Capital City Club – Brookhaven Course in Atlanta, GA for three years. Preceding his tenure at Brookhaven, Eric was the Lead Assistant under Andrew Shuck at Charlotte Country Club from 2012 through 2014. From 2005 to 2012, Eric worked at Healy Point Country Club in Macon, Georgia where he served as Head Golf Professional for five years.

Eric is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, GA where he was an All-American Golfer. During his professional career, he received numerous awards including Assistant Golf Professional of the Year, Assistant Player of the Year, Merchandiser of the Year, and served on the Georgia PGA Section Board.

Please join over Zoom beginning at 7:30 am ET. I’ll open us up at 7:45 am with a word of prayer, then will introduce this week’s guest speaker!


Feature image copyright Edifice General Contractors

Josh Jones: “Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust”

We’re in-between series and again I’m excited to share a couple excellent individuals who will reveal their faith stories with our group.

Eric Reeves will join us NEXT WEEK, so more on him early next week.

THIS WEEK, my good friend, Josh Jones, will share his testimony. Some of you might know Josh as co-owner of Jones & Hedges Custom Home Builders. Others may know him as one of the top fund raisers for the annual 24 Hours of Booty event right here in Charlotte (Myers Park).

*Photography credit: Laurel Belle Photography

Josh and I are frequent running partners….and you learn a lot about someone, especially on those dark mornings, where there are few runners, the cold rain is coming down…and you really just want to “get through it” as quickly as possible so you can get home and take a warm shower. I’ve had a couple mornings with Josh that fit that scenario…with one exception: talking to Josh, hearing his subtle testimony on a run…and you won’t want the run to end. I’m honored to “share” my friend Josh with our men’s group this week. His story is a tear-jerker, as he’ll share the heartbreak of losing their 3-year old daughter, Libby, to leukemia in 2014. His story is also a triumph recognizing God’s plan in all of this….and how he’s continues Libby’s legacy by raising thousands of dollars annually in her honor.

In full transparency, I fell two times during early morning runs in 2019…and both of those times were when I was running alone, just Josh and me! I promise he didn’t push me, however! I just wasn’t watching where I was running on those particular days….I was intently listening to Josh!

Please gather starting at 7:30 am ET over Zoom. You will be receiving the 2021 Zoom recurring meeting series invite later this week. Josh will speak to the group starting at 7:45 am ET.

Have a great week!

Josh and Mike at start of 24 Hours of Booty (July, 2019)

Holiday Guest Speaker: Sarah Verardo on “Enduring Faith as a Battle Buddy”

Last week, NFL veteran and ESPN/SEC Network analyst, Roman Harper, shared his testimony titled, “Family, Football and Faith”. This week, Sarah Verado will close out our 2-part holiday guest speaker series with her special testimony titled, “Enduring Faith as a Battle Buddy“.

Sarah is another personal friend of mine who is the current CEO of The Independence Fund (TIF), a national non-profit organization with its headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The mission of TIF is:

“To empower our severely wounded Veterans and their Caregivers to take control of their lives. (We) provide the resources and tools that enable Veterans to regain their independence, and fight for their ability to sustain it.”

Speaker bio: Sarah Verardo

Sarah Verardo is a national advocate for wounded Veterans and their Caregivers. Her husband Michael was catastrophically wounded in Afghanistan in 2010, in two separate IED attacks that took his left leg, much of his left arm, and left him with polytraumatic conditions that have required more than one hundred surgeries and years of speech, visual, physical and occupational therapies.

Sarah Verardo

Starting as a volunteer with The Independence Fund, Sarah’s steadfast devotion, experience, and drive led to her eventual selection as the organization’s first Chief Executive Officer. Sarah carries on the legacy of The Independence Fund’s founder by continuing the hallmark all terrain track wheelchair program to provide mobility to wounded heroes. She also created the nonprofit’s Caregiver, Family, Adaptive Sports, and Advocacy programs, and recently developed a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs that will combat Veteran suicide through reunions of some of the hardest hit units of the War on Terror. This revolutionary program, Operation RESILIENCY, works with VA and DOD to recall units for peer support, relying on bonds formed during war and keeping the commitment of shared experience and brotherhood alive back home.

Sarah advises Administration officials and members of Congress on the experiences of the families of our severely wounded Veterans and has been instrumental in shaping national policy for our warfighters and their families. Regularly appearing on cable news to commentate on the sacrifice of Veterans and Military families, Sarah is a respected subject matter expert in the field.

Since this is our last gathering for the year, I’m inviting spouses to join us for this week’s program. Sarah’s faith-based testimony is powerful and you’ll want your spouse to join you in this Friday’s program!

Same Zoom info as last week….please ping me if you need those details. As always, gather at 7:30 am ET. I’ll open us in prayer at 7:45 am ET and will then turn the mic over to our guest speaker, Sarah Verardo.

Have a great week!


Holiday Guest Speaker: Roman Harper on “Family, Football and Faith”

We’re currently in-between study series so for the next two Fridays before the holiday break, we’ll have guest speakers:

  • Friday, DEC 11: Roman Harper, former NFL player and current SEC Network analyst
  • Friday, DEC 18: Sarah Verardo, CEO of The Independence Fund

More on Sarah with next week’s reminder email/post.

Speaker bio: Roman Harper

Super Bowl Champion and former NFL Pro Bowl safety Roman Harper signed a multi-year deal to join SEC Network in the summer of 2020, filling the fourth chair on SEC Nation. Harper, an all-SEC performer for the Alabama Crimson Tide, joins host Laura Rutledge and analysts Tim Tebow and Nation newcomer Jordan Rodgers behind the desk. Harper also appears regularly on additional SEC Network studio shows, including SEC Now and The Paul Finebaum Show.

Harper, who spent nine of his 11 NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints, was recently announced as a 2020 inductee into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. The Alabama alum, who was a team captain when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, played with New Orleans from 2006-13 and finished his playing career with the organization in 2016. Harper also spent two seasons (2014-15) with the Carolina Panthers, helping lead the team to Super Bowl 50. As a broadcaster, Harper spent the past two seasons as a Saints analyst with WDSU in New Orleans, worked for Charlotte’s FOX 46 and currently hosts “The Clubhouse Podcast” with Kyle Bailey.

Born was born and raised in Prattville, Ala., he is the founder of Harper’s Hope 4*1 Foundation, which focuses on strengthening families and encouraging children to reach their unlimited potential, regardless of their circumstances. The nonprofit does outreach in the Charlotte and New Orleans communities and throughout the state of Alabama.

Harper lives with his wife and four children in Charlotte, NC.

In full transparency, Roman is a neighbor of mine and since meeting him, I’ve gotten to know him not so much as a great former football player, but rather as an individual with high character, a strong sense of community, and Christian family values. He can also hit a golf ball a country-mile…but that’s another conversation! The video below shows Roman a couple years ago as he was leaning into retirement from the New Orleans Saints and preparing for the next chapter of his life. I know he’ll share some of those decisions and impacts this Friday to our men’s group.

Roman Harper, July 2017

As always, please gather virtually over Zoom starting at 7:30 am ET to “catch up”. I’ll open us in prayer at 7:45 am ET before quickly turning the Zoom microphone over to this week’s guest speaker, Roman Harper.


Featured image copyright: Jeremy Brevard