Why EPIC Founder Suddenly Cares About March Madness

Jennifer Willingham

A couple of years ago, I was on a completely full Southwest flight — every seat taken except the middle one next to me. Finally, the last passenger walked in and I felt the Lord nudge me to give this stranger my seat.

“Why should I sacrifice my space and comfort for this stranger, Lord?” I internally prayed. “I did all the things right to make sure I could get a good seat and you want me to give it up to this guy so I can be wedged in between two strangers on a four-hour flight? Don’t you know I need time to think about all the stuff that just happened and maybe rest a bit?”

The legalistic, me-first attitude above almost drowns me with shame as I write it.

Despite my inner protests, I complied. “Hi. Do you want this seat?” I gestured to the really tall man who was going to find it no easy feat to wedge himself into any airplane seat.

“Thank you, that was so kind,” said the stranger, settling himself in his seat. As if I needed to re-assign the credit, I blurted out, “This may sound crazy, but the Lord told me to give you my seat.”

A huge smile spread across the handsome stranger’s face and he laughed. “I understand it more than you know.”

With that, a friendship developed over the flight home. The man was former basketball pro turned coach Roger Powell Jr. He had been let go from a position as a coach at Vanderbilt, along with almost the entire staff, and had just been interviewing at Gonzaga.

Not being a basketball fan, it was lost on me the opportunity Roger had at Gonzaga, but I was impressed with his desire to be sure that this move was the Lord’s will for his life.

I felt he was torn between launching on his own, either in ministry or as a head coach somewhere, and the assistant coaching position at Gonzaga. I reasoned, not because of any basketball insight I had but only what I felt the Holy Spirit imparted to me, that time at Gonzaga might provide a larger platform. I went on to relay how Tony Dungy’s ministry now wouldn’t have been the same had he never coached the Colts and I saw Roger’s wheels turning.

We’ve stayed in touch over the last few years and I’ve loved seeing his family continue to grow and his time at Gonzaga be successful. Recently, Roger wrote that our conversation on the plane was just the tip of the iceberg in what the Lord was doing in his life.

Tonight, Gonzaga plays Baylor for the NCAA championship, in search of an undefeated season. I’m rooting for Roger Powell Jr. and I’m glad I followed the Lord’s prompting a few years back.

I’m grateful the Lord uses me in all the ways He sees fit, even when it’s uncomfortable and I don’t go along graciously. What’s the Lord prompting you to do today?