Athletics as a bridge: Mayes helps share gospel through trips to Puerto Rico

Published 7:31 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Contributing Writer

WILMORE — A couple weeks back, when Chandi Mayes’ husband Chad — a girls basketball coach at Boyle County High School and Asbury University, and full-time missionary, husband and father — was on the front lines of one of his many relief mission trips to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Chandi was moved to shoot her husband a text.

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“We had limited contact while he was there (due to poor, at best, cell phone availability), but I knew the volume of people that he was helping,” Chandi Mayes said. “I sent him a text message, and I told him, ‘I am so proud of you.’ Because there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for the man God has placed in my life, and the relationship that we have. And his heart — to just serve and give … I tell you, I learn daily from him.”


Chad Mayes’ story is one of many layers, but it was simple in the beginning.

“My mom (Pat) and dad (Eddie) always instilled in me that we were always a family that wanted to help people,” said Mayes, who’s 49-years-old.

That opened a can of worms.

Initially, it led to Mayes’ desire to be a police officer, which he was for 15 years — first in Lexington, then in his native Harrodsburg and finally with the Kentucky State Police.

Mayes left police work four years ago to devote more time to his missionary work and coach basketball. He’s been a coaching sidekick to Greg Edwards for some 21 years — the better part of the last seven at Boyle County. The two men met years ago when Mayes played basketball at Harrodsburg High School and Edwards was his coach.

In the past two years, Mayes has also assisted Asbury women’s basketball coach Leann Dahlstein.

“I went to UK, and wanted to be a pilot,” Mayes said about the genesis of his career path. “All I got out of that was debt, because I didn’t finish. Plan B was always to be a police officer. There came a point where I needed to wise up, because I wanted to help people. I had a cousin, McKinley, who was a state trooper and had always been a hero to me from afar, so I gravitated towards police work.”


Layers were added in 1999 when Mayes was led to missionary work.

“I had gone through a divorce and found my way back to the Lord,” Mayes said. “I was attending Southside Christian Church in Harrodsburg with my two oldest kids, and a friend of mine said, ‘You need to go on a mission trip. This would be something great for you to do.’”

Mayes saw a slew of road blocks, led by a lack of money, lack of a passport and two kids in the house that needed to be taken care of.

Mayes said his friend got him a scholarship through an area missionary program, got his passport, and got his ex-wife to take care of the kids while he was away.

“We had joint custody of the kids, and there was no animosity there,” Mayes said of his first marriage. “So she could take care of the kids. So after I went through this checklist (of obstacles), my friend said, ‘I can help you, so just come by and see me.’ That set the ball rolling.

“It was a two-week trip to the Dominican Republic, and I remember the Lord speaking to me, telling me, ‘This is something you can do,’” Mayes added. “It really changed my life. I ended up meeting my wife Chandi, and three kids later … It (missionary work) was also something Chandi wanted to do.”

Mayes came back from that first trip on an emotional high.

“I told our pastor at Southside that it had changed my life … that I literally saw the world in a different way,” Mayes said. “He had always had a motto from Acts 1:8, about making disciples and spreading the gospel. His motto was that it is across the street and around the world, and I told him, ‘I see that now.’”

What is Mayes’ motivation for missionary work?

“You go to those places expecting to impact people who have nothing, but you find that people who have nothing impact you. In our American, Western culture, we think we have everything, and so we need to go down there and give people everything we have — all this stuff — and, ‘Let me show you how to do this, and how I can make this better for you?’ When, in all actuality, they have nothing, and when they have nothing, they give each other the best that they have, and that’s themselves. And when you give yourself, then you’re truly giving them Jesus.

“You couldn’t make more of an impact if you gave them a million dollars.”


That experience led Mayes and his wife to immerse themselves in the mission work, all the while coaching high school basketball, and Chandi Mayes worked as a registered nurse.

“I went on a few more trips to the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, and then our mission pastor, Ronnie, said, ‘Chad, I’m tired of setting up these trips for you,’” Mayes said. “If you’re going to lead them, you need to learn how to put them together.’”

That was some 13 years ago.

The trips in those days were designed to provide both emotional support — spreading God’s word — and also relief, helping with food and water, building projects, etc.

Puerto Rico has become a common destination through the years, though Mayes still goes many other places to help. He was in Puerto Rico in October, in fact, and is slated to be in Dominican Republic in November, providing logistical help in getting food and clean water to people with a missionary team Mayes calls the Lync8 Project.


Six years ago Mayes brought his vast background in sports into the mix, primarily through contacts around Asbury, which is some 16 miles from his home in Burgin.

It started with a call from Will Shouse, who’s now the men’s basketball coach at Asbury.

Mayes said that when he was coaching at Harrodsburg High years ago, he met Shouse, who was then playing at Anderson County High School.

“I had known Will as a player, and for years after that, and when he took over here (at Asbury), as the men’s basketball coach, he called me and said, ‘I heard you are leading trips to Puerto Rico,’” Mayes said. “One thing led to another, and he said, ‘Can you put a trip together for me?’

“At that point I had never led an athletic team on a trip, but I said, ‘Yes, we could try it’. Of course, with me being a basketball coach, it was easy for me down (in Puerto Rico) because I knew people there who were basketball coaches, and I knew players down there. I made some calls and said: ‘Hey, would you guys play (Asbury)? And then we can put on some camps for you … you’ll love it.’

“So they went down there and just knocked it out of the park. (Shouse’s Asbury players) were fantastic young men. The Puerto Rico teams loved them and loved Coach Shouse. So they’re like, ‘Do you have any other teams up there?’ And I said, yes, but I don’t really have any connection.’”

At that point, Mayes got a call from JP Rader, the volleyball coach at Asbury, who is now doing missionary work in South Korea.

“I got a phone call from JP and he said, ‘Hey, I’m looking to do a missionary trip, and I heard you guys do a really good job with Coach Shouse,’” Mayes said.

“Coach Shouse and Coach Rader were like, ‘You guys should look into doing this,’” Mayes said, referring to an expanded network of taking sports teams — from Asbury and beyond — on such sports/missionary journeys. “And they started telling some other people. They made mention of me to a couple people at Athletes In Action, and then, before you know it, Athletes In Action contacted me about basketball. We’ve had a running arrangement with them.

“So that’s how this sports just took off.”


Mayes said he’s taken sports team from places as far away as Oregon on such mission/sports trips.

“They’ll go down there and do some community outreach projects,” Mayes said. “They may build a wall, do a sports clinic, of even home remodeling, work on churches, schools … whatever.”

Mayes left police work four years ago, and Chandi Mayes left her nursing job, to devote themselves full time to the cause.

Chad and Chandi Mayes, in fact, lived in Puerto Rico full-time for two years — they still have a base there with missionaries on site year-round — before they decided two years ago that it would be easier logistically to live in Central Kentucky and arrange the trips from here.

Mayes said he still spends 4-5 months a year in Puerto Rico, however, and escorts as many as 18 trips a year with various sports teams.

Chandi Mayes and their three kids at home, ranging in age from 8 to 16, frequently go on such trips with Mayes and the teams, particularly in the summer.

“We challenge the kids to really get to know the Puerto Rican kids,” Mayes said. “It’s about relationships. And there comes a point where they say, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening to me,’ and then they start sharing, and before you know it, the Puerto Rican kids will start sharing, too.

“There’s really not that much difference between the kids, other than an ocean and 2,000 miles,” he added. “Kids are kids no matter where you’re at. They may look a little different, and they may talk different, but they’re still kids, and they still have the same issues.

“So the kids may say, ‘This is what basketball has done or me,’ or ‘In basketball, I was able to do this, and the Lord helped me with it’. That’s how we use athletics as a bridge and avenue to share the gospel. And it can be any sport.”

Mayes said the response is both poignant and immediate.

“I see teams, especially college kids, who are moved to tears,” he said. “They’ll come to me and say, ‘Coach, they don’t have hardly any money, and they don’t have enough food to eat, and they’re spending what little money they have to buy this chicken and give us this chicken, with a little bit of rice.’ And I say, ‘And we’re going to accept it, because that’s what they want to do. This is the way they’re going to bless us.”


Chad and his wife extend their nurturing nature to the kids they work with at home.

“You don’t have to go around the world to get involved,” Mayes said.

They frequently host kids at their home for food and fellowship. And, whether in their house or outside of it, Mayes said he and his wife are not heavy handed about their approach.

“My wife and I don’t go in and say, ‘Alright everybody, come to the table and pull out your Bibles,’” Mayes said. “We do life with these young people. Just this past Sunday, we had a group of 15 college kids over to our house, and we ate, we hung out, laughed and had a good time.

“That’s how you do life with each other,” he added. “Not everywhere do you go, do you have to get the Bible out and start beating people over the head with it. You get to know their life and what their struggles are, and then you can tell them, ‘This is where I was at, and this is where Jesus took me.’

“People are more receptive that way.”


Mayes has made quite an impression on a vast number of people — people close to him now and people who will be close to him, but may not know it yet.

“I’m amazed with all the things he’s been able to accomplish,” said Edwards, the Boyle County girls’ basketball head coach and a close friend of Mayes for 30-plus years. “Just watching him grow as a person, as a player, then as a father, and seeing how his life has progressed and all the things that he’s done. Just the fact that, No. 1, he’s a good basketball coach — he could be a head coach if he wanted — and then all the work he’s done with his missions.

“He’s really good for our program because our girls get to see there’s someone who’s genuine in the beliefs that they have,” Edwards added. “We have a motto in our program: We want to treat everybody like we want to be treated, and Chad puts that into action.”

“What he and his wife have seemingly given up from a world perspective is immeasurable,” said another life-time friend and mission partner, Dan Lewis. “We’ll find out in Heaven. My wife and I invest in their ministry just because we believe in them.

“Millennials have a really strong crap meter when it comes to people of faith,” Lewis added. “They tend to flee from religion, but they are drawn to Chad and Chandi because they are so authentic. They don’t have guile.”


Mayes was asked recently what the future may hold for him.

“It depends on which day you ask me,” he replied. “My wife and I have talked about it. Should I go with basketball? Should I walk away from basketball altogether?

“I coach basketball because I love basketball,” Mayes added. “Don’t get me wrong. And I coach basketball because Greg (Edwards) is like my brother. I don’t have a brother, I have a sister. But if I had a brother, I’d want it to be Greg Edwards. And, with that being said, I coach basketball because it’s an opportunity to be in the lives of young people.”