“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29)
The winner of the Academy Awards Best Picture this year was about a little known “ordinary” man named Lionel Logue who served King George VI, the king of England, in a crucial juncture of world history. The movie masterfully shows the growth of relationship between Lionel and “Bertie,” the king. Seeing the film reminded me of my friend, Cali Magallenes, who serves as the chaplain for the New York Mets.
To be a chaplain among major league baseball players is like serving “kings.” In our society, to be a major league baseball player is like being royalty; glorified in the media, players with multi-million dollar contracts can become bigger than life in the eyes of adoring fans.
But Cali knows the other side of the glory as he interacts with players, conducting chapels for both the Mets players when they are home and the visiting team. Last season a player from an opposing team told him, “Cali, you do more than you think you do and it means more to us than you think it does.”
The players respond well to being respected but not fawned over. Cali confesses that he often will not know (or care) who a player is or about his celebrity. For players who are always being asked for autographs by strangers this is refreshing.
Though chapel before games is a key time for Cali to share the word of God, the most significant opportunities to speak into these “kings” lives is when they call him with a problem or issue and ask for counsel or prayer. The players have the same problems as anyone else – depression, life struggles and family issues.
Cali is bilingual. He was born in Mexico and grew up in California. I met him as a 19-year-old Marine Corporal at Kaneohe Bay Marine Base back in 1986. I had the privilege of helping him grow in his faith with The Navigators in Hawaii and gave him a vision for how God wants to use him in his life. Even then there was something about this guy that I knew was special. We invited him into our family and gave him a break from life in the barracks once and a while. Those were special memories with “Chico” (as we called him back then) that we still treasure in our family history.
What I love about the way Cali approaches his chaplain role with the Mets is that he doesn’t play favorites. He sees his ministry to the parking attendant, vendors, security guards and umpires as equally important as his role in the major leaguers’ lives. He sees the “glory in the ordinary.” He will often approach those who work at the stadium and ask them, “How can I be praying for you this week?” He has yet to be turned down on that offer.
When he speaks to the players he often reminds them that God has a greater purpose in their lives than playing baseball. He challenges them that they have two “families”–their biological family and their team family. These men are really bonded together as they travel and go through the ups and downs of a grueling 162 game schedule together. He challenges those who know Christ to be a light for the glory of God in the clubhouse and to use their platform for God’s glory, not their own.
One player I know Cali has had a big impact upon is Mets star outfielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran writes on the Baseball Chapel website about his faith. “It is difficult to play in New York. Every time I take the field I think of my favorite verse–‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). I tell Him, ‘I’m doing this in Your name.’ I don’t worry about so many things, I play to please God and if I have a good game I give the glory to God. If I have a bad game I continue to give Him the honor and glory because He has control over everything.”
Cali is married to Marinelva, whom he met on a Baseball Chapel related trip to the Dominican Republic. They have four sons, Daniel, 6, Samuel, 5, Ishmael, 2 and Gabriel, 7 months. Marinelva has her hands full with four active boys but she supports Cali’s ministry and stays available to the wives of players. Cali also pastors a church in Brooklyn and loves to preach God’s word.
As I reflect on how God has raised up “Chico” to such a place of strategic influence, I am reminded of how God wants to use “ordinary men” like him to make an extraordinary impact. Cali may not be a major leaguer himself but because of his faithfulness he is able to serve many major leaguers and multiply the influence of his life upon their lives and the lives they touch because of the unique platform they have been given.
Serving Before THE King,
Note: Do you have any stories of God’s Glory showing up in the ordinary? I would love to hear them and share them with a larger audience if you would like! Just email me at (JNBohnett@aol.com)
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