Slamfest '05- All about souls

Saturday, August 20, 2005

On its surface the annual Slamfest basketball tournament is about sport. But the true aim is something much different than playing basketball.

"This is strictly ministry," said Scott Porter, classifying Slamfest as "a weekend of God." Porter is one of the event's organizers from the House of Prayer church. Together with church members Stafford Moore Jr., Latanya Thomas and church pastor Jo Ann McCauley and others, Porter has kept the tournament going for 14 years.

To set the spirit of the event, Slamfest kicked off Friday night with a gospel concert at Indian Park.

The basketball draws the people in by the thousands. In the first year, 1,500 people came.

"Everybody loves basketball," said Michelle Gary, a Cape Girardeau police officer and gospel rapper who performed Friday night. "The tournament gives us an opportunity to minister to people. It's all about souls."

The tournament was started by the House of Prayer church initially in memory of Michael Nabors, who died in 1992, said Porter. When 2-year-old Tendora Jackson was hit by a car at Indian Park in 1993, the event became a memorial for her as well, and soon grew into a memorial for others in the community who had died.

Few people showed up in the muggy, bug-ridden August air Friday night, but that didn't matter to those who were there. They were at Indian Park for praise and worship.

"We know there's going to be 2,000 or 3,000 people out here tomorrow," said Moore between songs. "But we're out here tonight, giving God praise for protection tomorrow."

Moore helps run the House of Prayer's youth programs, which the tournament proceeds go to benefit. He also raps with a group called The Church Boys, performing in places like Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis.

Moore, along with other performers like his mother Shelly Moore (a.k.a. Simply Shelly) and Gary (a.k.a. Shelly D) performed songs of inspiration.

They told tales of overcoming hardships in life through faith and using that faith to defeat the lures of street life.

"We all have our struggles, but we know we must trust in God," Gary said between songs. "He's going to do it for us."

The small crowd was made mostly of church members, like Gina Shelton and Kim Lane of Cape Girardeau. Throughout the performances they danced with smiles, feeling the good vibe.

Lane said the event was all about celebrating outside in God's creation.

"We're here for Jesus, to be a light in the darkness," said Lane.

Marcus Anthony, a student at Southeast Missouri State University, was at the gospel kick-off to Slamfest for his second year. Anthony said the event attracted him because of its positive message and the cultural diversity displayed through gospel hip-hop and R&B music.

The music was just a warmup. When the thousands come today and Sunday to Indian Park, the House of Prayer will be ready.

"It's not about who wins the tournament," said Stafford Moore. "It's about how many lives we affect this entire weekend."

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