David Jeal used to support the Bristol Rovers, his favorite English professional football (soccer) team, with his fists; now he supports them with prayer as their official chaplain. At 10 a.m. on March 24, this British hooligan-turned-pastor will share his story at Sterling College's chapel, held in Culbertson Auditorium. The public is invited to attend free of charge.
In his teens and twenties Jeal was a member of the Young Executives, a hooligan firm that supported the Bristol Rovers. He grew so violent that he was banned from attending the Rovers' games. An angry, resentful young man, Jeal had no focus for his life, but when his mother began working at a homeless shelter, he decided to go along to protect her from those he saw as "junkies and street people." He became interested in one of the other workers at the center, but she was a Christian. When he asked her out for a date, she told him he would have to go to church with her first. Three services later, Jeal felt his heart beginning to soften, and he began his personal journey to Christianity.
Jeal felt called to the ministry and began serving as a pastor at a local church and as a chaplain at a juvenile prison. He continued his support of the Bristol Rovers, attending games and chatting with hooligans about how his life has been changed. In 2007 he was asked to become the Rovers' official team chaplain. He still serves in that capacity, caring for the spiritual needs of the Rovers' staff and using his own transformation to share Christ with others. "At one time I couldn't see a way out," he said. "My life now has been renewed and changed beyond all recognition."