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HIGHER CALLING-Former football coach Leroy Riley moves to a higher playing field

Leroy Riley

Leroy Riley

Leroy Riley, who coached football at Walterboro High School, Colleton County High School, and Colleton Preparatory Academy, has taken on a new role after retiring from a life that revolved around pigskin.

After 24 years of coaching, Riley recently accepted a position as campus pastor for the Lyman-based LifeSong Church in Walterboro.

Riley said that the purpose at LifeSong Church could be summarized in a single statement. He said that both church officials and members want people to know how to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind.

Our purpose is based on our church verse Luke 10:27 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

It is our deepest honor to love people and allow Jesus to use us to be “Missionaries where we live, work, and play.”

Riley said LifeSong Church began as an idea spawned by Pastor Jeff Hickman; many, many years before, LifeSong Church began in a residence in 2006. He noted that a group of about 25 people met in Pastor Jeff’s home in Lyman, South Carolina, praying for the church, which was then unnamed. Lyman is located near Greenville

Since LifeSong’s establishment, the one clear goal of the church is for members to be missionaries where they live all of the time by loving God with heart, soul, strength, and mind, and also treating neighbors as you would treat yourself. With this message as the church’s foundation, LifeSong Church members began to believe God would do extraordinary things to write LifeSong’s story.

LifeSong Church began in its very first location in a building in Lyman that once housed a business. In that space, members launched the new church with their first service on Easter of 2007, with 90 people attending. Over the course of the next year, LifeSong Church merged with Calvary Baptist Church. From that point on, LifeSong Church has seen countless numbers of families enter through their doors.

Riley’s football record while coaching is impressive. In 1997, the Walterboro Bulldogs won the State Championship, and, in 1995, the Bulldogs were State runners-up. In 1990, the Bulldogs had an undefeated season, and the team has claimed five Conference Championships.

Riley said that he has been interested in the ministry for a good while. “It was a slowly-evolving thing. As a Gideon, I went to different churches to talk about our mission. Six years ago, I felt a strong calling to do something besides coaching.”

Gideons International is an evangelical Christian organization, founded in 1899 in Wisconsin. The Gideons’ primary activity is distributing copies of the Bible at no charge. This Bible distribution is a global enterprise that takes place in over 195 countries and in at least 94 languages. The organization is very well known for distributing Bibles to hotels and motels for placement within individual rooms. The Gideons began distributing free Bibles in 1908, when the first Bibles were placed in the rooms of the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana. Over 84 million Bibles were distributed in 2012. Close to two billion have been distributed since 1908.

Riley happened to visit with Jeff Hickman, who played football at Walterboro High School during his junior and senior year, and went into the ministry after graduating from seminary school. “Jeff grew up near Green Pond, and his father ran Hickman’s Store, a general store that was located in a brick building across from the Post Office near the railroad tracks.”

Riley noted that, in January, Jeff Hickman told him he was looking for a place to locate his church, and asked him to “come on board,” As campus pastor, Riley will be working along with Pastor Hickman at the church’s present location at the Colleton Center on Hampton Street. Riley said that, as campus pastor, he will do some preaching, but noted that Jeff will be the head pastor. He added that his main concern at his new church will be in the church’s detail work, such as the organization of the worship services. The first service will be held at the Colleton Center on Sunday, August 25, at 6 p.m.

Riley said that he is happy with his new position. “I’m very excited. LifeSong Church is designed for the people who are not churched, the ones who have gotten away from the church or have never given church a try. We are trying to get them involved, and to let them know that church is the most meaningful experience that they will ever have.”