What happens when a guy with an eye on a pro basketball career suddenly has the rug yanked out from underneath him? God steps in and changes everything.
Corey Bailey was born in Columbia, South Carolina into a military family. A talented basketball player, his spiritual upbringing consisted of church attendance on Easters and Christmases. It was during his senior year in high school that one of Corey’s best friends invited him to a Bible study with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and he became interested. Little did Corey know that God would prepare him and call him to this organization later on. After attending Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Corey worked in retail and began coaching basketball, settling in Greenville, SC with his wife, Jen.
It was in 2012 that God began to change Corey and Jen’s life. While teaching sixth grade history at League Academy, Jen noticed that one of her students, a basketball player named Tae, was struggling. Living with several siblings in an impoverished situation, Tae asked the Baileys if he could stay with them for the summer before starting seventh grade. His mother gave permission for temporary legal guardianship, and after the summer, she consented to the Baileys becoming Tae’s permanent legal guardians. That was not all for their growing family. Their son, Elijah, was born that same year.
The year 2012 had more in store for the Baileys, and what happened next was crushing for Corey. After receiving an exciting offer to play professional basketball overseas, Corey sustained significant injuries to one knee, and then the other. He had no recourse but to admit that his professional career was over. At a loss as to what to do next, he was led to call the pastor of a church they had visited for the first time that day. The pastor at Greenville Church of Christ prayed for him and gave Corey the following Scripture to hold onto:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
This was exactly what Corey needed, and he soon thereafter committed his life to Christ and was baptized. He sums up 2012 this way: “God didn’t want me to play basketball. He wanted me to go through all those great things.”
The family moved to Moore and then Spartanburg to be closer to Corey’s coaching job at Oakbrook Prep, and he changed jobs from retail to insurance. Just this year, Corey has become Oakbrook’s girls’ varsity basketball coach and Jen has completed her eighth year at Connections Academy. The Baileys came to Church at The Mill in 2015 looking for a good children’s program for Elijah and stayed, serving in The Goodtree Café and in Student Ministry for the last two years.
It was the two Church at The Mill mission trips to Montana in 2018 and 2019 that really cemented Corey’s intention to reach people for Christ and spread the love and hope of the Gospel. At a time when the suicide rate was climbing for young people on the reservation, Corey felt God using him in a powerful way. The building of relationships and loving kids caused him to know God was preparing him for “something more” than devoting his life to insurance. Then at META, a student told Corey that even though he was saved, he felt he was being pulled away from God during high school. That touched Corey’s heart and he knew God was calling him into ministry. FCA seemed to be calling.
An international organization founded in 1954 by athlete and Coach Don McClanen, FCA’s mission is to bring the Gospel to coaches and athletes, through coaches first. The objective is to engage, equip and empower coaches to lead athletes to Christ and help them to grow in their own faith. Coaches are trained to develop faith and character in their athletes and do this through meetings and Bible studies.
With a love for both sports and FCA, and after a conversation with Will Pack, the FCA Director for Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties, “it was blatantly clear that I was being called to service with FCA,” Corey shared. Although he remains an Oakbrook coach, he must raise money for his salary and ministry expenses. After that, Corey will become the new director for District Six FCA, building on the foundation laid and legacy left by the late Reid Bowyer.
What happened when God changed Corey’s life? He gave Corey a family, He saved him, He physically moved him, He gave him a new church home, He prepared him, and He has given him an exciting new purpose.
If you would like to become involved in supporting Corey in his journey, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.