Get To Know Mo's Ministry
by Kasey Hagen
Basketball at Dawson is a tradition that dates back many years. From 6-year-olds to senior citizens, the gym at the FRC has proven itself to be a great place for fun and exercise, as well as a space to share God’s love with our community and minister to others. Little did Mo Finley, Dawson’s new Basketball Director, know how God would bring his love for basketball, along with his special skill set, to Dawson just for that reason.
Family has always been important to Mo. Originally from the small town of Lafayette, Alabama, Mo grew up with his parents, two older sisters, an older brother, and tons of other relatives who lived nearby. Being close to so many family members instilled in him the importance of having and maintaining those relationships. Today, when there’s a special occasion to celebrate, Mo will say, “I just want my people around.” Mo enjoys talking about his family and readily acknowledges the role his parents played in his spiritual journey. They stressed the importance of building his relationship with God and seeking Him through prayer. Now as an adult, Mo can clearly recognize times when God’s provision and protection were on full display. Something that when he sits back and reflects on, he says, “I am amazed.”
Lafayette may be a “small” Alabama town; but when it comes to basketball, it has a massive following. Mo and many of his friends wanted to become college basketball players. Fortunately for him, Mo’s path would lead him to play basketball for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he would complete two B.S. degrees, one in Psychology and another in Social Psychology. UAB would also be the place where Mo would meet his wife, Tamera, outside of Bartow Arena only a few short weeks into his freshman year.
For Mo, getting to play college basketball for UAB was a dream come true in and of itself. However, being able to play in the NCAA Tournament during March Madness and making a last-second shot to defeat the number one ranked Kentucky Wildcats was beyond what he had ever imagined. That “shot” is still remembered today. Just listen in as campers arriving for basketball camp ask excitedly about the winning shot. Even the parents want to talk to Mo about it, and more often than not, they compliment Mo for his memorable character as well.
One parent was overheard saying, “My husband was at UAB with you when you made that shot, he still talks about how you were such a solid person as well as a solid player.”
After college, Mo began a professional career in basketball that sent him to play in Europe. Out of all the places that Mo and Tamera lived while he played overseas, their favorite location was Milan, Italy. “It was like a paid vacation,” says Mo, recognizing that few people get to do what they love while earning a living. “I was very fortunate to do it for so long. Not only was I doing what I loved but I was able to visit many different places and experience many different cultures. It was an opportunity, season, and experience of a lifetime.”
Years later, after competing around the world and working with some of the most talented individuals in the game of basketball, Mo started his own company called One Finley Way Sports (OFW). OFW offers coaching, training, and motivational speaking for both individuals and teams. One Finley Way uses a holistic approach to training. Their mission states that, “While basketball fundamentals, team play, and competitive spirit are an integral part of OFW’s fabric, our purpose also includes fostering the social, mental, and spiritual growth of our players. We believe that the life lessons learned through the game of basketball help develop the strong character, sense of accountability, integrity, and humility that will aid our participants and help them thrive in every arena of life.”
It is through One Finley Way Sports that Mo was introduced to Dawson’s Recreation Ministry. What started out as a need for gym space quickly turned into a partnership that could have only been orchestrated by God. When asked what drew Mo to Dawson he says, “The people. Before I was ever a member of Dawson’s Recreation Staff, I felt connected.
I found myself spending time at the FRC even when I didn’t have to be there. Even though some previous staff members have moved to different positions within Dawson, the feeling that
my purpose and Dawson’s purpose are intertwined still remains strong.”
Mo’s perspective on winning as an athlete and coach might be considered a unique one. He doesn’t like losing, but he also believes that it’s not good to win all the time, especially for young people. He explains, “There's a lesson that you can learn in losing sometimes. It keeps you humble and teaches you that you may not always win at everything in life, but you can always grow from every experience. There is always room to grow. If you’re not careful, the game becomes far more important than building good character.” That is what Mo is after. Helping to build and grow the character of each individual player—including himself.
But if you know Mo, his character extends far outside the basketball court, as he lives by the excellence and integrity that he shows both on and off it. And while Mo has experienced many unique and wonderful things, the biggest and best moment of his life was the birth of his son, Brooks, the moment when his whole life changed. “Prior to his arrival, my wife and I were totally engrossed in our own dreams and our own plans, but once you’re responsible for another human, your own interests quickly go out the window.”
Mo will tell anyone that being a father “may be the toughest job in the history of the world” but it’s his son who inspires him to be the best man he can be and to set the example as a godly father and husband.
In the gym, it’s easy to see why Mo makes such a lasting impact on people. Whether encouraging our own Recreation staff and various members coming through the gym, or just teaching the kids who are there for training, Mo is always looking for ways to uplift others. As he is coaching, Mo continuously talks about how God has given everyone different gifts and he encourages people to find out what those gifts are and then nurture them. The teaching doesn’t stop there. Mo reminds his students, “Once you’ve discovered and nurtured those gifts, use them to the best of your ability to improve the lives of those around you.”
If you don’t know Mo, stop by the FRC and say hello. You will not be able to leave a conversation with him without feeling encouraged and uplifted. He is always seeking to make others laugh, smile, feel like they are seen and heard, and empowered to be the best they can be. That’s part of Mo’s ministry, and we’re so thankful that he’s a part of our team.
Kasey Hagen serves as Dawson's Associate Minister of Recreation. She grew up in Birmingham and graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in Social Work. She has recently completed an MA in Discipleship from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Kasey is passionate about seeing the Gospel multiplied as believers are encouraged and equipped to share with their neighbors and the nations.