DADE CITY — Go to any Pasco High game during football season, and you're likely to see Ken Zifer running along the sidelines, trying to get the best shot.
A retired phone company worker who played running back for the Pirates back in the 1960s, Zifer began snapping pictures at the games as part of a spiritual outreach of sorts. Less visible is his pregame ritual: He quietly anoints the goalposts with oil from Israel and prays with the players who wish to be blessed.
"It makes those kids reach another level," said Zifer, 62.
Debbie Allen proudly displays Zifer's picture of her son Brennan, the kicker for Pasco High, on her desk at the San Antonio Credit Union. She said Zifer shows his faith by giving to others: Before the homecoming game, for example, he took pictures of all the seniors and their parents.
"He never charges anything. He does this out of the kindness of his heart," Allen said. "I think it's something he enjoys, and he enjoys giving to others."
Zifer grew up Roman Catholic, then became Baptist, and now finds inspiration in a variety of churches, including the Pentecostal ministry. He said he works "full time for the Lord," and he recently began serving as a minister at the Sumter County Jail in Bushnell.
"I didn't know what the Lord had planned for me," Zifer said of his spiritual journey. "That's what happens when you enter into God's game. These are the things that can take place."
His journey began when "something miraculously happened to me," Zifer said. "God changed my life."
In 1998, his wife lost her purse, full of money from payday. The man who returned it wouldn't take a dime. Instead he invited Zifer and his wife, Cathy, to a church revival at Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Zephyrhills.
The "praise and worship" service was nothing like they had ever seen before. Sounds of drums, guitars and cymbals filled the air as people raised their hands to the ceiling.
But Zifer was troubled: "I didn't feel the Holy Spirit."
So he went home and prayed about it. "I said to God, 'Whatever I'm doing wrong, please change me.' "
The next time he went to the church, he raised his hands, hesitantly at first, but then he couldn't put them down even if he had wanted to.
"From that moment on it's been a wild train ride," he said. "It left a churning in my stomach where the Holy Spirit resides."
Much of his energy the past few years has gone into creating a Christian DVD that he's working hard to share with others, visiting churches and appearing as a guest speaker at various events throughout Pasco. The DVD is based on 40 years of exploration in Florida and his relationship with God.
The coaches, players and parents at Pasco High appreciate his support of the football program. His grandsons played on the junior varsity team: Zachary Zifer is the quarterback; Josh Zifer is a receiver.
"He takes pictures every Friday night and also for parent night," said varsity head coach Tom McHugh, who led the team to the state semifinals last year and the playoffs this year.
"The last six years both (football) programs have done very well," junior varsity head coach Rick Gavin said.
Zifer has been dutifully attending the games for the past seven.
"Faith In Motion" is a series of features about individuals or groups doing something inspiring in the course of a spiritual journey. Ideas are welcomed, via e-mail. Send them to [email protected]