'Life-changing assemblies:' Fields of Faith rally draws nearly 900 teens, adults to hear testimony from professional athlete, students

Sunday, October 14, 2012
Charity Butler, a former professional fast-pitch softball player, speaks during the Fields of Faith event Wednesday at Jackson High School stadium. (ADAM VOGLER)

Almost 900 middle school through college-aged students and adults attended the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Fields of Faith event Wednesday night at the Jackson High School stadium.

Started in 2004, Fields of Faith is a student led, interdenominational rally where students, coaches, youth pastors and other adults gather to share in worship, hear testimonies and scripture verses, and pray. This year 370 events were scheduled to be held in 37 states.

On Wednesday, students from Jackson High School, Cape Girardeau Central High School, Saxony Lutheran High School, Notre Dame Regional High School and Southeast Missouri State University shared their stories and favorite scriptures. The praise and worship band from La Croix United Methodist Church led the crowd in song.

Bill Ray, area director of FCA huddles, said "it takes churches working together in an area to put on this type of event." He described it as a way "the body of Christ will make a difference in our schools and communities."

"We will have this every year to reach the young people in this area," Ray said.

This was the second year Cape Girardeau County has hosted Fields of Faith. It was also the second time the local rally was held in conjunction with Sports World Ministries, an internationally known not-for-profit outreach organization based in Indianapolis.

Started in 1978 by former NFL chaplain Dr. Ira Lee Eshelman, Sports World Ministries uses professional athletes to share primarily with students the value in making positive choices. It's motto: "You're not born a winner; you're not born a loser; you're born a chooser."

The athletes share with the students that although their lives may look easy, there were and continue to be choices that have to be made. Students are told they have to make the right choices along the way. They also share a faith-centered message of hope.

Bob and Bonnie Nations of Cape Girardeau have been involved with Sports World Ministries for 27 years as volunteers.

"These are life-changing assemblies," Bonnie Nations said. "If you can reach one child who thinks things are hopeless and give them hope, it is worth it."

This year's guest speaker from Sports World Ministries was Charity Butler, a former professional fast-pitch softball player.

Having played softball for about 24 years, Butler is now retired from playing professionally and has her own company, Exceeds Sports. She's worked with Sports World Ministries as a speaker for about one year.

Butler makes nine trips a semester to speak to students. She is the second female speaker for Sports World Ministries. Others, such as Rich Garza who was in Cape Girardeau last year, are former NFL players.

In addition to speaking at Fields of Faith, Butler addressed student assemblies in schools throughout Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Wednesday her message to the crowd in Jackson was about passion, perspective and purpose as she shared some of the mountain top and valley experiences she has encountered in life.

Butler said she does this because it allows her "to have a voice and platform to speak truth into students who are at such an important point in life." She said that often students are hearing these encouraging words for the first time. Her desire is for the students to know they have value and a purpose in life.

"It is an amazing responsibility and awesome place to be," Butler said.

Butler said she felt honored to participate in the rally.

"It is so cool to hear the testimonies from the students and to see all the people that were there."

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