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Ministry Moments

  • Thoughts on being a Christian

    Marianne Borg wrote the Forward to Marcus Borg’s book Days of Awe and Wonder, How to be a Christian in the 21st Century. She wrote in the forward, “ . . .the twenty-first century has seen even more dramatic change for Christianity. Old assumptions about (God) and images of God no longer hold. Christianity is no longer considered essential for salvation. It no longer provides an unambiguous moral compass. And the United States, a Christian country, is now the most religiously diverse country in the world.”

    Well, are we really in a post Christian era? I think not. In many areas in the United States and around the world, Christianity is growing. Marianne Borg goes on to say that, “Christianity is being born again.” And I believe that it is more important than ever, in these fast moving, technology-driven days of awe and wonder of the 21st century that we as Christians take an active role to bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to others.

    We are doing this by supporting our church and the important activities of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. As we work with coaches and players we focus on our FCA vision. We are engaging, equipping, and empowering coaches and athletes to know and grow their faith in Christ, and to lead others to do the same. The last part of this vision – “and lead others to do the same,” is an important part. Once people have accepted the lord’s good news of salvation, they want to share this good news and tell others.

  • Fireworks A-MEN

    In the summer of 2018 the Cleveland Metro Area Board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a football camp with the Glenville High School football team. Several of us were involved as Huddle Leaders for this camp. When the athletes came in for lunch, we broke into groups of about 10. Before lunch, the Huddle Leaders led the young men in Bible study. It was my first time doing this, and I was a little apprehensive. It turned out that that I had nothing to be concerned about. I said to the young men in my Huddle, “Before we start the Bible Study, let’s pray.” Everyone leaned in close around the table, put their arms around each other, and then pulled me into the Huddle as well. A short prayer got us started. When we finished the Bible study for the day, I said, “OK, let’s close in prayer. Who wants to pray?” “I will,” said one. “I will,” said another. No coaxing was necessary. These young men were eager to learn and eager to pray.

    Sometime in the past I had learned the Fourth of July Fireworks AMEN. So I taught it to these young athletes. You raise your arms quickly saying “Wooosh”, then a loud Clap over your head, followed by slowly lowering your hands and moving your fingers, simulating bright fireworks falling to the ground, and saying “Ahaaa”. All this followed by an enthusiastic “A-MEM” So it sounds like this “ Wooosh, Clap, Ahaaa, A-MEM” Every time we prayed the young men would always remind me to lead our Huddle in the Fireworks A-MEN. The other huddles would always look over to us to see what was going on. It seems to me there is everything right with a loud, enthusiastic A-MEM.

  • Reflections on Prayer

    I have been a life-long Lutheran. I have always loved the Lutheran traditions, the history and stories of Martin Luther, himself. It seems to me; however, that growing up as a Lutheran did have some disadvantages. One of these is not being able to pray aloud in a group. If Lutheran churches teach this, I may just have missed it or not have been paying attention when I was younger. Being able to pray aloud in a group, spontaneously, must come from being in a church environment where it is common, and you just learn to be comfortable with it.

    I can still recall the time my future wife took me home to meet her parents. Sunday afternoon dinners when the family gathered were common. Her family was Dutch Reformed. Ilene’s father, John, said grace. The words just seemed to flow, and he seemed to be very comfortable speaking and wasn’t rushing through the prayer. The next time I was there for Sunday dinner, John asked me to say grace. I was afraid this would happen, and of course I wasn’t prepared and not used to just letting my heart’s words flow. I stammered and said, “Well, John, Lutherans don’t pray out loud.” There was only a short silence before he said he didn’t care, and then asked me to proceed. That was a turning point for me and prayer. I learned not only to say grace but to become comfortable offering spontaneous prayers that included praise, thanks and petitions.

    Last year my wife passed away after a protracted battle with leukemia. It was fortunate that I had retired only a short time before Ilene’s illness, because I was able to be a full time caretaker. Throughout this very difficult time, my wife and I prayed a lot. Although we prayed for a cure, we also prayed that the Lord would come into our hearts and bring us strength and calm.

    Shortly after Ilene passed away, I read an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was by Terry Pluto, one of the sports-writers, who also writes a faith column in the paper. In this article he referenced Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter four, verses 5 and 7 which points directly to what Ilene and I experienced. “The Lord is near; have no anxiety, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, will guard over your heart and your thoughts . . . .”

    I have learned a lot about prayer over the years, and I know that prayer can bring calm into troubled times and change your life. This is just one of the many things the FCA can bring to young athletes when we introduce them to Jesus.

  • One Life at a Time

    The Cleveland Metro Area worked with the Glenview High School football team for a summer football camp during July, 2018. It was a three day camp, and a number of the FCA Board members were present and helped as huddle leaders. In this case the huddles were prayer and bible study groups of about 10 football players. There were about 70 boys aged 15 to 18 at the camp each day. For a number of us on the Board being involved in this football camp was a new experience, and I can tell you that we were all positively affected.

    Amazing things happen when you are moved by the Holy Spirit to reach out to others. On the second day of the Camp, several of the Board members were standing on the side of the field watching the coaches and young athletes going through the football drills. We noticed a young fellow just hanging around, not participating in the drills. He stayed to himself off to the side, and was dressed in hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, covering his head and face. We were not sure what to make of him. Was he going to cause trouble? This was a rough neighborhood and we know that many, if not all, of the young athletes participating in the camp are constantly being pulled in the wrong direction.

    Our Board Chair, Dr. Tim Vala, decided to go over and talk to the young man. At first he was reluctant to give his name, but eventually did. Tim spoke to him for a while and then handed him one of the FCA Bibles that we were giving to each athlete at the camp. The young man moved away from us and sat down on the edge of the football field, holding the Bible. A little while later we noticed that the young man was lying on the ground reading the Bible. He kept reading for at least 30 minutes until the drills were stopped for lunch. We all then went into a nearby church fellowship hall for our bible study and lunch. We saw no more of the mysterious young man that day or the last day of the camp. We did find out that many of the boys at the camp knew our hooded young man.

    A week later at our Board meeting, our Area Director, Steve Sanders, read a text that he had received from that young man. It was a very well written text thanking the FCA for the Bible. Steve informed us that the young man is the son of the biggest gang leader in Cleveland. I can only imagine the negative forces pulling on this young man as he struggles with the right path to choose for his life. However, I do not question that the interaction that day, when he received the Bible, and positive influence from the FCA athletes, whom he knows, have pulled him, and will continue to pull him, in the right direction.

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Meet the Author

Richard Hardy

    I have been a member of the Cleveland Metro Area FCA Board since July of 2018. I retired after selling my paint manufacturing business in 2014. In 2017, my wife passed away after a hard two and a half year battle with Leukemia. I felt lost, but I knew I wanted to become involved in giving back through Christian activities. I had accepted the role of Financial Secretary at my church; I had started to work one day a week at Habitat for Humanity; I had started writing a column in my church newsletter interviewing members of the congregation. I was introduced to FCA through a friend who was on the Cleveland FCA Board. Our Board Chairman, Dr. Tim Vala, suggested that since I had an interest in writing for my church newsletter, that I consider writing a Blog associated with our Cleveland FCA Website. So, periodically, you will find on this Blog, my thoughts as they relate to my faith, my work with the FCA, and how we help to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to athletes and coaches.