More than 3,000 students gathered at Dothan’s Rip Hewes Stadium on Oct. 18 for the 10th annual Fields of Faith, an event of Wiregrass Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Sixty-nine decisions for Christ were reported from this year’s event.
“It looked just like heaven,” said Albert Williams, pastor of St. James Baptist Church in Dothan and director of Wiregrass FCA, noting that students from several ethnicities and races joined together to worship God and be inspired.
“This was a college-level event aimed at high school students,” Williams said, adding, “looking out over a football field full of thousands of students worshiping is amazing.”
Students reaching students
Forty-six public schools and six private schools were represented, and leaders said the event is student-driven, with friends inviting friends to attend.
“The event has grown from a few hundred to a few thousand,” said Dean Culbreth, a Wiregrass FCA board member and volunteer who oversaw a lot of the logistics of this year’s event. “All the high schools — county, city and private — and most middle schools in the area were represented.”
The program included testimonies from six high school students. Attendees also heard from Roy Evans and Greg Clark.
Evans, founder and pastor of Northstar Church in Pryor, Oklahoma, and Clark, pastor of Cedar Crest Baptist Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, were teammates on the 1974 Dothan High School football team that began the season 0–3 and then made a run for the state 6A championship. After playoff wins against Murphy High and West End Birmingham, several members of the team got food poisoning en route to Birmingham and lost 10-7 to Homewood High at Legion Field in the championship game.
Eighteen of those on that 1974 team later became pastors and are spreading the gospel today, according to promotional materials published by Wiregrass FCA.
Steadman Shealy, a member of the Wiregrass FCA board, has been involved with Fields of Faith since 2003. He said he especially appreciated being able to hold this year’s event in the stadium where he played in high school. Shealy, who went on to be the starting quarterback on the University of Alabama’s 1979 national championship team, said the stadium was “a great atmosphere. I hope we can continue to keep it there.”
This year’s festivities included a pre-event tailgate where 16 area churches set up tents, hosted games and served food to students and parents. Everything, including the food, was free to those who came.
Culbreth said churches participating in the tailgating “were excited to be there and share the gospel and let people get to know about their churches and youth programs.”
He believes the additional fellowship time will bring even more church participation and draw larger numbers to the event in the future. Culbreth said he’s already been contacted by five churches asking about participating next year.
History and ministry
The idea for Fields of Faith was seeded when “in 2002, Oklahoma Fellowship of Christian Athletes Area Director Jeff Martin prayed about what to do with his heartfelt frustration regarding the temptations and spiritual battles facing our more ‘spectator generation’ youth,” according to information at fieldsoffaith.org. Students ministering to students was the answer. As a result the first student-led events were held in 2004, resulting in more than 100 students making decisions for Christ. The organization reports thousands have come to Christ in subsequent years at related events.
FCA facilitates regular gatherings of athletes at each school called “huddles.” These small groups offer times of Bible study, prayer, worship and godly fellowship.