By Richard Polen
TIFF CITY, Mo. —
When Jack Shaver held the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes Day 32 years ago in his front yard, he never dreamed it would grow to what it has become today.
Not only that, the veteran high school basketball coach never imagined his daughter would be following in his footsteps in organizing the highly successful event.
Shaver, who retired from coaching 21 years ago, said he remembers about 70 youngsters showing up at that first front yard encounter. However, his daughter, Jenny Frencken, who was a student at the time, said almost three times that many are expected next month.
The latest edition of FCA Day, which has become a popular attraction for McDonald County students in seventh through 12th grades, will take place at 1 p.m. May 6, at Buffalo Creek Baptist Church just off Highway 43, 9 miles south of Seneca near Tiff City.
Frencken, a keyboarding and computer teacher at Anderson Middle School, said the 1 p.m. starting time is so students won’t have to miss their own church services. After spending the afternoon playing a wide variety of games, participants will be provided a free supper. Worship services will follow, with the event concluding around 8:30 p.m.
Frencken, who praised church members for playing such a huge part, said a highlight of last year’s FCA Day, which drew around 150 children, was when three of the participants committed their lives to Christ.
“This is our main purpose,” she said. “To get a chance to share the gospel with kids who might not otherwise attend a church.”
Cooper Dill, a sophomore at McDonald County High School, said the FCA event provides an opportunity to be a Christian witness.
“Just inviting kids to come to FCA Day and hear the gospel is a great way to start off a conversation about Jesus,” he said.
Darien Stancell, who is captain of the McDonald County High School FCA, said Fellowship of Christian Athletes has played a big role in all four years of her high school career. She said she looks forward to Thursdays each week when the MCHS chapter meets at 7:45 a.m. in the band room.
“It is a good way to start off your morning with a worship song, speaker and answering prayer requests before going to class,” she said, adding that it is sad that some schools don’t have an FCA chapter.
Stancell said the effects that the organization has had have been noticeable, with several of the students who now go to church having started with FCA.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a non-profit interdenominational Christian organization in its 56th year of existence. All but two years of that time it has been based in Kansas City, across from the Truman Sports Complex on Interstate 70. FCA was established by evangelical Protestants but has expanded to where chapters have opened in several Catholic schools. Members are encouraged, but not required, to participate in athletics.
Shaver said, as a coach, he appreciated the Christian atmosphere provided by FCA and how good it was for many athletes to see members of FCA participating with the same interest as theirs. He added that it not only has helped the teenagers he coached but himself, as well, in realizing that winning is not everything when it comes to sports.
A lot of athletic competition, whether acknowledged or not, has to do with how you conduct yourself while playing the game, and FCA has been instrumental in setting the example, particularly in McDonald County.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email email@example.com.