Serving others: Fellowship of Christian Athletes lead by example

Photo by Sue Suchyta

More than two dozen members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes arrived at 7 a.m., 45 minutes before the start of morning classes Thursday, Oct. 13 to share devotional and prayer time with fellow students and to learn more about the group’s upcoming service projects. The students are led by math teacher Jennifer Balogh and Pastor Mike Sherf of Bethesda Baptist Church at 10000 Reeck Rd. in Allen Park.

Downriver Sunday Times

SOUTHGATE – They’re not all athletes, and they needn’t even be Christians, but students at Anderson High School say that a school Christian club offers them a place to have fun while doing good.

The school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes group, formed three years ago, is an offshoot of the interdenominational group begun in Kansas City, Mo. in 1954. It encourages members to share their faith and to make a difference in their communities through service and by being positive role models.

The local group, led by math teacher Jennifer Balogh and the Rev. Mike Sherf of Bethesda Baptist Church of Allen Park doesn’t require members to be either athletes or Christians.

Balogh said the students do share a strong bond of commitment, though, as demonstrated by the 27 students who arrived 45 minutes before the start of classes Thursday, Oct. 13 to share prayer requests, a devotional reading and to hear about upcoming service projects.

The group this year is selling lanyards in various colors for $1 each to benefit local — purple for the Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society, green for the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, and pink for the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

Their goal this year is 1,000 lanyards, 300 more than they sold last year. From Nov. 1 to Dec. 1, they will collect stuffed animals for Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital Pediatric Emergency Room and Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, which collects stuffed animals to donate to emergency organizations for children in traumatic situations.

In November the students will hold their third annual scavenger hunt to collect food for local shelters prior to the holidays. They describe the activity as combining fun with a purpose.

The students work in groups of four to five people, and go door to door in their neighborhoods with shopping carts collecting donations of specific food items local emergency food pantries requested.

Nathan Adkins, a senior and three-year FCA member, said the food scavenger hunt last year was like a game, with the team collecting the largest amount of food declared the winner. He said it was a worthwhile experience that the students had fun with, and that people were very generous with their donations.

He said he’s made new friends through the FCA, including people he might not have otherwise met.

“I love seeing everyone here and people I didn’t think were interested in this are here, praying and stuff,” Adkins said. “So it’s really cool.”

Senior David Dodds said that getting hands-on experience helping others in the past two years has been a good learning experience for him.

“You learn how little things help even though it’s a big world with big problems,” Dodd said. “You donate…and you don’t necessarily see it work miracles but you just have faith that it does.”

Balogh said the students also work with the homeless through ChristNet, a local seasonal traveling emergency shelter that operates from October through June for men, women and children accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Participating parishes share responsibility for one week for feeding, sheltering and providing for the recipients’ basic needs.

Grace Moore, a junior, volunteers time with ChristNet, a ministry to the homeless through the FCA.

She said the people served by ChristNet stay at each participating church at night for a week and are served food by parishioners, who also provide conversation and a sympathetic ear.

Moore feels the group has a positive influence on the student body as a whole.

“We do a lot of service projects and stuff to help out the school,” Moore said. “It’s a good witness to people that’s there’s other people out there that are Christians, too, that are looking for someone.”

Balogh said that the students come from many different churches, and the group tries to tap into those resources to help others.

“When the churches are hosting the homeless through ChristNet the kids will go ‘My church needs help’ so we’ll send a crew over there,” Balogh said. “So we’ve been to a whole bunch of different churches to help out with that.”

Balogh said that she feels the FCA has given students a group where they can find friends who share their values, and where they can direct their faith in positive ways without worrying about peer pressure.

“I think kids who are Christians are in the minority and they feel alone, and they don’t realize how many other students and athletes are kind of in the same boat,” Balogh said. “So if we can bring them all together then we do bridge a lot of friends. And some kid might do track and some kid does rowing and they never see each other but now they have a common bond.”

She said she wants students to feel comfortable acting on their beliefs and having a way to work with other students to be of service to others.

“I guess our goal is to make our kids better people,” Balogh said. “Hopefully we’ve been able to spark something inside of them to make them care for other people.”