Ministry Highlight from Nathan Bliss, Syracuse University, New York

As the Syracuse University spring semester wraps up we end the year with Senior Night, which is one of the most powerful and emotional Huddle nights of the year. FCA board members, SU coaches and other FCA staff members come to campus for a memorable snapshot of why we do what we do. The evening is an “open mic” night devoted to our graduating students and is filled with tears, laughter and celebrations.

Throughout the evening, the seniors get a chance to express what God has taught them during their years at SU. The underclassmen also share stories of the impact that the outgoing seniors have had on them. As the students share, they stand behind a podium that was made for me by one of my mentors when I began ministering at SU six years ago. In 2012, the podium received a custom paint job from former FCA Captain and current WNBA player Kayla Alexander and her teammate Tiara Butler.

That podium has become a fixture at our weekly meetings over the years but on Senior Night it symbolizes a rite of passage. After each senior shares their final thoughts and words of wisdom, they grab a marker and sign the podium. They do so with a sense of accomplishment, knowing that their faith has helped them finish this leg of their race. For the underclassmen, witnessing this final act becomes a passing of the torch, as well. Seeing those signatures adds a sense of weightiness as they realize it is now up to them to lead the FCA ministry and build on the accomplishments of those who have gone before them.

At the end of the evening, the seniors gather in the middle of the room as we lay hands on them and pray over them. While Senior Night is one of my favorite evenings, it always hurts to have to say goodbye. While I often keep in touch with them, I am no longer going to be seeing these students every day. After four years and sometimes hundreds of meetings with these students, it’s like saying goodbye to adopted sons and daughters. Over the years I’ve learned that building real relationships and walking alongside these students means being willing to let it hurt when I see them go. That’s the power of FCA. We get to share life with coaches and athletes in a way that shows them, and the world, the love of Jesus. Every time I look at that podium, I get dozens of reminders of why I am so thankful that I get to do what I do because of those who pray for and support the ministry.

Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ – to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.

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