Walking and running is not something unfamiliar to some of the members from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Virginia. But on April 16-17, the students used their bodies for as instruments for a greater purpose than athletics during the “Relay for Life” event at UVA.
From 6 p.m. Friday night to 7 a.m. Saturday, participants in the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, showed their support for cancer victims by walking around a track, set-up in a parking lot. There was always someone walking on the track for 13 hours.
Luke Holman, service coordinator for FCA at UVA, chose the event because it’s something almost natural for them as Christians to do.
“We’ve been so blessed and we need to help out because cancer is so devastating,” said the sophomore. We need to spread the blessings to others suffering from cancer, he said.
The event brought the whole community together to raise $4,752 and also allowed the FCA students to team work to achieve their goals, making $688 and placing third among the groups that participated in the relay. To raise money for the relay, FCA students held a Krispy Kreme doughnut sale and also generated funds from a raffle made possible through product donations from local businesses.
Holman, who is an Eagle Scout, has been involved in community service since his youth, saying it was also the lifestyle of FCA in helping people and preaching the word of Jesus that attracted him the fellowship.
“I think it's a huge part of what Jesus preached to help others who are struggling,” he said, adding that the people suffering usually turn toward God more as they reflect on the alternative lifestyle found in Christianity and on their afterlife.
The FCA at UVA meets for large groups Monday nights starting at 8 p.m. and see around 40 to 60 people a night. During the meeting, the students listen to worship teams, have a time for “prayer and share”, and listen to a guest speaker, who each commit to delivering messages for three consecutive fellowship meetings.
Every Saturday, fellowship members serve the community in other ways by serving breakfast at a local Salvation Army. They also recently began holding “Teen Movie Night” at the Salvation Army, where the students would be mentor to young teens and provide a safe alternative activity for them on Friday nights.
Doing community service may not be something unique to many Christian fellowships. However, there are are many characteristics of FCA that sets it apart, according to Holman.
He said he was mainly drawn to FCA because it was a “100% student-run organization” where all students make the decisions how to run the ministry instead of a faculty advisor or an adult like other campus ministries.
Even though he believes that every Christian fellowship has its strengths, it is a bonus for Holman that FCA targets athletes. “Athletes look at things differently than other people,” he said. “They think of things in the context of a competitive sport and take sports as a setting to view things.
For example, Holman can see a parallel relationship between athletics and faith.
“Sometimes you do have internal struggles. I’m from cross-country and track you are struggling and try to beat as many people as you can. In a race, everyone is at their struggling point. They are struggling together and that unifies them,” explained Holman. “Everyone has internal pain.”
“That's what fellowship is about,” he continued. “Everyone has doubts and internal problems but when they come together and have a group, it’s not so hard when you're together.”