In July of 2005, Rich and I left our NC home to come to Paulding County, Georgia, with the calling of starting a church. Well, He never definitely defined what type of church would be started and so that is what this story is about. I remember leaving Cleveland that day with my mother and daddy and sister and neighbors watching us leave. While we excited about the next phase, we were sad to leave family behind. Little did we know that in a few short weeks, our youngest son, Ben, would leave Georgia and return to finish high school in North Carolina. You just do not expect your youngest son to leave home at 16. (Praise God for the Nelson family!)
We desperately needed jobs. Teaching jobs are not that easy to come by, and to be honest with you, I had been teaching in Christian school for 10 years and the thoughts of returning to public school intimidated me. I submitted resumes to every middle school and every elementary school in Paulding County. Only one middle school contacted me and they couldn't use me but they directed me to a teacher leaving their school to go to the new middle school as an assistant principal. She, in turn, sent my information to the principal. If you ask that principal today, she will tell you that something was telling her to keep pursuing me. Through a God-directed turn of events, I landed at Austin Middle School in the most perfect position created especially for me. (Praise God for Tammy Allen!) I have just started my fifth year in Paulding County. I know the spiritual condition of my students more than I ever knew in Christian school and have never felt intimidated at all!
Rich was privileged to serve at West Ridge Church as a part-time Church Planter intern and worked at Kohl's department store. Now, even looking back, the relationships he established there were God-ordained ....he counseled a married couple with financial difficulty, he counseled and married another couple, he prayed with people over matters with their children..... he was NOT just your average dock supervisor! (Praise God for Bill)
There are SO many stories about how God has worked in relationships here. I can look back on the past four years and see that lives have been dramatically changed just by a touch here or a spoken word there to encourage our fellow co-workers.One evening, some of our own children happened to be in town and were at Six Flags. Rich and I were driving over to meet them and Rich received a phone call from Brian Bloye, pastor of West Ridge Church. He was excited about a new ministry involving West Ridge and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He and Matt Willmington immediately thought it was a perfect ministry for Rich Erdman - former soccer coach, former bus driver, former youth pastor, dad and husband. After seeking the Lord's favor, Rich decided to join in that ministry - all the while wondering if he was to do this ministry or start the church.
That was three years ago. The first FCA kick-off for Paulding County was held in the Student Theater at West Ridge with around 50 - 75 people in attendance. The second kick-off was held the following year in the same location with around 200 present. This past year, for the third annual kick-off, we had to move to the worship center of West Ridge and hosted around 750 teens, coaches, parents, and pastors. Eighty-one decisions were made that night alone - one of them being a rec league softball coach.
In the three years of this ministry in Paulding County, hundreds of lives have been changed for eternity. Coaches are calling Rich for family ministry - he has attended funerals, weddings, and visited hospitals for the births of new babies.
Coaches are opening the Word of God in huddle meetings designed just for them. In the five high schools and eight middle schools in Paulding County, huddles meet weekly on every campus. You might ask, "What is a huddle?" A huddle is a time of fellowship for the teens as well as worship with music and specific prayer time. A speaker imparts the Word of God on our public school campuses. As a teacher on one of these campuses, I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it is when my students tell me that my husband (that FCA guy) spoke to their football/softball/soccer/basketball team the day before. All of this is part of the ministry of FCA. On the night of the kick-off this year, I turned to Rich and said, "Looks like you have your church!"
I am writing this to let you know that God is alive and well through the FCA of Paulding County. It is a life-changing ministry that reaches outside the walls of the church and into the campuses of our schools where the enemy thinks he has a foothold. I so appreciate you taking the time to read this letter.
Rich and I are asking that you will pray for this ministry. Pray specifically for Rich and his health as he continues to establish relationships with these students and coaches. Pray specifically for the ministry of FCA financially - funds are needed to continue to provide for the men and women on staff. Pray for the future leaders who will arise from these high school and middle school huddles; that they will be bold witnesses to a starving world. I heard recently that WE WERE CALLED TO INFLUENCE THE INFLUENTIAL. Other than the music industry, nothing else influences our world like athletes and sports. Please join us in influencing the influential.....pray that the Lord of the Harvest will continue to draw other unto Him.
Philippians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."