IN THE SPIRIT: Coaching coaches the FCA way
After 35 years of teaching and coaching, 28 of them at Grand Forks Central High School, Everett "Ev" Nelson has received another calling.
"I started feeling this about five years ago," he said, "and this past winter I started thinking seriously of getting out of teaching. "
Ev officially retires as a biology teacher and Central's assistant football coach at the end of summer school June 21. About the time school and sports get rolling again in the fall, he'll already be up and running as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes North Dakota area representative.
FCA will then have three staff members in the state. Nate Safe, Fargo, also is an area representative, and Mark Ouradnik, Bismarck, is area director.
"It's going to be a new door opening for me," Ev said. "It's pretty much like a missionary and I'm excited about keeping the connection with the athletes and the coaches.
Teri Nelson, Ev's wife of 37 years, is behind him 100 percent.
"She's very much a follower of Christ," Ev said. "She's as fired up as I am."
Ouradnik witnessed Teri's enthusiasm for her husband's new role when the Nelsons attended FCA's banquet in March. "When you have a team like that, that is such a huge thing," he said. "If you are a staff person and you are married you need to have your spouse on board with you."
As an area representative, Ev's territory is Northeast North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota. Jeff Hoplin, Kris Thorfinnson, Mike Berg, Brad Westrum, Pat Compton and Len Philpot are his advisory board.
"They are willing to be my rock," Ev said. "They are people to answer to. They've been encouraging me and praying for me."
FCA is a nonprofit interdenominational Christian organization founded in 1954 in Estes Park, Colo. Now based in Kansas City, Mo., FCA challenges 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 Christ. FCA is the largest Christian sports organization in the world.
"The beauty of FCA is that it's allowed in the high schools," Ev said. "Kids have a lot of worldly distractions. We've been bombarded with so much, TV programs, sexual innuendoes. It's easy to get tied up with what's going on around you. But there are probably more believers than you would think. I know there are a lot of believers at Central. We have a lot of really, really good kids."
Ev grew up in Mohall, N.D. He played high school football and baseball and went on to graduate from Dickinson State University. He taught and coached high school football in Philip, S.D. and Bismarck. Then he taught and coached at Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, and he coached at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.
The reason he ended up in Grand Forks and at Central was because, "God had a plan," Ev said. He and Teri raised four daughters here and now have seven grandchildren.
As a youngster, Ev attended a Scandinavian Lutheran church. He knew there was a God, but a close relationship with Christ began just a decade ago.
"I had some family things going on the fall of 2004," Ev said. "It happened on a bus. We had coaches on staff that were believers and I also had been watching my wife and seeing how it (faith) had changed her. We were going to a playoff game in Bismarck and for whatever reason I just started praying. I just surrendered. I started reading 'The Purpose Driven Life,' and we started going to Cottonwood Community Church. God was in that house and we could feel it. It's a very young church with a lot of college age. We have grandchildren and we needed people fellowship so we landed at Hope Covenant. It's a good place."
Growing up fatherless
Ev's father died when he was young and his coaches became, "like my father," he said. "Based on my career and how much you are around these kids, coaches probably impact more kids in a day than some fathers. In some cases, kids are with coaches more than their parents. That's the power of a coach. But, that could be negative, too."
FCA is a relationship-driven ministry. Its four C's are: coaches, campus, camps, community. Outreach is done through such things as chapel meetings, Bible studies and huddles. A huddle is a regularly scheduled gathering for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship with athletics as the platform.
A student does not need to be an athlete to take part in the huddle, Ev said. "It's just a group of kids who meet in school and talk and learn about Christ."
Central's huddle meets mornings. There also an active huddle at Red River High School in Grand Forks.
Just as being a missionary takes money, Ev is raising funds for his FCA ministry. They will be used for such things as travel and office expenses and a part-time salary. His goal is $25,000 by Oct. 1.
"Fundraising is going well," Ev said. "It's hard to ask people for money for God's Kingdom, but I ask God for courage and to put the words in my mouth. I have to be OK with their decision. I feel it's going to happen."
Anyone wishing to help Ev may contact him at email@example.com or call at (218) 791-0591.
Ev is planning two FCA events in Grand Forks. One is the 2013 Youth Football Skills Camp for ages 11-14, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 27 at Cushman Field. Cost is $40. And then there's FCA's four-man scramble Golf Classic, Aug. 12, at King's Walk. But it's not for men only. Women are welcome to play, too. Give Ev a call for more details.
Athletics is a "great platform to share Christ," Ev said. "Everyone knows an athlete -- it might be a professional, it might be your neighbors' kid. My role will be to help coaches grow and develop a relationship with me as we make this ministry what we hope it will be. It should trickle down to the kids."
Reach Dunavan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at inthespirit.areavoices.com.