By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
DEVILLE – On August 27, the season had yet to open for the Louisiana College football team, however, members of the Wildcats experienced a victory more meaningful than any margin posted on a scoreboard when 31 players came forward to humble their hearts to Christ and surrender their lives to Him during a special service held by evangelist Rick Gage at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville.
Him during a special service held by evangelist Rick Gage at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville.
Coach Justin Charles said he was overcome with emotion as he watched so many of his players, one-by-one, walk to the front of the worship center to speak with Gage, himself a former college football player and coach.
“That day was more fulfilling than winning a football game,” said the first-year head coach for the Wildcats. “Knowing you had 31 young men all turn their lives to Christ is a feeling that is hard to describe for this coach.”
Devyn Allen, a sophomore linebacker from Baton Rouge, said he was convicted that he was not living the way Christ intended and that he needed to repent.
“I believed I was a Christian but I wasn’t living my life right,” Allen said. “His message hit me hard, so I felt convicted and raised my hand.”
Allen said the fact that 30 other players came forward that day was a bonding experience beyond team sports, adding that “it was something I don’t think anyone was expecting.”
Already, Allen and this group of born again Wildcats are engaged in discipleship — being spiritually mentored by mature Christians on the team, and, attending small group Bible studies on campus and weeknight church gatherings at area churches.
The players also receive the encouragement of mentors from Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria as part of the first-year “Adopt A Cat” program, which is a mentoring relationship with a deacon fostered in a home environment among a family.
“It’s encouraging to have them walk alongside me,” Allen said. “It’s so hard to do this journey on your own. To know so many people are willing to help me grow spiritually means a lot.”
As the players continue their spiritual journey, Charles is confident their passion for Christ will not wane.
“It’s been a really good change for this team,” he offered. “These young men are serious about their newfound faith and that is creating a different feel on this team. When you have players getting serious about their walk with Christ, it’s definitely fulfilling, and I’m excited to watch these young men grow as the season progresses.”
LC President Rick Brewer considered the worship service at Philadelphia a divine appointment.
“Rick Gage’s background as a football player and college coach created an immediate connection with our football team,” Brewer said. “During the service I prayed and when I wasn’t praying I noticed several students genuinely under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
“Glory to God for the public response of 31 of LC’s student athletes to the call to follow Christ,” he continued. “I’m grateful for head coach Charles and a coaching staff who daily provide a faithful witness for Christ.”