By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
JENA (LBM)–The Jena High School football and men’s basketball teams scored a win of a different kind when 38 players, combined, came forward to humble their hearts before Christ during the Tomorrow’s Hope GO TELL Crusade in late September.
Nine football players declared Jesus as Lord of their lives, and 24 football and five basketball players repented to restore fellowship with Christ at Jena High’s gymnasium.
Among those was Cameron Jackson, a junior cornerback and wide receiver who turned to Christ during the opening night of the crusade.
“Though I was nervous, I knew this was what God wanted me to do,” said Jackson, whose father, Anthony, is principal of Jena High. “Now I’m excited about praying and reading my Bible, and I hope to influence others on my team and at school for Christ.”
Jackson said his newfound faith helped him persevere through the aftermath of an injury sustained during a game against Alexandria Senior High the following Friday evening. He expects to recover from the injury before the state playoffs begin in November.
Terry Townsend, youth and recreation minister at the First Baptist Church in Jena, said he was overcome with emotion as he watched many of the same players he knew walk to the front of the Jena High gymnasium to declare their faith in Christ. They were among 119 persons who turned to Christ during the Tomorrow’s Hope Crusade September 23-26. Another 109 individuals repented to restore their fellowship with Christ, and 15 men and women made other decisions.
“It’s unbelievable because I’ve prayed for some of them for quite some time,” Townsend said. “This is proof that God answers prayers. He showed up and showed off during those nights they walked down in front to declare their faith in Christ.”
Jena High Football Coach Jay Roark said he is delighted whenever a student, especially one of his players, makes a decision to change.
“These decisions seem to have a profound effect on not just the team but the student body,” Roark said. “It takes a lot for a teenager to come down in front of their peers and do that. By them doing so, it tells me what happened was a real deal for these young men.”
The Tomorrow’s Hope Crusade featured Gospel messages by Rick Gage, founder of GO TELL Crusades in Duluth, Georgia, and Scott Camp, founder of Scott Camp Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as music by GO TELL vocalists and an area choir. Each night, 700-800 attended the crusade.
The crusade was part of the statewide Harvest campaign to “pray for every home and share with every person” in Louisiana through the end of 2018. Nearly 900 of 1,650 Louisiana Baptist churches have signed up to participate in concentrated prayer and soul-winning activities such as multi-church crusades, door-to-door outreach, one-on-one evangelism, single-church revivals and other activities which leverage compassion ministries to share about the love of Christ.
Buddy Willis, director of missions for LaSalle Baptist Association, said the area churches were unified in their mission to reach others for Christ during the crusade.
“We have a pretty strong ministerial alliance that works together, but this full cooperation among the different denominations has positioned us to work even closer together,” he said. “It has promoted unity in our churches and created an even greater interest in reaching the lost.
“I’m so thankful that the state leadership came up with the Harvest,” Willis said. “It’s allowed our churches another chance to join in and reach others in our community for Christ. We give God all the glory for what he did here in LaSalle Parish.”