By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Adolescence is all about being cool and fitting in. So imagine how Connor Hancock felt when he was asked to share his religious testimony with not only his classmates at Brentwood High School, but dozens of other St. Louis area students.
Hancock had never given a testimony before. He professed the Christian faith but was doubtful that he had a story to tell about his.
“I wasn’t even sure I had a testimony,” he said.
Besides, he figured it’d take a lot of work. His plate has been pretty full as a senior who plans to go to college and is a starting offensive tackle and defensive end on Brentwood’s undefeated football team. But when a classmate said she’d give her testimony if he would, he decided to give it a shot.
“I thought about it and kept getting great ideas,” Hancock said, “so I figured I could put together something and make it powerful.”
He told his story on Wednesday evening at Fields of Faith, an annual gathering put on by BHS’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. About 125 people attended in the school’s gym to hear faith testimonies by high school and college athletes, sing along with a live Christian rock band and, if desired, to pray with others.
FCA is an interdenominational religious organization that uses the influence of coaches and athletes in Christian evangelism. It started Fields of Faith gatherings in 2002 as, according to its website, “a student-to-student event. Peers invite their own classmates and teammates to meet on their school’s athletic field to hear fellow students share their faith testimonies, challenge them to read the Bible and to come to faith in Jesus Christ.”
It’s the fourth year in a row BHS’s FCA group has held the event. Though there were similar gatherings on Wednesday at high schools in Belleville, St. Charles and St. Clair (Mo.), Brentwood hosted the only Fields of Faith in St. Louis County.
Brentwood’s faculty sponsor for FCA, Shannon Koster, said the crowd included high school students from Kirkwood, Clayton, Hazelwood East, Ritenour, Miller Career Academy and Incarnate Word, as well as athletes from UMSL and Washington University.
“I think it was a great success,” Koster said.
Letter from Jail
Hancock told the crowd about growing up in Indiana, seeing his parents split up and moving to Brentwood in the sixth grade. When he was a sophomore, they told him that his older brother was in jail. Weeks later, he received a letter from the brother urging him to stay out of trouble. The letter deeply affected Connor. That same year, he committed himself to the Christian faith at a Fields of Faith meeting, with the help of then-classmate Nick Featherston.
Though weeks ago Hancock had resisted the thought of sharing his testimony, when it was all over on Wednesday he was glad he’d spoken.
“I felt like it could touch the hearts of some people,” he said. “A lot of people go through some tough stuff, but if you stay in the faith you’ll be okay. He’s always there.”
‘Best Feeling Is Afterwards’
Brentwood’s FCA co-captain Shelby Linneman knows how Hancock feels. She gave a testimony at Fields of Faith two years ago.
“It’s nerve-racking,” said Linneman, a senior who plays volleyball, basketball and soccer. “You go up there and you’re shaking, because you feel like you’re admitting everything you’ve ever done wrong. But the best feeling is afterwards, when you know you’ve helped other kids who’ve been in the same situation as you are. People came up to me and said, ‘I’ve dealt with that before. Just hearing that you’ve made it through gave me strength.’”
Koster sees that every year.
“They’re putting it out there,” she said of the student speakers. “I am so inspired by these guys. “I’m blessed when I see these kids standing up for their beliefs.”