A large group of Cougars made big tracks into the old gymnasium at Alexander High School early Friday morning. But unlike lions, which form prides, these Cougars formed a huddle – a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle.

While many people were just finishing their first cup of coffee at 7:45 a.m., these students, coaches and staff were drinking in the word of God.

According to Leah Mathis, a physical education teacher and JV cheerleading coach who now sponsors the FCA program at Alexander, the high school’s FCA is the largest huddle not only in Douglas County, but in the entire United States. She said that typically, they have about 300 to 400 students each Friday morning. The huddle also has at least 25 teachers and coaches attending as well.

The format at Alexander’s FCA meetings includes prayer, music and a speaker who gives a 10-15 minute message, according to Mathis.

“We always communicate any sports updates from our school and any other announcements,” she said. “At the very end, we will have a sports team come down with our leaders and sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’.”

At Friday’s FCA meeting, contemporary Christian music was performed by the Kyle Edenfield Band. Edenfield serves as worship leader at Midway Church in Villa Rica. The speaker, Luke Hughes, is youth pastor from Midway Church.

“I think Alexander’s FCA works so well because everyone gets so involved,” Mathis said. “Our coaches, teachers, administrators, office staff and janitors are always there. I definitely think that shows the students that we do really care.”

Mathis has stepped up as FCA sponsor this year, as graduation coach and FCA organizer Sherry Gamel plans to retire at the end of the school year.

“If any credit is due, it is due to her,” said Mathis, who said Gamel started the program at Alexander about three years ago.

Gamel’s daughter, Katie, a senior, has been part of FCA since it began at Alexander. She is one of the student leadership group hand-picked for the program.

“I’ve seen it grow from 75 to 450 students,” said Katie. “The fact that we’ve been able to reach so many kids and now we can reach even more people through FCA.”

She feels it has become so successful because “the kids are excited to come.”

“For many kids, it’s the only church experience they have,” Katie said. “They enjoy being with friends to worship together.”

Senior Brady Shackelford is another team leader with Alexander’s FCA huddle. He has only been at Alexander for three years, but joined FCA during his first year there. This is his first year as a student leader.

“It is awesome to have a way to help us grow a little closer to God every Friday,” he said. “I feel that God’s doing big things here and will continue to do big things here.”

Alexander High School assistant football coach Kelby Watts explained it through scripture. “Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”

“This is what’s happening at AHS,” Watts said.

FCA Area Director Dutch Nelson said there are currently 57 huddles in Douglas County, which reach roughly 2,270 coaches, athletes and students each week.

The FCA vision is “to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.”

Its mission is “to present athletes and coaches, and all who they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationship and in the fellowship for the Church.”

FCA Douglas County will be holding its “Fields of Faith” event on Wednesday, Oct. 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. It will be held this year in the Alexander High School stadium.

Fields of Faith is a student-led event, in which students invite, pray for, share with and challenge their peers to read the Bible and follow Jesus Christ.

Daniel Stevenson and Band will perform and the speaker is Daniel Gray.

For more information about Fields of Faith, go to www.fieldsoffaith.com.

For information about the FCA program in Douglas County, contact Dutch Nelson at DNelson@fca.org or call 404-983-7551.

Contact Liz Marino by email at liz@douglascountysentinel.com or by phone at 770-942-6571 ext. 233.

© 2016 Douglas County Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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