Austin's Story - On Mission at FGCU
Even though I had been raised in a very Christian home, I had been living a lukewarm life with absolutely no desire to pursue the kingdom of God and no discipline to fight against the sin that the world had to offer. I had built my identity in my athletic achievements through tennis and arrogantly claimed these talents and accomplishments as my own. While struggling with this identity crisis, I was also engaging in an extreme party lifestyle and not surrounding myself with the right people. In the midst of my sin, I occasionally attended church or read my Bible simply to “check it off the list.”
But God intervened in a huge way. I tore my shoulder labrum in the first week of the fall tennis season at FGCU. Instead of competing my sophomore year, I ended up having surgery. This injury completely took me away from the sport of tennis for quite some time. While I was away, God wrecked me of my identity crisis and showed me my need for Him. He showed me that I was pursuing a lukewarm/cold life with no real freedom in the grace that He freely offers and was not living on mission for him.
God worked in my life through the rest of that 2015 Fall semester in to bring on massive internal change. But He didn’t stop there! Moving into the spring and summer semesters, He continued to transform my heart by teaching me that I must live on mission by displaying my internal change to those I come into contact with each day. To name a few changes, He has grown my patience, given me more self-control over my tongue, and changed the desires of my heart to no longer want to live a party lifestyle. Apart from Jesus, I realized that everything else leaves me empty.
Through all of this change, the Lord has also used the unique places that He has placed me in, especially through athletics at FGCU. About halfway through the spring of 2016, I was approached by some of the leaders of Ignite to create a bible study and small group exclusively for all of the athletes at Florida Gulf Coast. Other Christian athletes involved in Ignite came alongside me and helped begin to mold the vision for this group. With much prayer and planning throughout the rest of the 2016 Spring semester and Summer, we were able to kick off our first official meeting of “A.B.S.” (Athlete Bible Study) during the second week of the 2016 Fall semester. Since then, we have been meeting once a week to not only build community and play games between the athletics teams, but also dive into God’s word and saturate athletes in the Gospel (some of whom may have never even been exposed before). We usually have anywhere between 30-60 athletes that attend on any given week.
I have never really been the type to have a huge panic attack before or during public speaking, but if someone had asked me to share the Gospel or my faith a year or even 6 months ago, I would have not only looked like a deer in the headlights, but would most likely have not been able to confidently lay out the good news of Jesus Christ to a large group people, much less a nonbeliever. God has used A.B.S. to consistently put me out of my comfort zone and live on mission for Him and it has also opened up many unique, individual conversations that I probably would not been able to have if I hadn’t taken this step of faith.
Looking forward, I am excited for the cool ways that the Lord will continue to use my story to work for His glory not only with the athletes at FGCU but also in all the other areas of my life!