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Fields of Faith brings 500 youth together for lessons in life

October 14, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Though the rain put a damper on the field part, the faith was as strong as ever for the 13th Annual Fields of Faith inside the Union High School gym, hosted by the Union FCA and featuring guest speakers, plenty of laughs and stories of belief to over 500 attendees.

Youth from the communities of Benton, Dysart, Hudson, La Porte City, Traer and Vinton gathered in the gym as local Christian leaders such as Okee Walker and Craig Greiner from NtBasic out of Traer took to the mic. Greiner led through bible verses and fun activities for attendees who mainly were in middle school or high school.

"It was awesome to have an opportunity to either be outside or inside thanks to Union schools," Joe Hadachek, longtime organizer for Fields of Faith. "We can't control the weather, we adapt and adjust."

Article Photos

Grace Walker embraces her father, Okee, after giving a speech to over 500 attendees at Fields of Faith, relocated inside Union High School to avoid rain.

Fields of Faith not only featured adult preachers spreading the gospel to a young, engaged audience, but also the stories of various students from the local school districts. Grace Walker, a junior at Union, took to the mic like her father did early in the program. Walker related her experience during a mission trip to Haiti, where she met an ill woman on her deathbed. Instead of fearing her death, Walker was astonished by the woman's acceptance and readiness to join her family and her savior in heaven.

"The thing that inspired me the most to speak was my friends at church," Walker said. "They were telling me I had a lot to share and that other people needed to hear that story. When the chance came to speak at fields of faith I just felt like it was the right thing to do. This women made the biggest impact on my life. She taught me that life if worth living and that every moment should be for God and his glory."

Hadachek feels the ability for young people to go up in front of people to speak is difficult enough, but to share a story of faith can be hard. However, he believes with each story, hope is spread to those who may be hesitant to share their own issues.

"There are people sitting out there with problems and feel they have no one to talk to," Hadachek said. "Our hope is that people can seek help and find the right church for them."

Walker admits she did not want to go up and share her story, yet she reminded herself it was for God and he would give her the strength to carry out the speech.

"I hope that people took away the fact that we are called to share and the fact that we can't hide what God has given us," Walker said. "He has given us such a great gift and even when we are hurt and unable to move, we can still make a difference in people's lives."

According to Hadachek, Fields of Faith was initially started on a football field, a place where Hadachek has spent many days as a college and high school coach.

"They are a lot of men in the history of football who have been faith-based such as Tom Osbourne, Scott Frost and Dabo Swiney coaching at Clemson," Hadachek said.

The first event 13 years ago brought in 75 kids, growing to incorporate multiple schools in hopes of other districts reproducing Fields of Faith in their community. Waukon and Cedar Falls also host a similar event.

Wednesday night continued as two UNI athletes, Jessica Heims and Hezekiah Applegate, shared their experiences with faith and athletics. Heims is a member of the United State Paralympics Team and a Discus World Record Holder, competing as a member of the Panther Track and Field Team.

"Before I was a believer, a lot of my identity was in my athletics, my accomplishments," Heims said. "I want athletes to understand that even after finding Christ, life isn't a happy bubble of all these wonderful things. Hardships comes with that."

Hezekiah "H" Applegate grew up with Christ as the son of a youth pastor in Johnston, receiving lessons in the form of something as simple as stick from his father. A standout athlete for the Johnston Dragons, Applegate enjoyed individual and team success throughout high school.

"I felt fortunate early in my high school career to have put God first," Applegate said. "In my three years of varsity football, I got hurt every single year with a major injury: fractured hip, fractured sternum, dislocated elbow. Those injuries were God reminding me, because those were times I was getting on my high horse. He took football temporarily from me to show me that truth. I love football, but God is my base and rock."

Applegate started at linebacker for the Panthers early in his college career only to see his spot taken away later. However, he believes his identity lies in God and not football, a fact he wanted to teach young Christian athletes in attendance such as Walker.

"She was asked such a hard question, 'are you ready to die' and it made me think." Applegate said. "I think that puts it into perspective of where your faith it. For me, I looked forward to college and athletics at her age and certainly not ready to die. That means I'm not all for Christ."

Heims grew up in a family she described as "loving", yet did not teach the Gospel in a way she could learn. After finding a new church and growing with fellow Christian athletes such as Applegate, Heims said she felt she "truly learned the love of Christ". With the night's speakers, she saw God through their stories.

"It's so beautiful to see that resilience in young people finding the love of Christ," Heims said. "I feel I didn't have as much courage as they have when I was in high school. I love seeing them grow and know they can love the gospel."

Sophie Winkelpleck, currently a junior at Union, has attended Fields of Faith for six years As a high school athlete, Winkepleck related to the words of both Heims and Applegate, approaching the two after the event to seek their advice on how to talk to friends about Christ.

"It's hard to introduce Jesus to people, yet it's your job as a Christian," Winkelpleck said. "The fact that so many people came to listen to the shows our area is getting reached. So many lives are being touched by this event and these speakers."

As the evening drew to its conclusion, Curtis Fry took to the mic not necessarily as a preacher, but as a man who saw his life turn upside down after one fateful night. Fry was 21, a college football athlete at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and grew up in a strong Christian family in Wilton.

"I was just like many people in that gym in high school," Fry said. "Good athlete, seemingly good Christian, did nothing wrong. However, I wasn't actually living the life God envisioned for me and I see that now."

Fry celebrated his birthday with his brother and friend in Iowa City, drinking heavily and ended up losing his group. They would find him later without pants and his wallet, taking him back to their apartment. Later on, Fry would be approached by the Iowa City Police saying they found his belongings within the apartment of a 75 year old man beaten to death. Fry would be charged for second degree murder, later found guilty of manslaughter. He would spend five years in prison and then serve probation afterwards.

"Before I even got out of prison, youth groups started asking my dad if I would come to share my story," Fry said. "I knew God had laid that on my heart. It wasn't my story to hold in. It was SALT company in Iowa City I shared to first and I wasn't ready. As soon as I got up there, I knew it was God's message to share. I've spoken between 200 to 250 times since then."

Hadachek had heard of Fry through a faculty member at Union and asked him to speak to the students at Fields of Faith. True to the recommendations, students listened intently at Fry's story, realizing their stories weren't so different and learning how one decision can impact your life.

"No matter what you've been through, God is there to rescue you," Fry said. "The way that these students opened up instead of putting on a face is encouraging. This community was great to speak to."

The group of 500 attendees circled up for prayer to end their night. All in attendance were encouraged to find a faith system and help was offered if needed in finding a church to belong to.



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