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Compassion and Consistency

Published on December 07, 2020

Sarah Freymuth

Grief came heavy for Hickory (NC) FCA Area Representative Joseph Edwards when his sister passed away when he was sixteen, then lost his father in a car wreck soon after. But God was both healing and preparing him for his calling to walk through the mess and mire with young adults. Through his faith and career as a social worker, Edwards’ heart was massaged with great compassion for others.

At the social services contracted him out as part-time, FCA entered to supplement his remaining work. It soon became evident that God was shifting him to full-time ministry, and Edwards landed at Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II private university in Hickory, North Carolina, which happened to be his alma mater. There, the FCA E3 discipleship method--Engage, Equip, Empower--proved instrumental for the relationships Edwards already valued. Edwards coordinated Thursday night Huddles, which grew to Friday morning men’s Bible studies for the male athletes on campus, which catapulted one-on-one discipleship where Edwards doesn’t take surface answers.

Said Edwards, “I like being present with them. People know you don’t have an agenda.” In a time of tricky transitions and the ever-changing landscape of culture and athletics, Edwards’ presence is a compass pointing athletes to the true anchor of Christ. 

One such example came last fall, when Edwards roamed campus and his eyes fell on redshirt senior Kyle Dugger, star safety for the Bears’ football team. He went over and told Duggar to get connected with FCA, believing God had things specifically for him. Dugger agreed to go to the Huddle that Thursday but never made it to the meeting.

“I saw him in the cafeteria a few days later and called him out on it and invited him to the Huddle again,” said Edwards.

His persistence paid off; Dugger showed up and kept coming. He got involved in the Friday morning study and began to meet with Edwards. “Kyle locked in--he’s this big guy seeking God,” said Edwards, “he’s very teachable.”

For Dugger, lessons came in the form of a finger injury that cost him the remainder of his senior season, in which he was captain of a top-five nationally ranked team. When Edwards spotted Dugger on his son’s Twitter feed the Monday after the Homecoming game, the look on Dugger’s face registered more disappointment than he let on. It may have gone unnoticed to the regular eye, but Edwards is trained to take a deeper look underneath the surface. The two met and Dugger admitted to struggling with concern, fear and the uncertainty of the future.

With Dugger’s hopes to play in the NFL, Edwards reminded him of God’s greatness over his circumstances and how He already knew the plans He had for him. They prayed for strength, and Dugger committed to leading his team from the sidelines.

Later that day at practice, Dugger received an invitation to play in the Reece’s Senior Bowl on January 25th. Edwards then challenged Dugger to start spending five minutes with God in the morning and to text him what God spoke in his devotional time.

“Kyle was faithful every day,” said Edwards. Dugger’s body healed and he was able to play in the bowl game. Leading up to the NFL Combine, Edwards kept checking in throughout the weeks of training, and Dugger kept texting his quiet time thoughts. When the New England Patriots selected Dugger as the 37th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, he had reached the mountaintop.

“I thought he would be all caught up in the excitement and not send his devotional thoughts, but within five minutes, a text came through,” said Edwards.

Edwards’ commitment to engage, equip and empower this emerging professional athlete is testament to God’s care and Edwards’ obedience. As Edwards reminds the coaches and athletes on His Zoom Huddle, in times of struggle, true faith is where the rubber meets the road. “We can quote scripture all night long, but will we stay faithful in the midst of the challenge?”

He believes that true labor begins and keeps with rest in what Jesus has already done. “We’re waiting for God to do something, but when Jesus hung on that cross, He said it was finished,” said Edwards. “When we step out, that’s where we find our power in Him.”

It’s been a journey of compassion and consistency; one Edwards feels is just beginning. Nothing excites him more than seeing someone understand their identity as a child of Christ and take that confidence not just back to campus, but into homes, families and communities for exponential life impact. “To watch them thrive,” he marveled, “is a blessing.”

Get involved with Joseph Edwards and his ministry at Lenoir-Rhyne, and learn more about Hickory FCA. Please pray for ministry in this area and for God to call more people to partner in North Carolina for His Kingdom.