Empty classrooms, hallways, stadiums and gymnasiums have left a lasting effect on thousands of students, athletes, teachers, coaches and parents in the urban and eastside of Portland. Since March of 2020, they have been unable to attend school on campus or have any school sports. It was as if everything came to a sudden halt, and, for many, life as they knew it was unexpectedly stripped away. Especially in these middle years, loss of connection can have a detrimental effect on development.
Years spent attending junior high are incredibly formative. The influence of teachers, coaches and their peers can help set the trajectory of young lives. But, when all else seems lost, especially for those without faith, where can they turn?
FCA staff and leaders in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Region saw the loss inflicted on so many who were separated from the life-giving spaces where they had community, connection and purpose. They saw the gaps and knew they had to do something to bring hope to kids and families in their community.
After months of their state being on lockdown, Pacific Northwest Ministry Advancement Coordinator Makena Schroder began receiving texts from parents asking about getting a middle school FCA Huddle re-started for their kids in the fall. Schroder began meeting with a few of the concerned parents to determine how to make their Huddle happen while still abiding by the state’s safety guidelines.
“We haven’t been to school since March of last year,” Schroder said. “There have been no school sports. The kids were all doing online school unless they were going to private school. We were getting so many calls about kids with anxiety and depression. I met with a girl locally whose teammate committed suicide. We kept getting phone calls from parents saying their kids needed to be around other kids.”
FCA Huddle ministry is an impactful way to get young people together in a room to fellowship, build friendships and to go deeper in their understanding of God and who He has made them to be.
The first week of the FCA Huddle resumed the middle of October at a local church that had the space for them to safely gather.
“What’s been super awesome is that God has allowed us to meet a need,” Schroder said. “That first week, we played games and many heard the Gospel for the very first time. It was life-giving for the adults who showed up and the kids who got to be in community.”
Since the Huddle began, three middle school girls who identify as atheists have been attending regularly and have transitioned into deeper conversations about grace and the Gospel.
“It’s been amazing to watch how the Word of God and the Spirit leads our volunteers to listen and not be afraid of the girls’ questions and how they point them to the truth of God’s Word,” Schroder said.
The second week they talked through Ephesians 2, focusing on God’s love and grace for His children. This resulted in a discussion about forgiveness.
“The girls started asking hard questions — they hadn’t dug into Christianity, but heard things contrary to faith,” Schroder said. “The other young girls in the Huddle who were believers started responding and talking about grace, being saved through faith and not by works."
More questions from the group such as What is grace? Do you have to do anything to be saved? and What does it mean to be a Christian? created the perfect opportunity for leaders to clearly share the Gospel.
“Huddle ministry is making yourself available to the Lord. He is desperate to show Himself to His people. He wants to draw people to new life in Him.”
- Makena Schroder
Over the last three months, Schroder and the other leaders have seen their small group move from hesitant to relational. Although the girls who have been overt atheists haven’t made a faith decision yet, they keep showing up to the Huddle, which, Schroder noted, is God at work.
“The girls went from questioning the historical accuracy of Scripture and God’s character to feeling so welcome and comfortable that they began opening up about their lives,” Schroder said.
As an organization, FCA is used to celebrating the number of salvations, the number of campers and the number of Huddles. But as the ministry focuses more on discipleship, FCA is purposefully embracing the process as much as the outcome. Becoming less program-centric, the organizational focus has shifted more on the individual, where staff can walk with them on their discipleship journey towards knowing Jesus and trusting Him with their lives.
When FCA staff like Schroder and her volunteers make the decision to show up and be there for the lost and hurting, God shows up. The Huddle is committed to the process, sowing seeds and letting the Holy Spirit do the work. God’s Word is alive and active and has the power to transform any heart that is far from Him into one of personal relationship.
Please pray that Schroder and other FCA staff in the PNW will be encouraged and have the endurance to keep being faithful to what God has called them to do. And pray that the girls in that Huddle who do not yet believe would continue to have their hearts softened and drawn closer to putting their faith and hope in Jesus.
You can support Schroder and her ministry efforts here. Check out Pacific NW FCA to learn more about what God is doing throughout the PNW region.