“Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking:
Who will I send?
Who will go for us?
I said: Here I am. Send me.” — Isaiah 6:8
God is in the stretching business! He wants us to leave the familiar, the safe and the comfortable so He can grow, build and strengthen our faith. He loves to take us out of our comfort zones and put us into faith zones. Not just any faith, but full faith.
Super faith. Big faith. Bet-the-farm faith. Faith that requires us to put ourselves in situations where we pray:
“God, if You don’t show up, we are bound to fail.”
Isaiah was asked to step out of his comfort zone and into the faith zone when he heard these earth-shattering words, “Who will I send? Who will go for us?” His simple, humble, obedient response was, “Here I am. Send me.”
In 1991, several lacrosse coaches in the back room of a small pizza place were moved by God to answer the same question Isaiah did, “Who will I send?” Little did we know that the following summer, God would use our willingness to step out
of our comfort zones and into the faith zone to impact an entire sport. Now, 30 years later, it’s a miraculous story we call Miracle in the Mountains.
Even after 32 years of serving on FCA staff, what happened during the Miracle in the Mountains is still the most powerful ministry experience of my life. God miraculously showed up in July 1992 in Vail, Colorado, to not only teach a rag-tag lacrosse
team of 20 players that He can do the impossible; but also, He planted seeds of ministry that led to a harvest FCA is still reaping today. All we had to do was utter those game-changing, life-altering words:
“Here I am. Send me.”
During the now-famous 1991 pizza meeting, God put a burden on my heart as well as the hearts of several other friends of mine who also played lacrosse. We wanted to reach the sport of lacrosse for Jesus, so we brainstormed a number of ideas we thought
would have the greatest impact. Someone brought up putting together an FCA lacrosse team and playing in the Vail Shoutout, which at the time was the most prestigious lacrosse tournament in the country. You might say it was the Wimbledon of lacrosse.
Questions swirled: How do we get in? Who would play for us? How would we pay for it? We decided that night that if God was in this, He would make a way. One of the coaches, Frank Kelly, wrote down some action items. We prayed we would step
out of our comfort zones and into the faith zone if God would open the doors.
Since I was on staff with FCA, I was tasked with asking if we could form an FCA sports team. Since it had never been done before, I didn’t know who to ask; so, we took a leap of faith and gave ourselves the green light. I’d only been on staff
for two years and hoped I wouldn’t get fired.
I also agreed to call the tournament and ask how to enter Team FCA. You know…the team that didn’t exist! After several failed attempts to reach someone, I finally talked with Skip, the tournament organizer. I shared our God-sized vision with
him, and he listened. But he quickly crushed our dream. “We’re full, there are no openings,” he replied. My heart sank. “Would you please put us on the waiting list?” I kindly asked, not giving up. His response wasn’t
encouraging. “No one ever drops out. We don’t have a waiting list.”
Being persistent (which I learned from my dad), I begged him to take my name and number, just in case a team “for the first time ever” backed out of the Vail Shootout. He reluctantly agreed. I was praying that he actually wrote it down, because
my confidence level was at a zero. I didn’t think we would ever get in after talking to him.
In the back room of the pizza place, we had all agreed we would go if God provided a way. Miraculously, I got a call 11 months later from Skip. He shared that a team had dropped out, and he had an open spot for us. I don’t know if I was more surprised
that he had kept my name and number or that we got into the tournament. The problem was that he needed an answer the next day, in 24 hours, and we didn’t have a team!
I immediately called Frank and screamed, “We got in! We got in! But we don’t have a team!” Frank and I reminded ourselves of what we had said from the beginning, “If God is in this, He will provide a way.” So, the next day,
we took the next step of faith and called Skip back to enter Team FCA. We had less than a month to form a team and figure out how to get there.\
On faith, Frank and his wife, Gayle, paid the $800 registration fee and then booked 20 plane tickets, not even knowing who would fill them—a $6,000 expense, on their personal credit card. God was providing a way. Then, we started to recruit. And
pray. We called every Christian lacrosse player we knew. Right away, Frank convinced his three brothers, Bryan, David and John, to join the team. Every day, we hit the phones to try to fill out the roster. The goal was 20. The day before we were scheduled
to fly to Colorado, God provided our 20th player: Glenn Kalnins. Filling out our roster, in just enough time, was another sign that God was in this.
We had one practice as a team in Baltimore before departing for the tournament. Most of us didn’t even know each other. We didn’t have enough time to get official uniforms, so we got FCA tank tops and slapped numbers on the back. When we arrived
in Vail, we were blown away by the talent at the tournament. Teams with the best of the best players who had been together for years would be our competition. We all thought, “What did we get ourselves into? We are so out of our league. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. What were we thinking that night in the pizza place?”
Not completely knowing what to expect and anticipating a crushing defeat in the first round, we were shocked when God showed up and we beat Team Texas in a hard-fought battle. I’m not sure who was more surprised, us or them. After the game, we kneeled
at the center of the field to thank God and give Him glory.
We advanced to the second round and faced the No. 1 seed and two-time returning champions, Greene Turtle. They had never lost a game in the Vail Shoutout, and they usually annihilated teams by 20 goals. Fans and commentators saw them as the best team
ever assembled in the history of the tournament.
After 50 seconds, they were up 2-0. It was getting ugly quick. We reminded ourselves that if God was in it, He would provide a way. They jumped to a 5-1 lead before we knew what happened. After a time-out (more praying than game strategy in the huddle),
we again reminded ourselves that if God was in it, He would provide a way. We returned to the field and shocked the gallery of fans when we ended the first half tied at 5-5.
The second half was one of the most intensely fought games I have ever played in. It was more battle than game…a modern-day David and Goliath. Both teams left everything on the field, and we exchanged leads throughout the second half and ended
the game tied at 8-8.
By this time, news had spread throughout the tournament and thousands of people gathered to see if David would defeat Goliath. Fans who didn’t even know how to spell FCA were now rooting and cheering for us. All 20 FCA players were realizing that
God was up to something huge, and we were a part of it! We were living the prayer:
“God, if You don’t show up, we are bound to fail.”
On that incredible day, God showed up. We shocked the lacrosse world when we won 9-8 in double overtime. Still not completely knowing exactly how it happened, we knelt on the field and prayed to give God glory. Out of the thousands of lacrosse games I
have coached and played over the past 45 years, this match was the most incredible game I ever have been part of. I sensed that God was doing something way beyond putting a lacrosse team together to compete at the Vail Shoutout. He was answering our
prayers from the summer before when we simply prayed to impact the lacrosse world for Him. It was happening!
We advanced to the semifinals with a victory over Team Colorado, the No. 5 seed. Again, we prayed and thanked God on the field after the game. That meant we had made it to the championship game, which would be televised against Mount Washington, a historic
powerhouse. Even though the game ended 10-7 in Mount Washington’s favor, we knew God was using Team FCA not to shock the lacrosse world, but rather to impact it. We truly stepped out of our comfort zones and into a faith zone. Just like we did
after every game, we knelt on the field and prayed to give God thanks. He had done immeasurably more than we had asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).
During the entire tournament, players and fans of opposing teams saw how we competed and conducted ourselves, and they knew there was something different about Team FCA. It made them want to know more about Jesus. We saw first-hand how powerful of a witness
it can be when a team is committed to glorifying God and representing Him.
Today, as I reflect on what God did three decades ago, there are so many spiritual lessons I learned from the Miracle in the Mountains. To this day, they continue to shape and mold me as a leader. Here are my top five take-aways:
- God loves to take us out of our comfort zones and put us into faith zones.
- God longs for us to simply and humbly respond, “Here I am. Send me.”
- God makes a way if we are willing to take the next step.
- God desires to create champions, not to win championships.
- God does far beyond all that we could ask or imagine.
One small decision to form a team has impacted thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of coaches and athletes in over 100 countries. Andy Stanley says, “You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision on what to do with the burden God
put in your heart.” Well, we had no idea what was hanging in the balance 30 years ago based on one decision.
The decision to create Team FCA for the Vail Shootout is the humble beginnings of a ministry within FCA today that we now call FCA Sports. FCA Sports is impacting dozens of sports like volleyball, baseball, football, hockey, soccer, motocross, just to
name a few. Today, thousands of athletes are playing on FCA teams around the world and experiencing the life-changing power of teams committed to glorifying God and representing Him in competition.
It all started with the Lord asking, “Who will I send? Who will go for us?” It’s an invitation that continues today. Let’s all respond like Isaiah did, “Here I am. Send me.” We never know what hangs in the balance of
one small decision with a burden that God puts on our hearts. Remember, He is the Way Maker. We just have to take the next step of faith.
Here I am. Send me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Watch the whole story here: Miracle in the Mountains