Followers of Christ are shaped in different ways, each equipped with a unique beginning that led to their decision to accept Christ. However, if you are a member of Larry Sr. and Bonnie Johnsen’s family, your story probably begins similarly, with an affiliation to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The family’s story began when their patriarch Larry Sr. became involved with FCA in 1973 at Geneseo High School in Geneseo, Illinois as a football coach under the late Bob Reade. Shortly after Larry Sr. joined staff, the young family attended their first FCA Coach’s Camp in Colorado and the rest, as the family may say, is history.
“Being in FCA has been a big part of our life and we were very fortunate that it helped influence our family’s faith,” shared Larry Sr.
It didn’t take long for FCA to become a cornerstone of faith for the Johnsen family, one in which they hoped would be an example to not only their children, but to the other students they led.
When Reade left to coach at Augustana College in 1979, Larry Sr. stepped up as head football coach and became the next FCA Huddle leader. The Johnsen family hosted at their home, which provided their own children a chance to observe the discipleship that happens within FCA on a weekly basis.
“Even though Larry Jr. and Tracey were still little, they always enjoyed being around the older kids at the camps our family attended,” said Bonnie. “We were happy because they were exposed to seeing high school kids who were interested in learning more about Jesus.”
Both Larry Jr. and Tracey grew up, married and started their own families, where they continue to grow their family’s involvement with FCA. It’s obvious the family shares a deep love and passion for the program, one that has influenced a third generation.
“To be a part of something that has been important to my family since before I was born feels special,” shared Tracey’s daughter, Anna Wise. “FCA Camp was such an impactful experience, and it is wonderful to have people, specifically close family, who can relate to that experience in a deeper way.”
Larry Sr. and Bonnie continue to support the organization’s pursuit of making disciples of Christ by preparing breakfast every Friday before school starts to more than 60 high school students. Local businesses, parents, churches and donors make it possible for the students to fill not just their body with good food but their hearts with the Word of God. This also gives them a reason to see two of their five grandchildren who are still involved Geneseo’s FCA (the other three have since graduated but were active members).
“I don’t care if they only come for the breakfast,” laughed Bonnie. “The students can’t help but feel loved and cared for by others. And once they are here, they find fellowship with the other kids.”
Added Larry, “For young children to see people around that are willing to share and live their faith is such a joy to share with them. When children grow in their faith, they spread that to others. Kids might listen to what we say, but more importantly, they watch how we live.”
The couple is clothed in humility and are a true example of what a Christ-centered life looks like. In fact, their love and active faith is most likely why local FCA Multi-Area Director Dan Pearson is so thankful to have them on his team of supporters.
“Bonnie and Larry are tremendous role models for what it means to live out a Christian marriage,” Pearson shared. “They've had countless athletes, coaches and their families see what it looks like having the Gospel of Jesus front and center, and having Jesus as the center cord in their relationship. They are proof that God's ways work! The dozens and dozens of kids in the Geneseo Huddle see their grace and humility in front of them every Friday.”
It's obvious the Johnsen family’s love for sharing the Gospel runs deep. They have a true passion and calling to reach the younger generation.
“As parents, teachers and a coach, we’ve been involved with children and young adults for over 50 years,” said Bonnie. “We look forward to every Friday morning when we get to be involved with everyone at FCA. We’re grateful for the adult Huddle leaders but especially the kids. They give us hope, encouragement and inspiration. They bless us every week.”
If you would like to donate food items for the student’s weekly breakfast or to give financially to Three Rivers FCA, please contact FCA Multi-Area Director Dan Pearson (email@example.com) or click here: www.3riversFCA.org/donate.