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Heaven on Earth

Published on January 16, 2024

Scott Barkley

Skylar Rayburn didn’t grow up in a Christian household, and after the death of his great-grandfather, he promised to never speak to God again. An invitation to an FCA Camp helped him break that declaration. As he puts it, “It was the best promise I’ve ever broken.”

Now a Representative for FCA, Rayburn wants to make a similar impact among college students in Spokane, Washington. At 21 years of age, he feels he can relate to them.

“God can use sports to change lives,” he said. “But when I was putting sports at the center of my life, it was taking the place of Christ. I’ve seen how God uses FCA to change lives. It encourages athletes to not only play harder for their teams, but it gives them a purpose and peace along with everything that comes with the fruits of the Spirit.”

Rayburn had good size and athleticism as an underclassman in high school. During his sophomore year, he started as a lineman for the football team, played the center position for the basketball team and finished 7th in the state in shotput.
But he experienced emotional wounding that dug at the root of where he placed his worth. A battle with his weight caught the attention of a coach, whose comments caught the attention of teammates.

The negative feedback from all sides sent him to a dark place, mentally. His source of self-value had become something that made him feel unworthy.

“Sports was a place where I had always gotten my praise,” he said. “But, at that point, I’d been putting my faith in something that had failed me. I internalized my pain when my mom, knowing something was wrong, asked me if I had ever thought of hurting myself.”

His mother had never asked that type of question, but it connected with Rayburn at a time when he needed to address his mental health.

“I didn’t answer, but just kind of broke down,” said Rayburn.

After being invited to FCA Camp in Nampa, Idaho, he came away with something much better than improved football skills.

“It was there where I first felt the love of Christ, that burning desire and passion,” he reflected. “It was great, but I didn’t really know how to work further with that when I got home.”

After camp, Rayburn got more involved in church and was helped by others in reading the Bible and learning about Jesus. After graduating high school, he played football at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, before transferring to Washington State “Sports was a place where I had always gotten my praise, but, at that point, I’d been putting my faith in something that had failed me." 
-Skylar Rayburn 
University. That move was primarily for academic reasons, though Rayburn–who stands at 6’3” and 290 pounds–did work out with the football team and met with coaches before transferring. Ultimately, he decided to focus on his studies.

He has continued to grow in his involvement in FCA to pass along the lessons he has learned, mainly that sports are great when kept in their lane. Our worth comes from a better source, and Rayburn’s passion to share that with other student-athletes continued to grow that by the time he graduated from Washington State, he was taking steps to come on staff full-time with FCA.

Today, Rayburn serves on staff as part of Central Washington FCA. His focus is on high school and middle school student-athletes in Selah, Naches and Yakima—the region where he grew up. His role in Spokane puts him in place to minister to students at Gonzaga University and Whitworth University.

This past summer, he returned to FCA Camp as a Huddle Leader.

“It’s the closest thing we’re gonna get to Heaven on Earth,” he said. “It’s pretty spectacular how God uses FCA Camp in so many ways.