Sharing testimonies

More than 350 students attend Fields of Faith

Photo by Jenny Kirk Redwood Valley High School football coach Matt Lundeen addresses a crowd of about 350 students at the Southwest Minnesota Fellowship of Christian Athletes 'Fields of Faith event on Wednesday in Marshall.

MARSHALL — “Be who you really are wherever you are” was a constant message delivered to more than 350 students who were in attendance at the Fields of Faith event on Wednesday evening at Mattke Field Regional Event Center on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.

A variety of speakers shared their heartfelt and inspirational stories throughout the event, which was organized through Southwest Minnesota Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and held in conjunction with hundreds of other similar Fields of Faith events throughout the nation.

“There are 435 in the country, along with one in South Korea, going on right now, too,” Southwest Minnesota FCA director Robin Knudsen said. “They’re from Brownsville, Texas, to Duluth and Oceanside, California, to Hazlet, New Jersey. It’s awesome.”

Marshall High School senior Kaylee Gossen was the first to share her testimony, revealing how a recent decision — one that cost her a trip to the state golf tournament — has impacted her life.

Gossen said she played really well during the first nine holes of the section meet, but then struggled a little on the second nine.

“After I got done, I went to the scorer’s table and my group and I went over each hole to make sure we all had the right score for each hole,” she said. “I signed my card and then went off.”

Gossen found her mom and told her she had recorded an 82 for the round.

“She kind of looked at me funny and said they had me shooting an 83,” Gossen said. “So I took my individual scorecard and compared it to hers. We realized on the 16th hole, she had me down as shooting a 7 and I put down a 6.”

In her head, Gossen replayed the hole, eventually determining that she did shoot a 7 and that the error was going to “In golf, the rule is if you sign an incorrect scorecard, it’s a disqualification,” she said. “So I had the choice between either not saying anything and going to state as an individual or disqualifying myself from going to state for the second year in a row.”

Gossen said she went to her parents, told them what happened and listened to their advice.

“They said, ‘Kaylee, we’re going to let you decide this on your own. This is your decision. You need to make it yourself,'” Gossen said. “Every time I thought about ‘hey, just keep quiet,’ I had this really uneasy, anxious feeling. There was this voice in the back of my head, telling me, ‘Kaylee, go do the right thing. Go disqualify yourself.'”

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that Gossen realized what that voice was.

“I was at a Bible study with my volleyball team and Linda Saugstad told me, ‘Hey, that was the Holy Spirit telling you to go do the right thing and glorify God,'” Gossen said. “I’m still a little unsure what God is trying to tell me through this, but maybe the first step is sharing it. So I challenge you to make the right decision because God calls us to live our lives like him, to be an image of him, so live our lives with integrity.”

MHS senior Johanna Christensen offered additional insight, sharing that she once struggled with major anxiety issues. Growing up, she had experienced anxiety and fear because of the medical health struggles that two of her younger sisters were going through.

“It was kind of traumatic for me,” she said. “I know there are a lot worse health problems to have, but for me as a young kid, it was hard for me to see my sisters go through that, to process that. It created a fear for me about physical health and anything medical.”

Out of the blue nearly three years ago, Christensen said she experienced her first full-blown panic attack. Additional ones followed.

“It went on for months,” Christensen said. “I lost a lot of weight because I wasn’t hungry. I’d shake all the time. I wouldn’t sleep. I couldn’t calm my thoughts down. I couldn’t catch my breath and my heart would be beating so rapidly. It was super unnerving.”

Christensen said she felt “like a freak of nature,” but then received good advice from her mother.

“My mom said it is a good thing because it’s something I could use to grow closer to God,” she said. “She told me to really spend time reading my Bible and just praying, so I did. There are so many verses in the Bible about not fearing and having pace. God doesn’t want us to be anxious. He’s a God of peace.”

Christensen also learned that there are countless others who have similar struggles.

“We all experience feeling anxious on some level,” she said. “We all struggle with things in our minds, whether its depression, insecurity, maybe you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, eating disorders — those are all different things that are struggles of the mind.”

Christensen was happy to report that she no longer struggles with anxiety in a way that she used to. She then encouraged anyone who is struggling to follow three steps: talk to a Christian adult, read the Bible and to pray.

“Don’t try to go through this alone,” she said. “So don’t hold those thoughts in.”

Christensen then started an impactful skit that Marshall High School and Lakeview High School FCA members put on for their peers.

“This is a skit to show you who they were before Christ and who they are now that Christ has redeemed them,” Christensen said.

One by one, the students walked up front and turned a piece of cardboard for everyone to see. One cardboard had the word “insecure,” written on it, but when it was turned over, it read: “confident in Christ.”

“Down in Georgia, there was a national FCA Conference a couple of years ago and there were some FCA leaders from around the United States that actually did this,” Lakeview student leader Isaac Kesteloot said. “They did that in front of a massive crowd of people. That had to have been cool to be there.”

Some of those leaders brought the idea back to Minnesota.

“We’ve been doing that now,” Kesteloot said. “I think it’s really awesome.”

While this year marked the first that Kesteloot attended the Fields of Faith event, he was very impressed.

“It was really fun,” he said. “I was surprised by the amount of people here. It was really cool.”

Speaker Matt Lundeen got right to the point in his presentation as well.

“Are you a chameleon?” Lundeen asked. “You’re all praising Jesus tonight, but are you putting on a show? What about tomorrow morning? What about when you’re on the football field or volleyball court or running cross country? Are you still the same person?”

Lundeen, a football coach at Redwood Valley, said football is what he does. It’s not who he is.

“I also teach sixth grade and I have a wife and three kids,” he said. “But my goal in life is that I would be most known as someone who loves Jesus.”

Lundeen asked the students if they have used this fall to become a better person or if they have been so focused on their sport or whatever that they haven’t take the time.

“If we only help them become better football players, we’ve totally missed our purpose of why we coach,” Lundeen said. “So I ask you, ‘Do you fully and firmly know who you are and what you’re all about?’ Do you know why you make the choices you make each and every day, because the reality is that if you don’t know, the world is going to pick it for you, and if you going to let the world do that, look out. You’re in trouble.”

Lundeen pointed out several scenarios, like winning games versus losing games and being in a favorite class versus a least favorite class, to try and make the young men and women understand his message.

“You need to know why you live your life the way that you do,” he said. “People don’t ever try to get addicted to drugs and alcohol. No, it happens slowly over time. That’s why young people have to be so intentional and purposeful each and every day. But oftentimes, young people let others dictate how they live their lives.”

Lundeen encouraged attendees to avoid looking for their identity in activities and people.

“Do you let what you do give you your true joy in life, your identity?” he asked. “Or maybe your object isn’t a sport, it’s to have a certain girlfriend, boyfriend or a certain group of friends to hang with. Our lives are just like a water bottle, and every day, just like this pin, we have things that suck the life out of us — practice, school, homework, classes, friendship, home life, you name it. So here’s the question: what do you do to fill yourself back up?”

Lundeen suggested filling up with the word of God and surrounding oneself with “great youth groups and accountability partners that’ll hold you true to who you want to be.”

Following Jesus doesn’t assure anyone of a perfect life, but it does give people a lifeline.

“The Bible says that you will have trouble in this world, but God has overcome this world and is right there for you,” Lundeen said. “You have to grow in your relationship with Jesus and it takes a conscious effort each and every day.”

After the event, Jada Falconer, an 11-year-old from True Light Christian School, shared her thoughts.

“I think Fields of Faith if really fun because you can really share Christ with other people and it really helps kids to know and get closer to God,” she said.