Good afternoon FUMA family. We’ve had a great week here on campus! There are few things more exciting than being able to celebrate a person’s decision to follow Jesus. We were blessed by being able to baptize 13 cadets who made that decision earlier this week.
We held a special Corps-wide service on Wed evening to celebrate this important occasion. Our president, Colonel Coggins opened the service with a great explanation of the meaning of baptism for Baptists. In our tradition, baptism is very important, however, it does not save you. We are saved because of our faith in Jesus Christ. It is because of the work He did by dying on the cross for our sins. You must confess your sins, believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and receiving the forgiveness of the cross.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Baptism is the outward symbol of our inward faith. It’s the way we declare to the world that Jesus saved us and we will now follow him wherever he calls us. It is a public way to identify with the death of Jesus as we are submerged and the resurrection as we are raised to new life in Christ Jesus.
After Col. Coggins spoke, Maj. Gary Leydig and I were honored to baptize these 13 young men. Cadet Chaplain Elonzo Burroughs prayed for each candidate as he entered the water. Each professed his faith in Jesus and commitment to a lifetime of discipleship and was raised into new life.
Good afternoon FUMA family. We were incredibly blessed this week to welcome a guest speaker to campus. Our FCA leader, MAJ Leydig arranged for Zach Clinton to come and speak to our cadets at a special chapel service this week. Zach is a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Liberty University. As host of the Built Different Podcast, he has interviewed professional athletes like Kirk Cousins and Albert Pujols, mental health advocates such as Dr. Michael Lyles and Chonda Pierce and ministry leaders like Bob Goff and John Eldridge. He also serves as the host of the Ignite Men’s Impact Weekend that gathers nearly 10,000 men each year. A former Division 1 college baseball player, he is recognized as a growing authority and voice on performance and mental health for today’s generations.
Zach taught powerfully, providing biblical insight on God’s design for masculinity. It’s so important for our young men to hear that while we could all imagine men who have done toxic things, this does not mean that masculinity itself is toxic. God had a vision for how men were created to be, and the role men are called to play in our world as warrior leaders for God.
He did a great job of giving the corps a way to think about how to grow as warrior leaders in our world. Using sports and insightful personal stories, he taught about the 7 Cs: courage, commitment, conviction, consistency, character, community, and cost. I felt like his unique insight connected well with our cadets. Many stayed after chapel to talk and pray.
I share this with you because I think it was a powerful God-moment to celebrate on campus but also a great snapshot of one of FUMA’s strengths. I love that FUMA cadets get access to great leaders. Unlike in many other educational venues, our cadets have the opportunity over the year to talk with and learn from experienced and successful leaders from many different fields. In a world that sends so many negative messages to our young men, FUMA makes sure our cadets experience God’s truth so that they can understand their identity in Christ and purpose to lead and reshape our world for God.
Good afternoon FUMA family. I think that it's easy for people of faith to become discouraged these days. When I feel those feelings start to sneak in, I find it helpful to look back. Not to pine for glory days gone past, but to reflect on the continued faithfulness of God across the tapestry of life. In fact, I believe that this is one of the strengths of our faith. Scripture itself often retells the great stories of God's faithfulness and commands us to share them anew to each generation. I think this retelling of the work of God builds up our faith so that we can anticipate the great works of God yet to come. As we prepare to celebrate Founders Day next week, it's a great time to think again about the story of FUMA.
Every good story has a beginning and ours starts with a party over a hundred years ago. In September of 1898, Dr. Hatcher was entertaining seven Baptist ministers when he received an invitation to attend a Sunday School convention at Bethel Baptist Church. While traveling with his guests, Dr. Hatcher passed a grove on the Walker G. Snead farm and commented that the grove would be an ideal location for a school. Although these men did not realize it at the time, God had planted the seed that would grow into Fork Union Military Academy, impacting thousands of young men across the years.
As this God-given dream solidified into reality, Dr. Hatcher clarified the purpose of Fork Union Military Academy in the first catalogue; "The best attention will be given the physical, social and religious training of the student." This eventually evolved into the now familiar Body, Mind, Spirit commitment.
Several years after FUMA's founding, he observed, "The religious spirit among the great body of students is decided, fervent, not a few of the students bearing an active part in the religious movement of the school and community." We see that God used our Academy to transform lives for the greater good of our world from the beginning. This was perhaps best reflected in so many students attending a local church that they ran out of room in the sanctuary. The practical solution was to split the corps in two; half attending each week. Students and faculty were dissatisfied with this, but faith inspires great and innovative solutions.
The FUMA family again dreamed big, resulting in Wicker Chapel and Titmus Tower. My favorite story related to the building of our chapel is that faith inspired one man, Felix de Panicis, to lay all of the 250,000 bricks himself. It's truly an inspiring act of faith, but perhaps more significant is that he laid out the chapel sanctuary in the shape of a cross. Every gathering in the chapel, whether explicitly religious or not, takes place in a space designed to remind us of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus and our God's power over death itself.
If you find yourself becoming discouraged by the world around us, take a minute to look back and reflect on the stories of the past. Remember that faith in God caused a community to gather together to form a school. It inspired a man to lay 250,000 bricks in such a way to always remind us of the Christ-centered purpose of our Academy. Most importantly, faith's call has drawn generations of men and women together who are committed to building a faith-filled future. These stories and hundreds more like them stand as the foundation of FUMA. When we remember God's constant faithfulness throughout our history, how could we not get excited about what He's going to do next.
Good afternoon FUMA family. It's exciting to see God moving here on campus. We're seeing great things happen through our Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapter. For those who are not familiar with this ministry, FCA is an international ministry designed to equip and empower Christian athletes to live out their faith. FCA's founder, Dan McClanen, noticed the enormous influence athletes had in endorsing merchandise. He began to feel a conviction to challenge Christian athletes to use the power of their influence to share the story of Christ's love for the world. This vision to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes gave birth to the FCA in 1954 and has impacted tens of thousands around the world.
FUMA's FCA chapter is run by MAJ Gary Leydig and is making a huge impact in the lives of our cadets. MAJ Leydig leads a weekly huddle on Monday nights at 6:15 that's averaging over 30 cadets. They gather together to empower these young athletes and leaders to grow in their faith and learn how to impact their campus and community for God's glory. It was at these meetings that God called out Cadet Burroughs to step out and serve as a cadet chaplain and 8 cadets decided to pursue baptism. God is moving!
FCA also hosts several special spiritual opportunities throughout the year including participation in the national See You at the Pole event. On September 21st, students across our nation gathered at the flag poles at their schools to pray to the Lord for each other, their communities and our nation. This year's theme came from James 4:10, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
We woke up to pouring rain and so moved part of the event into the chapel. Cadet Elonzo Burroughs gave a great message on the importance of surrounding yourself with a team who can help you become the man God intended. Undeterred by the rain, many then gathered around the pole for a time of prayer. One by one, cadets passionately prayed for their friends, family, fellow cadets, and our nation. It was a powerful moment! Until next week, keep praying for FUMA.
Good afternoon FUMA family. My name is Ben Jamison and I'm the new Chaplain here at Fork Union Military Academy. Scripture declares to us in 1st John, "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us." (1 John 1:3a) John opens his letter in this way because there is power in telling the story of what God is doing. It draws us all together and proclaims that God is active and working to overcome the darkness of our world. I want to share the stories of the great things God is doing so I'm starting a weekly blog so you can hear about the work here on campus. Check back every week and I hope that it will encourage you in the faith.
I look forward to getting to know you over the course of this year so here's a little bit of my story. I have served in a variety of roles over my nearly twenty years in ministry. I've pastored three churches, been a student ministry and chaplain but through it all, my central passion is to develop Christian leaders who can advance God's kingdom in our world. I think clarity is important so let's unpack what this means.
Leadership guru, John Maxwell, once said, "Leadership is about influence. Nothing else." Leaders influence others towards something. I love that Fork Union Military Academy is in the business of training young men to lead. Our cadets learn that they can influence others and how to harness that influence in a way that can achieve great things.
What does that mean for people of faith? As a Virginia Tech grad, I am emphatically not a fan of Clemson however, I do have great respect for their coach, Dabo Swinney. He is a man of God who once said, "I will be accountable to God for this: what did I do with all those kids he gave me? What did I do to build his kingdom?" In other words, his job is to influence kids to win football games but, from a faith perspective, football is just a platform to advance God's kingdom. It's worth remembering that whatever position we've been given, teacher, coach, CEO, homemaker, student, etc. is our platform to influence people for Christ. The cadets of today will go on to lead the world of tomorrow. I want to equip them to use these platforms as business, political and faith leaders, to lead our nation and world into something that glorifies God.
Think about the story of our faith for a moment. Jesus took twelve men and a handful of others and radically reshaped our world. Just think about what God can do through the lives of our 289 cadets! I'm excited to be a part of that kind of story. In fact, we're already seeing some young men step up in faith leadership. Allow me to introduce you to two cadets who are helping with the chaplaincy work on campus.
Cadet Elonzo Burroughs is one of our PG football players and is new to the FUMA family. After having powerful God moment at our FCA Bible study with MAJ Gary Leydig, Burroughs started praying with his fellow PGs every night. Within a week, he was leading prayer at morning chapel, inspiring his fellow players to help with chapel services and even preached at Sunday service.
Cadet Brandon Austin is a senior who is serving as a Platoon Leader for Bravo Company. After experiencing a sense that God was calling him to serve more, he also began praying with his fellow cadets. He now leads both the nightly prayers before taps and the pastoral prayer during Sunday morning worship.
Both of these young men are already making a tremendous impact which is influencing other cadets to step up to lead out in faith. I look forward to sharing their stories with you in the coming weeks. Until then, pray that God will continue this exciting work in our cadets.