'God deserves the credit'
Ed and Sylvia Christopherson are quick to deflect any praise or credit for their longtime commitment to the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) chapter — all the credit, all the attention, all the honor they say, goes to God.
Still, the Alexandria couple will be honored for their dedication during the FCA's Thanksgiving Breakfast on Wednesday, November 25 from 7 to 8 a.m. at Broadway Ballroom in Alexandria. There will be a hot breakfast, live music and a tribute to the Christophersons. The event is open to the community and a free-will donation will be accepted.
In 1967, the Christophersons came to Alexandria to teach and coach.
"When we arrived, we were delighted to discover the FCA had been started two years earlier by teacher and coach, John Gustafson," Ed said.
Gustafson handed over the FCA reins to Ed.
Although admittedly a little overwhelmed at first, Ed and Sylvia opened their home to the students hosting weekly huddles — or meetings.
"[There were] often 12 to 30 [students], but sometimes there could be 50 students in our living room. The students were polite, fun and considerate," Ed said.
"We sometimes smiled when we looked at our small front entrance piled high with shoes," Sylvia added.
The couple prepared Bible studies that students used to lead small groups during huddles.
"Often their questions revealed an interest in God, and their faith and prayers often inspired us," Sylvia said. "At times they departed quickly for homework and other times they lingered around snacks in the kitchen."
Even today, the local huddle remains a significant part of the FCA ministry; it's student-led, meets on a regular basis at the middle school or high school and focuses on equipping, enabling, empowering and encouraging student athletes.
Also important, the Christophersons said, are the FCA summer camps that many local athletes and coaches attended over the years.
The cost of camp was paid half by the camper and half by FCA.
"We didn't want any student to miss the opportunity to attend a camp due to financial restrictions, so the students' parents, some churches and a few businesses helping with funding and God blessed the efforts," Sylvia said.
In the early 1980s, a community-wide fundraising event — a Jog-a-Thon — was started to raise funds for FCA but also to honor the memories of former student athletes and FCA members like brother and sister Jeff and Jacky Leslie, Erik Movold, Mike Kugler and teacher and coach Wayne Fleischer.
"Our own experience in attending FCA camps resulted in it often being the highlight of the summer," Sylvia said.
FCA'S RIPPLE EFFECT
"FCA can be described as having a ripple effect. We are personally aware of situations when one student has shared their faith with another student and a student has shared with a parent to make a huge difference in the eternal destiny," Sylvia said. "God has blessed the sharing that has occurred through FCA."
What are their thoughts on being honored next week during the FCA breakfast?
"We are embarrassed because we aren't different than anybody else and we shouldn't be in the spotlight. We simply followed where God was leading us in our life. All that we did was follow what we thought God expected of us.
"It's not what we have accomplished, it is what God has accomplished," Sylvia said.
"We have been blessed," Ed added.
After teaching, Ed went on to work for FCA as a regional director and established 30 new FCA huddles in the northwest region of Minnesota.
Although Ed's FCA ministry in Alexandria transitioned to other local leaders, he and Sylvia remain active in the organization.
The Christophersons, who have two children and six grandchildren, told the Echo Press they're both humbled and blessed by the FCA organization and especially all of the people they've met through the love and power of God.