FIFTY YEARS OF CRIMSON TIDE FAITH
BY WAYNE ATCHESON
I remember picking up my phone in October of 2013 and hearing the distinct greeting that immediately registered 'Mr. A'. Wayne Atcheson's voice is always full of energy, warmth, and joy.
He was writing a book and wanted me to tell about my experiences in FCA.
When I first got to Alabama (1982), Dr. Gary White was faithfully continuing the amazing ministry that Alabama's FCA has always had. When Mr. Atcheson returned to campus to become the head of athletic media relations, he and his wife, Barbara, jumped right in where they had left off.
Where would I be without Alabama's FCA? I just don't know...
I do know that getting a chance to walk away from football practice/workouts/studying and walk into the annex of Bryant Hall on Wednesday nights was an oasis for my time at Alabama.
Mr. Atcheson called me and told me he was writing a book on the 50th anniversary of the ministry that was started in 1964 and continues to this day. The University of Alabama has deep tradition and noteworthy achievements.... but to me... having the longest, continuing FCA on campus ministry is a special achievement.
When I first started going to the meetings- it had already achieved that status.
In the early days, it took some convincing to Coach Bryant to start the FCA meetings. As I have documented on my Coach Bryant blog (Bear Bryant Memories), Coach Bryant had a logical concern when it came to the mixing of faith and football.
Coach Bryant told us on more than one occasion about the 3 toughest linebackers he ever coached against were 3 guys at Baylor who went on the be Baptist preachers!
And Mr. A told us how early on Coach Bryant was worried that FCA was going to be the worst thing that happened to his program, but after just a few years.. he realized the opposite. He told Mr. A that FCA was one of the best things that ever happened to his football team.
I received my first copy of the book when I went to a book signing ceremony where Mr. A, Wesley Britt, and Bobby Humphrey all greeted eager Tide fans and signed a good number of books.
It is outstanding! Mr. Atcheson knows the right way to present the stories.
I have given away about 5 copies of the book and what has been cool is the response I have received. The way the chapters are written makes it very pleasurable to read in intervals... each story being its own testimony to God's faithfulness and grace.
IMPACT WITHOUT MEASURE
When I finished the last page, I paused and was overwhelmed with one thought that stuck with me for many days....
Lives!....... Souls! The great number of people who were connected and blessed!
God's kingdom has a ministry that multiplies.
Like the parables that Jesus told where the smallest things grow to enormous things (example of the Mustard seed), I 'saw' thousands and thousands of lives that had been touched by the men and women who had contact with the ministry of FCA.
In the early 60's.. Mr. A would type a unique 'newsletter'..it had quotes, verses, kind of a Christian version of Poor Richard's Almanac. He would then walk down the hall of green doors and put that flyer into each room.
The book chronicles all the tangible lives we do see..... I believe the impact of the ministry is even more in the realm of the unseen and unknown.
Like the guys who read the flyer and maybe never came to a meeting, but a seed was planted for a time in the future.
Or those who gave money to buy drinks, funds for retreats....
Those who prayed.... I can't wait to watch the replay of prayer impact when we get to eternity!
Or all the players who traveled to small towns throughout the state and gave testimonies to crowds of young people.
50 years had multiplied into changed lives... in staggering numbers and it continues to this day!
Thank you, Mr. A, Dr. White and so many more who dedicated their lives to helping guide young men through the maze of the odyssey of college days.
Ultimately, all of this is about the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. The good news for sinful men. If you followed any character in the book and looked close enough... you would find sin. I say that first hand as one of those stories!
But what I heard every Wednesday night were connectors and reminders that we cannot earn God's love, we do not add up good deeds and receive God's favor.....
We came each week thankful that there was a substitute. Jesus Christ willingly gave His life that we may find justification in His cleansing blood of sacrifice and atonement.
I am not good...He is good.
I am not perfect...He is perfect.
And we walked out of the Bryant Hall Annex every Wednesday night with the renewed hope and joy of that message.
And the result? Read the book! It is a great testimony to the power of the gospel and the platform of Alabama athletics... all to the glory of God.
My last interaction with Mr. A was on campus during ESPN College Gameday before the Mississippi State game this year.
I saw a sharp dressed Mr. Atcheson going through the crowd and cheerfully/humbly giving out little flyers about the book.
He saw me, exchanged warm greetings, he gave me a stack of flyers and moved on.
I stopped watching the GameDay show at that moment. I watched Mr. A for a full 5 or 10 minutes... walking along.. like the Sower in the parable... faithfully throwing out the good seed and praying for good soil.
I want to be there to see all of the fruit that this faithful man has been a part of..... more stories than any book could ever hold!
By the way- Mr. Atcheson now runs the Billy Graham library. He has been honored by Samford University for his distinguished work and career... the man is still sowing ALL THE TIME.