At first, Bre Bader was just happy to return to her hometown.
On Oct. 1, 2014, Bader made the 45-minute drive from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, to Union High School in La Porte City, Iowa. A freshman on Wartburg’s volleyball team, Bader was encouraged by Joe Hadachek, who began Union’s FCA Huddle, to attend her alma mater’s annual Fields of Faith event.
Bader sat on the football field that night among a large group of students, which she did the previous four years. She witnessed students sharing their Christian faith in front of their peers through moving songs and testimonies.
“I just felt this nudge on my heart,” Bader said, “that God wanted me to get up there and share.”
Bader, 21, asked Hadachek, the school’s football coach, permission to speak. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Bader explained to students how she relied on her faith after her father, Ron, died from stage-four colon cancer on Aug. 30, 2014.
Bader shared how difficult it was to see her father’s health deteriorate, but also how important his influence was in her life. She realized she needed to live her life according to God’s plan despite it no longer including her father. She then encouraged the students to trust God, especially when hardships occur.
“I just wanted to share how life is fragile and people don’t always cherish the moments they have,” Bader said. “I just felt that these were things people needed to hear. And if God’s nudging you do it, you’ve got to do it.”
Three years later, Hadachek believes Bader’s testimony is one of the seminal moments in Union’s Fields of Faith history.
Union coach Joe Hadachek, top center, praying with students at Fields of Faith.
Hadachek, 55, began Union’s Huddle when he became the school’s coach in 2007. He read about Fields of Faith, FCA’s ministry outreach, online.
In 2004, FCA began the student-led event that allows adolescents –– whether they are athletes or not –– to invite one another for a night in October to share their Christian faith and to challenge each other to apply the Bible to their lives. The event occurs on an athletic field or gym at the school to provide a safe environment where anyone can attend.
“I (thought) that would be a great way to spread the word,” Hadachek said.
Less than 50 people attended Union’s inaugural Fields of Faith, Hadachek said, in 2007. Yet since then, he has promoted the school’s event with Troy Mangrich, the elder board chair at Prairie Lakes Church.
Last year, Hadachek said more than 700 students from various schools throughout the Eastern Iowa area came to Union, making it one of the biggest events in the state.
“It’s been overwhelming emotionally to see the number of people that have come,” he said. “There’s not many times you call your opponents’ coaches and say, ‘Hey, come on over. We want you to join us.’”
Hadachek invited Bader to join Union’s Huddle in 2010 when she was a freshman.
Bader was a Christian before she attended the Fields of Faith events, but she said her participation in FCA grew her faith immensely. Bader has since helped start the student-led huddle at Wartburg after graduating from Union.
“I’m proud of her,” Hadachek said of Bader’s testimony in 2014. “To talk about going through that and then going to another campus at the next level and carrying on FCA, that’s pretty special to know that that seed was planted back in high school.”
Bader said her favorite memory from attending the Fields of Faith events occurred when Hadachek invited Chris Norton to be a guest speaker. Norton was a defensive back at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He sustained a severe spinal cord injury in a 2010 game that left him paralyzed from the waist down for more than four years. Norton shared his faith and love of Jesus Christ at Union’s field in 2012 from a wheelchair.
“He was able to share with us God’s goodness from this experience,” Bader said of Norton. “That’s a story I’ll remember forever.”
Bader believes God prepared her to be willing to share her faith and the story of her father in 2014 after listening to testimonies from the previous Fields of Faith events she attended as a high school student. Bader said the reaction from the students that night still inspires her.
“Some of them probably weren’t Christians and that night completely changed them,” she said. “Hearing from them afterwards and the impact that just a two-hour event made on them and changed their life for the better, it was incredible.”
Union coach Joe Hadachek with Chris Norton and Troy Mangrich in 2012.
To learn more about FCA’s Fields of Faith or to find a local event in your area, visit fieldsoffaith.com.
Photos courtesy of Carl Gonder, Eastern Iowa FCA area director.