Student athletes at Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School have a new way to connect off the court – and on a different level.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes group meets twice a month at the high school to discuss Lake-Lehman sports, socialize with friends and study topics form the Bible that students get to choose.
Speakers are also brought into the meetings to discuss relevant topics of the students' choosing, from dating to how to be a better Christian.
The group got its start this year by former high school social studies teacher Chip Sorber and current physical education teacher Mike Leskowsky.
My first experience of Christianity was in college, said Sorber. I didn't go to church when I was younger, and I had a curiosity about it. I got involved in a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group. I didn't take to Christianity right away and I'm still working on it.
Sorber started a smaller, less official group with the same premise when he coached baseball at Lake-Lehman.
It was a small group, about five to nine kids, he said. This year I thought I'd open it up to the whole school. The administration was really supportive of it.
Leskowsky, whose family members are active in the group, wanted to be part of the fellowship group to help students deal with a changing society.
I think we're going to try to reverse the trend, the (negative) direction society is going, he said. This gives an opportunity to be more open to faith and it gives me something to talk about with the kids.
Sorber believes the legal removal of Christianity within schools had led to negative consequences, including the inability of the U.S. government to pay its debt to other countries.
We were a Christian nation at the start, he said. …People need to be exposed to (Christianity). This gives the kids an opportunity.
The students also chose a service project for the holiday season. They collected canned goods and nonperishable food for the Pastor's Pantry in Noxen.
The Pastor's Pantry is only open three hours a week but manages to serve between 25 and 65 families a month. Pantry organizer Pearl Race said the pantry depends on food drives promoted by local service groups.
We think about Christian values and this time of year you want to help the poor and the needy, said Sorber. We're also going to do a project around Easter.
Curtis Swanson, who owns Curtis L. Swanson Funeral Home in Hunlock Creek, is a financial supporter of the group and provides pizza and soda for the students.
I believe in Christian values and I think kids need them, said Swanson. I think they are really lacking those values. People don't go to church to learn the Bible anymore.
Shoshana Mahoney, 16, of Sweet Valley, has always been involved in her church's youth group and enjoys being able to discuss her beliefs with her school peers.
I think this is something that's right, said the track and soccer player. You don't see this in schools. I like the atmosphere and talking to the same people week to week.
Mahoney likes to reflect on how her faith carries her through different situations.
You think you have a lot of troubles and bad situations, but if you put God into it, you know it will get better, she said. It comes out good in the end.
Mahoney said now she can connect with students her own age on the topics she finds most important.
If people ask me about (my faith), I'll tell them, but a lot of people aren't involved, she said. But I'm not afraid to talk about it.
Rachel Leskowsky, 14, of Lehman, said her father initially got her involved in the group, but she enjoys socializing and talking about Christian topics with her friends.
(Christianity) is about having a better life, she said. I like the idea of eternal life.
Zach Brucher, 15, of Sweet Valley, likes being with people his own age while learning more about God.
It makes me feel good that I can be forgiven for my sins, he said about his faith. (In this group) I get to hang out with friends and learn about God. You know (about Christianity) as much as the person next to you, he said.
For more information about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School, call the school office at 675-7458. For more information about the Pastor's Pantry in Noxen, call the Noxen United Methodist Church at 298-2503.