God is working in a special way in the lives of some 65 students at two schools in McDuffie County.
The students share much in common. The biggest thing, though, is their love and devotion for the Lord. Some of them are athletes, while others don't participate at all in sports. Yet, they all are members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a nationally recognized Christian organization with programs at schools, colleges and universities across America.
The program, which had been active many years ago at Thomson High School, was revived four years ago with only a few students choosing to become members, recalled Mike Smallwood, the school's FCA adviser, who also serves as an assistant principal.
Though the program started out slow as far as participation goes, it has grown the past two years and now includes two schools. The future looks bright, too, with the possibility of including Thomson Middle School.
Serving as the adviser of the FCA Club at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School is Shantell Crockett.
"FCA is phenomenally beneficial to these students," said Mr. Smallwood. "I think a lot of people get exposed to religion and only a few get exposed to the real spiritual side. It's the spiritual side that we want to see come out of these young people. Some of these young people really get exposed to the spirit."
Mr. Smallwood is being aided by Thomson pharmacist Linton Neal. The two men became friends about two years ago after Mr. Smallwood stopped by LMN Pharmacy to pick up medicine. The two men now attend worship service together at Thomson First United Methodist Church.
"Linton has done so much for this club," said Mr. Smallwood. "He provides so much structural help to these young people."
Mr. Neal, who serves as the huddle leader of the FCA Club, says it was the work of God in his having met and developed a friendship with Mr. Smallwood.
"God put us together," said Mr. Neal. "We must have been praying about the same thing."
For the past couple of years, Mr. Neal explained, he had sought ways to better help young people in the community -- the biggest was drawing young people closer to God where they could have a personal relationship and understand the teachings of the Bible much better.
"This is where the Lord led me," said Mr. Neal. "This has all been God's plan. He gets all the credit."
Mr. Smallwood said that in a world where everything seems so worldly, it's nice to have a little something pertaining to Christ.
The club meets three times a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
"We meet for between 15 and 20 minutes each time, beginning at 7:15 a.m.," said Cullen Wallace, 16, a junior.
The majority of the meetings are held in the media center and sometimes out on the front lawn of the school around the flag pole.
Since school started, FCA Club members have gone from reading the beginning of the Bible all the way to the Book of Matthew, said Cullen, who runs cross country and plays soccer.
Cullen, a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Thomson, said he likes the FCA meetings.
"The meetings are a great way to get blessed by God to start your day," said Cullen, who has been involved in FCA for the past two years. "This club helps keep me in the will of God."
He estimates that 60 percent of the FCA Club is made up of nonathletes.
Cullen's sister, Ivy Wallace, 13, an eighth-grader at the junior high school, says the FCA meetings allow her to get her day off to a wonderful start.
"It's really a great club," said Ivy, a first-year member.
Betty Jones, 14, and also an eighth-grader at TMJHS, said, "The club helps teach members how to respect themselves and others. We also learn to put God before all others."
This is Betty's first year in the club, too. She is a member of Jones Grove Baptist Church.
Alicia Freeman, a 17-year-old senior at THS, has been a member of the FCA Club for two years.
"I love being a member of FCA," said Alicia. "I've been to FCA summer camp the last two years and it was really a lot of fun. We got to make a lot of new friends. It's a Christ-based camp."
The camp is held at St. Simons Island.
"I get so much out of going to camp," said Alicia. "I feel a certain amount of peace there. I feel the Lord's presence there. We have a lot of fun there celebrating God."
Alicia's brother, Antwan Freeman, a sophomore at THS who is a member of the soccer and track teams, has been a member of the FCA Club for two years and attended camp both years.
"It's brought me much closer to the Lord," said Antwan, who also is a member of the Navy ROTC. "It's opened my eyes and helped me to learn more about Him. It's also made me stop doing bad things like hanging out with the wrong crowd."
For Jennifer Gay, 18, a senior at THS, being a member of the FCA Club assures her of a way of meeting new friends and learning more about God.
"I've learned so much about God from attending FCA meetings," said Jennifer. "I've learned to become a better person."