By Stephanie Butzer
There are few instances of athletes flipping a 700-pound tire across a stage, punching through 12 feet of ice or breaking free of two police handcuffs — especially in a church.
The members of Faith Force, a group of athletes who perform feats of strength to symbolize the walls that hold people back from a relationship with Jesus Christ, will speak and perform at The Lamb’s Chapel in Haw River April 18, 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. and April 21 at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The Faith Force team has been together for about 15 years and as they travel around the nation and world, the group meets other athletes interested in participating. Today, there are more than a dozen athletes on the team from all over the country.
Faith Force holds school and evening programs focused on making good choices, on anti-bullying, anti-drug, and anti-alcohol programs and on other issues students and the community may face every day.
By destroying physical barriers, Faith Force visually shows an audience how other types of barriers, such as fear, racism or addiction, can be overcome. In between these powerful messages are the feats of strength.
“There are so many things in our world today that build barriers in our lives, that hold us back from our true potential,” said Jeff Terrell, a founding member or the group who lives in Burlington. “That’s not the purpose for our lives. We’re supposed to be overcomers and conquerors.”
Terrell said he thinks the longing of every human heart, young or old, is to be free. When he or other members of Faith Force speak at schools, they find they have to slightly adjust their message for the audience’s general age.
“You have to change your message a little bit with the different grade levels, but with elementary schools, especially elementary and middle, we focus a lot of anti-bullying since it’s gotten to be such a hot topic and we’re seeing more and more of it now in our schools,” Terrell said.
The kids in elementary and middle school usually get really excited about the feats of strength, but Terrell said they have been in churches where senior adults were cheering and jumping, too.
“I like to get personal with (the audience) because we’re there for them,” said Mark Kerr, a member of Faith Force, a five-time world power-lifting champion and a two-time drug-free Strongest Man. “It’s a lot of fun to look at those expressions on their faces.”
Kerr had a particularly special experience when a troubled 16-year-old girl gave him a bullet from her pocket after Faith Force’s presentation.
“She gave it to me and said, ‘I came to school today to tell my friends goodbye. I was going to put this in my dad’s gun tomorrow and kill myself. Now, I know I have a purpose in life,’” Kerr said.
Faith Force’s assemblies have become one of the nation’s top assembly programs, Terrell said. They have had students email, call and write them thanking the athletes for showing them how Christ can help ease their struggles.
“We really want to see lives changed and barriers broken,” Terrell said.