December 2008 Dave Pond Amanda Tewksbury University of Maine
On a recent Monday evening, 5’9” University of Maine guard Amanda Tewksbury stood before the school’s entire men’s hockey team and shared her faith in Jesus Christ. Her powerful stance belied her diminutive frame as she boldly shared about FCA, about God and about how He has worked in her life.
“Maybe not physically, but spiritually, Amanda Tewksbury is as tough as any football player out there,” Maine FCA Area Representative Bob McClure said. “She’s not afraid of sharing her faith. As she approaches other athletes and coaches on campus, she’s not afraid to show who she is.”
Amanda Tewksbury #25
|School: University of Maine|
Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Clinton, N.J.
High School: North Hunterdon High School
2007-08 Season Facts:
•Started 26 games
•Co-led the team in scoring with 9.1 points per game
•Served as one of the team's tri-captains
The meeting was just another step in a long-term vision to win the entire university for Christ—a process that began three years ago when Tewksbury was being recruited by the Black Bears (as well as Philadelphia’s La Salle University) after a stellar prep career at New Jersey’s North Hunterdon High School.
“When I first got a call from Maine I didn’t take it too seriously, but when I came up for my official visit, I had a feeling in my heart that Maine was where I needed to be,” Tewksbury said. “La Salle was much closer to home, and I guess it would have been the safer choice in a way, but I just didn’t feel the same way as I did when I was at Maine. I wasn’t as in tune with it at the time, but I know now that it was God really reaching out and showing me that Maine was where He wanted me to be.”
After her childhood, in which she saw her family slowly drift away from weekly church attendance—in part due to weekend schedules stuffed with athletic events—Tewksbury’s passion for Christ re-emerged during her junior year of high school. She reigned supreme on the hardwood, but when the lights went down, the three-time All-Conference star was forced to confront a much more dangerous opponent: her mother’s battle with alcoholism.
“My mom is a struggling alcoholic and was really having a tough time my junior year, and my parents’ relationship was really struggling too,” she said. “Mom is probably the person who is closest to me, so it was one of those things where I could have gone two ways. I could have been angry with God and kind of put Him on the back burner, or I could have just realized that He has control over all of us—me and my mom—and that He has a greater plan.”
Tewksbury received encouragement and support through a number of sources. She reconnected with the church, engaged in FCA activities at North Hunterdon High and rediscovered a virtual treasure trove of Bibles and other Christian-themed books her grandmother had gifted her over the years.
“I started looking into God’s Word more and leaning on His promises,” she said. “Through my family’s struggles, I really learned to trust Him and to rely on Him. And that’s what got my relationship with Him back on track.”
As she matured on a spiritual level, Tewksbury’s perspective about sports changed as well.
“FCA played a huge role in helping build and restore my faith,” she said. “I always thought that basketball was kind of my own thing. I could do it on the side for me. But through FCA and my high school Huddle Coach Brian Maginnis, I learned that God gave me my gifts, my abilities and my passion for basketball, and I needed to use them for Him.”
When she arrived at Maine, Tewksbury was quick to form friendships with both teammates and strangers. However, she was struck by what seemed almost like a campus-wide aversion to Christ and His teachings. It was something she wasn’t used to after being so consistently embraced by fellow believers in New Jersey.
“It’s just not as accepted here,” Tewksbury said. “Our campus is fairly liberal and is just not about Jesus Christ. It seems like there are some people who try very hard to make sure that the word ‘Jesus’ is not heard or spoken.”
“God has really shown me it’s not about quantity; it’s all about His timing.”
But it didn’t matter, and her fellow students’ opposition to Christ just fueled her desire to bring Him to Maine. She visited various campus ministries and discussed how desperately the campus needed Christ.
After Tewksbury realized FCA had no home on Maine’s Orono campus, she took a bold step forward and contacted the organization in hopes of starting the first university-level Huddle in the entire state.
“My first impression of her was that she was kind of a shy kid,” said McClure, who responded to Tewksbury’s e-mail inquiry. “But she definitely had some leadership qualities. She was a go-getter, which is something you see from her on the basketball court as well.”
The opportunity to build a Huddle from scratch was exciting, but it proved more complex than just throwing open the doors to scores of athletes who would be clamoring to get inside. McClure was able to provide a steady stream of teaching and leadership materials while leaders from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship walked alongside them and offered a meeting place for the Huddle until FCA was officially recognized as a student organization on campus.
Tewksbury (right) with fellow
FCA Camp Huddle Leader Sara Mostafa
Although her slate was full with school, basketball and FCA, Tewksbury felt she could do even more and asked McClure if he could help her find speaking engagements in the area. Through one of these events, Tewksbury met Bruce Johnson, a local outreach pastor who now serves as a resource and a mentor for her as she works on campus.
“I’m very passionate about speaking on what my family’s been through and what Christ has done in my life,” she said. “I truly believe that God orchestrated it all so perfectly. I have been praying for help on a daily basis.”
While Tewksbury wants to win her whole campus for Christ, she also has a special place in her heart for her teammates. Like most teams, the Black Bears’ players spend more time together than apart. And on a team in which she is the only Christ-follower, Tewksbury stands out through the example she leads.
“They’ve always respected my faith and have never put me down because of it,” she said. “But it’s one of those things that I have just put in God’s hands. I just want to keep loving on them and letting Christ’s light show through me as best I can, so that, if they have questions or need to talk, they’ll know I’m available.”
Catherria Turner is a first-year assistant coach with the Black Bears, and she immediately formed a bond with Tewksbury that transcended the X’s and O’s.
“The more you get to know Amanda, the more you realize just how much she genuinely cares about others,” said Turner, who was involved in FCA’s Huddle at Oklahoma State University during her playing career. “She’s an extremely determined young lady who puts God first in everything and wants to do whatever will make FCA successful here at Maine.”
“Our campus is fairly liberal … It seems like there are some people who try very hard to make sure that the word
‘Jesus’ is not heard or spoken.”
Tewksbury constantly peppers her coach and friend with questions about what worked at Oklahoma State, and the pair bounce ideas off each other regarding how to share Christ with Tewksbury’s classmates and teammates.
“Amanda’s way to relate to them and get them to understand is to be an example,” Turner said. “I think her teammates have recognized a difference in Amanda’s life. It’s part of a process. She’s making a real effort to care about them. They trust her opinions, and my hope is that they won’t feel threatened when she talks about God.”
Recently, one of Tewksbury’s teammates has started attending the Huddle meetings along with a sprinkling of other University of Maine athletes. There have been times when the meeting attracts crowds, and others when Tewksbury is the only person in the room.
Through it all, Tewksbury maintains the same razor-sharp focus she displays on the court as she works to bring Christ’s love to her campus.
“God has really shown me it’s not about quantity; it’s all about His timing,” she said. “I never try to make it complicated. I just want to connect Christ with our athletes and our sport. That’s why FCA is so great. It’s such a great connector for people. And I’m thankful to be here. God needs people to be used by Him to bring Christ to the University of Maine.”
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Tewksbury, Michael York, Susan Garland, University of Maine.