October 2010 Dave Pond
November 14, 2009. It was a typical fall evening in Stonewall, La., on an athletic field, much like every other across the South where students of all ages rallied together with friends and families for a single purpose... But it wasn’t football.
The game itself was far from their focus that night. Rather than applauding gridiron glory, the crowd gathered at North Desoto’s second annual Fields of Faith event to watch and celebrate as a number of students gave their lives to the Lord.
“When we started up the event that night, I told everyone how excited we were and that we felt like no one was there by accident,” said Deania McMillian, who, along with Vicki Cabra, serves as a North Desoto FCA Huddle Coach. “We knew that God had brought every one of those kids to Fields of Faith for a specific reason.”
One of those students was North Desoto Middle School football player Justin Bloxom, a friendly 12-year-old widely known on campus for his big heart and contagious smile. After agreeing to go to the event at the invitation of his brother, Tyler, Justin saw for himself the power of God at work in the lives of his classmates, friends and family. Wanting God to move in his life, too, Justin rose from his seat at the end of the evening and walked toward the field where he made his own personal decision to follow Christ.
Watch the KTBS Story About Justin
“We were so excited because there were a lot of kids—including Justin, who came down with a friend—coming forward,” Cabra said. “Justin came straight to me and told me he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart.”
For Amy Bloxom Fletcher, hearing of her son’s decision brought an overwhelming sense of praise and joy into her family’s home that night. Now all four Bloxom boys—Tyler (17), Justin, Dalton (11) and Collin (7)—had made decisions for the Lord.
“I’ll never forget the moment when Justin came home from Fields of Faith,” said Fletcher. “He had accepted Christ during Vacation Bible School years before, but he was so much younger then. This time, his decision was very real to him.”
The simplicity and casual nature of FCA’s Fields of Faith events, held across the nation on the second Wednesday of every October*, went a long way in helping Justin overcome the apprehension he’d been feeling about beginning a personal relationship with Christ.“He’d told me he’d wanted to come forward during church, but since we’re an older congregation, he felt embarrassed about doing it in front of everybody,” Fletcher said. “I think being around all of his friends that night and kids his own age made the difference. He was so excited.”
Less than five months later, an even larger crowd would gather on the very same field at North Desoto. This time, however, it would be with heavy hearts in both mourning and celebration of a promising life cut short. In the early morning hours of March 30, Justin Bloxom was murdered after leaving a friend’s house following a four-hour text message conversation with someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl. In actuality, it had been 34-year-old taxicab driver Brian Douglas Horn, a two-time registered sex offender who had created a fictional persona to prey on Justin and his classmates.
Local authorities found Justin’s body later that day.
“When we heard what had happened to Justin, it was so hard to deal with,” Cabra said. “Justin always had a huge smile on his face. He was just known for that. It was such a shock.”
The news was equally as shocking to residents of North Desoto, a community stunned by the nature of Justin’s murder. But two days later, still reeling from the tragedy, Cabra herself received an overcoming sense of peace when she recalled Justin’s decision at Fields of Faith.
“It was like God brought back everything to me at once, and I clearly remembered praying with Justin that night,” she said. “I went and dug out all of the papers, and, sure enough, we had a copy of a card he’d filled out. We were able to share it with his mom and talk with her more about Justin’s decision. It was really, really cool, and such a blessing for us.”
Justin with his mom.
Back in 2002 Cabra and McMillian had started co-sponsoring North Desoto’s FCA Huddle. According to North Louisiana FCA Area Director Terry Slack, what God has done at the school over the years has been amazing to watch.
“These women have such a heart for the Lord,” he said. “They’re teachers, but they’ve been called to teach because of ministry opportunities on their school campus. They love on those kids with everything they’ve got. So, when I heard about Justin, I knew they must have had an impact on him.”
Sure enough, a few days after the murder, Slack received an e-mail confirming what he’d felt in his heart: that Justin had given his life to Christ through the vehicle of FCA.
“I’ve been with FCA for 20 years, and when we go out to work, do and pray—a lot of the things we do in the ministry—we don’t get to hear many of the stories about what happens later,” said Slack, who wasn’t able to attend the North Desoto Fields of Faith that night. “So, when I heard about Justin it was just a special, special thing. Twenty years or more—it’s all worth it just for one.”
For Fletcher, while still healing from the tragedy, she and her family continue working to ensure that predators like Horn won’t harm other children. In July, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the Justin M. Bloxom Act (SB 780), which severely limited convicted sex offenders’ access to children through the types of jobs they can hold. On August 15, the bill became state law.
Positions in public transportation such as taxicabs, limousines and city transit, as well as home-entry service jobs like TV installation, electrical work and carpet cleaning, are now off-limits, as are workplaces in which employees have extensive interaction with minors (e.g. carnivals and amusement centers). The new law also adds the possibility of life in prison for any offender twice convicted of crimes against children under the age of 13. Legislators in Oklahoma are drafting their own version of Justin’s Law, and a Texas senator has told Fletcher that he is interested in sponsoring the bill in his home state.
North Desoto students were on spring break when Justin was killed, but, later that week, members of the tight-knit community poured onto the school’s football field to remember the popular seventh-grader.
“The way the kids handled it was incredible,” Cabra said. “We had them fill out cards that read, ‘I want to celebrate Justin’s life by…,’ and tied them to balloons that were lifted up to the sky like prayers. Many of the kids wrote that they wanted to live their lives like Justin—that they wanted to stand up for Christ and be a better Christian because of him.”
Many of Justin’s classmates and friends still keep in touch with Fletcher and her family, offering continued prayers and support that reach far beyond the borders of North Desoto’s campus. Across the nation, thousands have joined a number of Facebook groups that sprang up in support of the Bloxom/Fletcher family and their work to restrict sex offenders’ access to the community.
“Predators are very smart and cunning,” Fletcher said. “This man spent 16 to 18 hours a day online looking for a child to victimize. Statistics show that children ages 11 to 14 are the most vulnerable because so many changes are happening to them and their bodies. They’re scared, embarrassed and uncomfortable.”
Horn had acquired a list of telephone numbers—Justin’s included—under false pretenses after initiating similar conversations with another local student. A seasoned criminal, Horn not only knew how to get the information he desired from his victims, but also how to manipulate them into decisions with which they weren’t comfortable.
“I’ve seen the transcript, and Justin knew something was wrong,” Fletcher said. “Two or three times, he told this person, ‘I can’t do this.’ But [Horn] knew how to steer Justin’s emotions so that he felt he was safe. It’s just the scariest thing how easy it is for predators to reach out to our children.”
“My dad, who I didn’t know had never given his life to Christ, did just that after Justin’s death,” she said. “I’d wondered before how I would feel if I found out Justin had helped lead people to Christ. Little did I know it would be my own dad.
FIELDS OF FAITHOn October 13, 2010 Fields of Faith events will take place on school campuses across the country. Last year, more than 125,000 athletes, coaches, and community members took part by reading God's Word on 446 athletic fields in 38 states. To learn how you or your school can be a part of this year's Fields of Faith, visit fieldsoffaith.com.
In addition to the love and support she’s received from the Stonewall community, Fletcher said she also has been able to see how God has used Justin’s passing for His glory in her own family.
“Justin was always the glue in our family,” she continued. “His brothers were his best friends, and, if he wasn’t doing something with them, he was out helping his grandfather with the cows. He wanted to help anybody he could and make sure everybody was having a good time.”
In the wake of his passing, many of Justin’s former classmates have also made decisions to follow Christ—something that brings lasting joy to Fletcher’s heart.
“It’s a part of my healing, knowing that Justin’s story and his life are going to change the lives of a lot of children,” she said.
According to Slack, stories like that of Justin and his decision offer a glimpse into God’s power, authority and grace. The tragedy has fueled him and other FCA staff and volunteers to keep sharing Christ in their communities and schools.
“God uses situations like this to reveal a little piece of what He’s doing through FCA, through Fields of Faith, at North Desoto and everywhere really,” Slack said. “For me, it’s an assurance and an encouragement that what we’re doing is what He wants done and that we need to keep on doing it with everything we have.”
--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.
Courtesy of the Bloxom family; Kelly Young; Rick Rowe