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CU Ministry Mentors Basketball, Football Players

BY CATHERINE ELVY, STAFF WRITER

As a former basketball coach, Christian Union’s interim ministry director at Princeton University knows the extraordinary influence and reach of athletes upon their teammates and classmates.

As such, James Fields was pleased to see 10 players from the men’s basketball team at the ministry’s open house at the Campus Club early in the fall semester. The appearance was especially welcome as Princeton dominated the Ivy League during 2016-17 by going undefeated in conference play and captured the inaugural conference tournament. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers lost a heartbreaker to Notre Dame, 60-58.

“These guys have a lot of social capital. They just came off a phenomenal year. They are the ones who are on the front lines and leading our athletic community,” said Fields. “In the midst of their success, they are still looking for Jesus. That’s really exciting.

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Better yet, some of the returning players invited teammates to the open house, which was held September 13 to welcome freshmen. Overall, 150 Princeton students attended the event.

At the beginning of the semester, Fields was game planning for a weekly Bible course for the basketball team that focused on Philippians and Romans. In the last couple of years, students’ academic commitments and intense training and practice schedules were challenges to establishing a course that met on a consistent basis.

A regular Bible course for the team has been “a prayer of mine since coming to Princeton,” said Fields, who joined Christian Union as a ministry fellow in 2013.

Two of the top returning players on this year’s men’s basketball team are Devin Cannady ’19 and Myles Stephens ’19. Both are participants in Christian Union’s ministry at Princeton.

More importantly, the men have a vision for team cohesion and trust, both on and off the court. “They have a desire to lead their teammates in this way,” said Fields, who wants the newest crop of players to experience long-lasting bonds of brotherhood that are centered on the Bible.

“Any meaningful discipleship starts with relationships,” he said.

As a former collegiate football player and scholastic basketball coach, Fields knows the power of athletic camaraderie.

Before joining Christian Union, Fields served as dean of students at Montrose Christian School, where he also was assistant junior varsity coach for the high school team and coach for the middle school team. The Maryland private school shaped several NBA players, including Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors.

During his time at Montrose, Fields mentored a series of future professional and collegiate players, including Justin Anderson of the Philadelphia 76ers and Justin Robinson, a junior point guard at Virginia Tech.

Fields played college football at Central Michigan University. The father of three holds graduate degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Central Michigan University. His wife Katie is the manager of the Melrose Center, the headquarters of Christian Union’s ministry at Princeton University.

At Princeton, Fields has mentored two NFL players who are strong Christians, Caraun Reid ’14 and Seth DeValve ’16. Reid, a defensive lineman who has played for the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers, was a worship leader for Christian Union’s ministry on campus. DeValve, a tight end with the Cleveland Browns, was also a leader on the field and in Bible courses at Princeton.

Fields has high expectations for Christian Union at Princeton in this academic year as the team of ministry fellows and student leaders welcomed new students and prepared for another season of seeking God through Bible courses, prayer and fasting, the leadership lecture series, conferences, and outreach events.

“In the midst of their success, they are still looking for Jesus. That’s really exciting.”

The ministry at Princeton is the largest student organization on campus, with a wide range of young adults representing all sectors of campus life, from eating clubs to sports teams.

“We are planting seeds and allowing God to move mightily,” said Fields. “This has been a culmination of many years of prayer. I’m really encouraged.”