The home field location for Emmanuel's men's and women's soccer and lacrosse teams just moved even closer to home.
Stephens Fields, named for Gerald and Jean Stephens from Morganton, N.C., were dedicated during a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 5, during Homecoming Weekend 2013.
“As James 1:17 says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above’,” Mr. Stephens said. “It’s important to Jean and me that everybody understands we are only the conduits for this gift, and it’s to glorify the Father and not us.”
Mr. Stephens became a member of the Board of Trustees two years ago, but they have a long-time connection with the College. “We have always loved it and are privileged to be a part of it,” he added.
Now located beside the one-year-old Shaw Athletic Center, Stephens Fields sit on a 40-acre land tract the College purchased years ago in anticipation of future expansion.
For the past two years during other building projects, EC's teams have practiced and played in nearby Carnesville.
"It has been wonderful to be able to walk back home after practice," EC Women's Soccer Head Coach Forrest Wimberly said. "This extra time right before and after practice provides us another opportunity to talk and minister to our players."
As Brian James, EC's Vice President for Development, welcomed the crowd to the ceremony, he thanked Mr. and Mrs. Stephens for their vision, support and willingness to help in accomplishing this.
"This is a big project," James said. "It's six and a half acres of sod! It's been a big project, but the Lord has helped us. We are expanding the campus, and, as a result, we are able to reach more lives than we've ever reached before for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ," he said.
President Michael Stewart said board members occasionally reconsidered the purchase of that land and at times wondered if they should sell it.
"As God began to move and expand our campus and as our student body increased, we knew there was a need for this property," President Stewart said.
This is an encouraging season at EC and is a good example of how experiencing Emmanuel means more than just a place, a game or a degree.
“I just want to thank our administration for their vision and our generous alumni and friends of Emmanuel College, especially the Stephens family," said Coach Patrick Johnston, EC's Lacrosse Director of Operations. "The Stephens Athletic Fields are more than just playing fields—they are a home, a classroom and a church where we men and women will develop into the future of our college and our community.”
EC's Women's Lacross Head Coach Gail Wallach echoed that.
"These fields are a testimony to all that we should listen to God and walk by faith alone. The Stephens family did just that, and now this facility becomes a mission field for Emmanuel and Jesus Christ," she said.
EC's soccer field was previously located where the Shaw Athletic Center now stands. "Training at Rocky Ford Park was a huge blessing for two plus seasons, and we can't thank the park staff enough for being friendly neighbors during our building project," Coach Wimberly added.