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Photo: Lisa Hankins (center) discussed life lessons with several girls during a Fellowship of Christian Girls Wrestling meeting during 2020 in Georgia.
Note: The following column by Sandy Stevens appeared in the May 6, 2020, issue of WIN Magazine. Click here to or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to WIN to view past and future columns by the longtime public address announcer in wrestling.
By Sandy Stevens
As a teenager, Lisa Hankins saw her life falling apart. She was physically abused at age 14 by a family friend. She also lived in an emotionally abusive home.
“I knew I couldn’t be who my parents wanted me to be,” she recalled. “They kicked me out at age 18.
“I felt like I was in a very dark place. I wasn’t a bad kid and didn’t make bad choices, but I had no one helping me to grow in the right direction. My view of God was the fear of an angry God.”
“You gravitate toward what you know,” she said. “I tried to be the ultimate people pleaser. I had no idea how to be me.”
But decades later, those struggles are helping enable Hankins to serve as chaplain and spiritual coach for a new concept of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes: FCA Girls Wrestling. The ministry was launched in July 2019 by FCA Wrestling of Georgia, the state where Lisa was born and reared.
Now 45, Hankins said her path to her current post began when she volunteered to help with registration at an FCA Wrestling camp.
“We’re just one family, and they needed help on registration day,” she explained. “I ended up sticking around and saw what was going on in a chapel service, and I never left.”
She continued volunteering until 2012, when she began working for FCA under the direction of Bill Gifford.
Eventually Hankins received an invitation to speak to a girls wrestling club. “I was at the bottom,” she recalled. “But it was like God said, ‘THIS is what I want you to do.’
“(Gifford) was instrumental in showing me grace,” she stressed. “I had to learn I didn’t have to be perfect for Jesus. God started to show me, ‘I can make this good, but you’ve got to let me.’ He kept keeping these young women on my heart. I had to learn just to take the next step.”
Gifford also helped her understanding of why bad things happen, she said, explaining, “You can’t be a tour guide to a place you’ve never been.”
Hankins’ son David had wrestled at Commerce High School, but as Hankins delved more into the work of FCA Wrestling, she struggled with the fact that, unlike those she hoped to minister to, she had never wrestled.
“But you can love them,” Gifford said.
“A lot of girls make bad choices and feel like they are trapped,” Hankins said. “I don’t want them to go through these regrets.
“I don’t want to just be someone who talks at them. If I don’t do anything else, I want them to feel love and faith. If you feel love, it changes your attitude on everything.”
The first FCA Girls camp drew 24 female athletes and four coaches. Jose Campo, FCA Chaplain for USA Wrestling’s men’s and women’s teams and director of California FCA Wrestling, served as the speaker. USA Wrestling team member Amy Fearnside and Brewton Parker Coach Brittney Gadd were the clinicians.
Also, at the Georgia State High School Championships’ FCA Breakfast, scholarships are now awarded to a male and a female FCA Wrestler of the Year, students who exemplify FCA’s core values — integrity, service, teamwork, excellence — on the mat, in the classroom and in the community.
This FCA Girls Wrestling ministry is funded solely on donations, with $4,000 a month needed for additional camps and events, Bibles and devotional materials.
“We need help!” Hankins stressed.
To donate, specify Girls Wrestling by visiting my.fca.org/fcagirlswrestling or contact Hankins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hankins describes as “wonderfully terrifying” the opportunities now in her life. She explained, “God put this on me: ‘Impossible – Difficult – Done: (It feels) Impossible – (It’s going to be) Difficult – (God will help me to get it) Done.’
“And we have the privilege of using wrestling as a platform.”
(Sandy Stevens is a long-time public address announcer of national and international events and was named to the National Hall of Fame in 1998.)