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Fields of Faith: Immense Success

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Spencer Laughlin recalls how he met Christ.

Due to inclement weather, the Fields of Faith concert was moved to the United Methodist Church instead of being held at the Gillespie High School football field, where it was intially planned.

The United Methodist Church of Gillespie, ministered by Pastor Steve Friese, was not large enough to hold the massive amount of people who traveled as far as three hours away to be present. Chairs had to be lined up in the middle of church pews, along the walls of the sanctuary, and even outside the sanctuary.

“Isn’t this great,” Pastor Friese asked us. Pastor Friese, who ministers services at the Methodist Church in Gillespie said, “This is just awesome!”

Over 300 people joined together for the occasion.

Fields of Faith is a peer-to-peer ministry event. Students invite their own classmates and teammates to hear fellow students share their testimonies, be challenged to read the Word of God and follow Jesus Christ. An athletic field provides a neutral, interdenominational rally point where a community can come together.

Students combine with a leadership team and work together to run the event. The leadership team works to form partnerships with churches in the area regardless of denomination and help plan the Fields of Faith event.

In 2006, the Fields of Faith event went nation-wide, Wednesday, October 11th. It grew from just three states to over 35. It balooned from 31 Fields to over 337 and has impacted over 50,000 people to date. To this date so far, an estimated 1,388 people have committed their life to Christ as well as 871 people have recommitted their life to Christ.

Members of the congregation clap and sing along.

Regan LeBlanc started the evening off with two inspirational poems after Michael Taylor opened with a prayer. Then Jason Whitlock and Patterson Freise followed LeBlanc as they got the crowd on their feet with a round of sporting chants.  Whitlock went on to explain that Fields of Faith is “a gathering of peers to challenge one another to get in the game.”

The group, Praise Song, from Hannibal La Grange University (HLGU) performed several Christian Rock songs through out the evening.  The band consists of a total of 13 members, including lead singer, Josh Rosentreter of Gillespie. Rosentreter is junior at HLGU and is a bible major.

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Students from several area schools participated in the event.  Ashley Corbin and Jessi Deisselhorst gave a speech explaing how the Salvation Army help the communities.  Jacob Kirkwood and Molly Gray followed with the local organizations that help the “needy.” The Gillespie Care Center and the Sheppard’s Closet are just two that were mentioned that operate on a year round basis here in the BenGil area.

Kirkwood explained that the Care Center now helps approximately 473 families each month in groceries.  He also stated that the Sheppard’s Closet is remodeling the upstairs and is in need of help on Saturday mornings with this process.

Zach Taylor, who focused the Christmas Child, explained on how a shoe box with toys, personal hygiene items, clothing, school supplies, and a note can help a child this holiday season.  For more information on Christmas Child, you can go to their website at www.samataranpurse.org.

A short video followed Taylor and featured Tori Gilleland and Abby Harszy.  Both girls are in El Salvador with the Living Water International Organization working on a mission trip. The Gilleland family has helped on numerous different mission trips providing fresh water to communities that do not have that luxury.

Josh Rosentreter, of Gillespie, leads Praise Song, from Hannibal La Grange University.

Tateum Rosentreter and Ellen Gray gave a speech concerning Compassion International which helps children in third world countries. Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries.

Valerie Beckers and Jack Jones, both of Staunton, talked about the Exhale Youth Group located in Staunton.  Jake Mahin, also of Staunton, spoke about the Smiles Center located in Staunton.

Several area youths gave testimonies about their faith and how they met God.  Speakers who were brave enough to speak of the crowd of 300 were: Spencer Laughlin of Gillespie, Deion Brown of North Mac, and Jacob Royer of Staunton.

Guest Speaker, Coach Don Dobrino, closed the evening and was introduced to the crowd by Jerry Rosentreter.  Dobrino has been coaching football for 49 years and taught 30 years of drivers education.  He led the Miner’s to two second place state titles, and led Mt. Olive to 13 playoff during his time coaching the Wildcats. Dobrino is now the assistant football coach under Coach Borgini in Gillespie.

Dobrino noted that even though there is not prayer in school, he still says a prayer at the beginning of every football game.  He then led the crowd in saying the Lords Prayer.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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