Night of Champions

by Jason Cannon

A small, informal barbecue in 1986 featuring 50 Azusa Pacific students has evolved into the powerhouse event known as Night of Champions, an evening buzzing with activities and inspirational messages from world-class actors and athletes. Once again APU will host the outreach event March 16 welcoming thousands of students for the first time to the brand new Felix Event Center.

Local high school students are invited to enjoy food and activities culminating in a series of speakers intent on sharing the Gospel. There are two segments to the event: An outdoor program, and an indoor program on West Campus, which includes music, drama presentations, and speakers. On East Campus, participants enjoy festivities including playing games and competing in contests.

This year’s edition of speakers will feature ex-Seaver family member Kirk Cameron, fresh off the release of the highly anticipated film Left Behind. Detroit Lions cornerback Bryant Westbrook and surfing champion Joey Buran are also scheduled to give talks.

“It’s an event of inspiration and perspiration,” said Night of Champion founder and current APU Vice President for Student Life/Dean of Students Terry Franson, Ph.D. “Every year we have an opportunity to effect eternity through the testimonies of athletes, musicians, and others.”

Azusa Pacific head women’s track coach Mike Barnett took the mantle of NOC director from Franson last year and will once again head up the event. “I first got involved with Night of Champions as a speaker in the early ’90s,” said Barnett, a former Olympian who threw the javelin in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. “I enjoyed working with the kids so much that when the opportunity came to direct a program that would tell people about Jesus Christ, I was glad to do it.”

The outreach to local high school students has brought thousands to APU from across several states. In order to keep up with the large number of kids attending the event, Azusa Pacific students are encouraged to get involved. “We want the (APU) students to know that we just want them to show up and love those kids by interacting with them,” Barnett said.

The most important element of participation Azusa Pacific students can provide, however, is the power of prayer. “I want to remind everyone to continue praying for this event,” said Barnett. “We want to see all the kids who show up to the event come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.”