News Articles

His commitment was sharpened by a knife pointed at his throat

FORT SMITH, Ark. (BP)–For most football athletes, defining moments come with points, receptions or tackles. For T. Ray Grandstaff, one of his defining moments came at the end of a knife.
“I have always been a confident, athletic person,” said Grandstaff, 31, Arkansas director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a former college football player.
“I felt like no matter what situation I got into, I could either fight or think my way out. God got my attention by putting me into a situation I couldn’t get out of.”
That situation occurred four years ago when he was “doing street evangelism in the slums of Moscow,” he related.
Following a day of witnessing, he was invited to the apartment of a Somali national who said he wanted to know more about Christ. “I went to his room to witness to him,” Grandstaff recounted. “Then two more Somali guys come in and the next thing I know three Russian military guys come in — and all six were drunk.
“They were trying to get me to drink. I refused,” Grandstaff said. “They tried to get me to denounce Christ.”
He soon found out that “under the guise of wanting to hear more of the gospel, they were going to kill me.” After an hour of abuse and threats, one of the soldiers put a knife to Grandstaff’s throat.
“I didn’t think about ‘Are the Hogs going to have a winning season?’ or ‘Are the Cowboys going to make it to the Super Bowl?’” he said. “I thought about my mother and what it would do to her to go to the airport to get my body bag. It crystallized all that’s important.”
Overpowered and helpless, Grandstaff was sure he would die. “Then there was a knock at the door. There was an enormous black man who spoke not only perfect Russian but also perfect English. He told them he was a friend of mine, that he wanted to talk to me outside and would bring me back.”
Once outside, the stranger told him, “‘You’re a marked man. Go back to your room, lock the doors and don’t let anyone in.’ I don’t know who he was. It was either an angel or a Christian friend whom I’ve never met. God disciplined me, but he also gave me a way out.”
Grandstaff points to the episode as one of God’s blessings in his life and ministry with FCA. As state director, Grandstaff guides the efforts of eight staff members for the parachurch organization headquartered in offices provided free of charge by First Baptist Church in Fort Smith, where he and his wife, Stacy, are members.
The organization claims about 240 groups in junior highs, high schools and colleges across the state, he said. “Of the individuals involved on a weekly basis, we have around 15,000 and upwards of 5,000 to 7,000 more that may come in and check us out.”
Describing his work, Grandstaff noted he “can sum up FCA in one word: Influence. We use the platform of athletics that pervades all of society to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re a presentation ministry. Over the past five years, we’ve had over 3,600 kids pray to receive Christ in our local huddle groups.”
He also has a love for young people, having served in youth ministries at First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas.
If Grandstaff sounds like a cheerleader, it’s sincere. He’s been a supporter of FCA ministries since he began attending a FCA Huddle in junior high school. Active in the organization through high school, he was a founder of a chapter at Brown University.
Grandstaff emphasized he chose FCA as a career because of its priority on evangelism. “My goal is to reach kids for Christ. When we stop reaching kids for Christ, I’m going to do something else.”

    About the Author

  • Russell N. Dilday