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School thanks athletics groundskeeper

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Val Rivera has faithfully served as the campus athletics groundskeeper for the past ten years.

As the year wraps up, seniors aren’t the only ones preparing to journey beyond Fresno Christian. Athletic groundskeeper and Vietnam War veteran, Valentine (Val) Rivera retires after over 10 years of faithful service to the school.

Rivera began as a volunteer, setting up sporting events and co-coaching baseball. Over time the small hours upgraded to a full time job. After 24 years coaching at a non-Christian high school, Rivera found it refreshing to share the gospel with students. His hard work and dedication to the kids on campus make FC not only his job but his mission field.

“My job entails setting up, taking care of, and doing maintenance on equipment while mowing all the fields,” Rivera said. “I love being outside and using my hands. But the main thing I like about my job is that I can mentor to kids and most importantly tell them about Jesus. When I came to FC I found that I was not only able but encouraged to share the gospel with students. It didn’t take long to see the love of Christ shine on this campus.”

Coaching beside Rivera, previous campus baseball coach and Bible teacher Scott Falk continues to admire the commitment Rivera shows to the school. After 16 years of friendship, Falk still learns from Rivera’s faith and willingness to serve.

“Val and his wife were part of a class I was teaching at church, so that’s where I met him,” Falk said. “In the context of the class I talked about coaching baseball at Fresno Christian and he came up to me after class and offered to help me coach the team. Because of his broad experience with playing and coaching he was able to provide a lot of help in the areas where I wasn’t very strong. He was really good with the kids and was always willing to help with anything on the team. He cares and is a great example of a friend.”

After coaching baseball, Rivera moved into a full-time maintenance position on campus, handling equipment and getting it ready for athletes. Though less involved with students, Rivera maintained relationships with those in need of Christ’s love.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Val Rivera celebrates his final days at FC as he prepares to retire.

Senior Tyler Villines got to know Rivera his freshman year and always appreciates his work on the field. The love and encouragement Rivera shows him inspires him to do his best on the field and in the classroom.

“I’ve always admired that Val is here extremely early in the morning and is one of the last people to leave,” Villines said. “He’s out there, mowing the lawn to set it up so that we can succeed on the field. Val has always been there to pick my head up when I’m feeling down and remind me to ‘play hard and play for God’. He was always there to give me advice even when I thought I didn’t need it.”

Rivera’s influence goes far beyond the playing field. Freshman Caleigh Alday appreciates his love for people and how much he cares for students on campus. His past experiences and genuine advice motivates Alday to seek Christ in all she does.

“You can just see how God has worked in Val’s life and how he shares his love for Jesus with everybody,” Alday said. “I remember always coming early to football games and I’d hang out with him as he set up. We would ride in the golf cart and he would tell me cool things that have happened to him. I’ll never forget those stories because his past was so broken and his present is so prosperous. He showed me what God can do in people no matter what has happened to them. He wants all of us to experience a life with Christ, and that is something that I’ll never forget.”

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Senior Tyler Villines prays over Val Rivera as he is honored in chapel, May 10.

High school principal Amy Deffenbacher appreciates Rivera’s dedication to the school success. Working alongside him for five years, Deffenbacher has seen Rivera show up and get his job done. She continues to admire his diligence and servant’s heart.

“Val is usually the first one here in the morning, mowing lawns and keeping the athletic facilities ready to go,” Deffenbacher said. “It’s a job that isn’t very appreciated when it gets done but when it doesn’t get done, people notice. He is larger than life and when he walks into a room, you know he’s there. He loves the Lord and speaks very highly of his wife which I’ve admired as long as I’ve known him.”

As his time at FC comes to a close, Rivera hopes he can still influence kids for Christ. Also a carpenter by trade, Rivera plans to continue his ministry by rebuilding homes lost in fires around California. He hopes his experience will show others how to love Jesus.

For more articles, read Brenda Warkentin retires after 34 years of campus service or BREAKING: Class of 2018 embarks on annual senior trip to SoCal.

Make sure to check out Senior Reflection: Cate Vanderkooi and Robert Foshee: Longtime multiple-sport campus coach, academic teacher as well as Stobbe Shenanigans.

Addison Schultz can be reached via email and via Twitter @SchultzAddison.

The slideshow below shows various photos from Rivera’s years at FC:

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