In its very first year, Gordon College's Athletes in Action (AIA) group has held worship and devotional meetings, organized a kickball tournament and participated in a Relay for Life cancer walk with rival-school Endicott College. For their most recent project, they brought a group of middle-school boys from Lynn, MA, to campus for a day of food and fun with Gordon athletes.
“The ‘in action’ part of our name is to live out our faith,” said Katie Wholley, ’14, a social work major and co-leader of Gordon’s AIA group. “That means not just being with other athletes but also serving.”
Last month, Gordon's chapter of this nationwide sports ministry collaborated with Project YES, a group that works with at-risk boys in Lynn, Massachusetts, to bring around thirty middle-school boys to campus. They spent a day with some of Gordon’s athletes—taking a tour of the College, watching a baseball game, eating pizza and playing basketball with students from the Gordon team. According to Wholley, the middle-school boys all have family members that are involved with either drugs or gangs.
“The desire of their mentor for the whole thing was that at least one boy would say he wanted to go to college,” said Wholley. “Almost all of them said it, so it was a big success.”
AIA at Gordon was started by Meg O’Brien, head athletic trainer, after she returned from a Brazil missions trip with the national AIA women’s volleyball team. “I have been at Gordon for 10 years and, in all honesty, I had gotten into a rut; I wasn’t challenging myself or my relationship with Christ,” said O’Brien. “So I went on the trip. I had a chance to jump start my faith; seeing athletes who were Christians first and foremost was awesome.”
On returning to Gordon she started a ministry for student athletes. AIA is run by a core group of seven athletes involved in lacrosse, soccer and basketball, and is led by Wholley and Julia Miller ’12, also a social work major.
“It's a place for athletes and those who love sports to come together and support each other in their walk as well as their sport,” said Miller. AIA has been meeting on a bi-monthly basis for worship, Bible study and guest speakers. According to Wholley, these campus-wide meetings attract between ten and forty people.
“It is great to see who speaks up during the Bible studies,” said Miller. “Some people who you may not expect to speak have a great deal to say, and people are willing to listen and respond.”
As they think about AIA next year, Miller and Wholley are both eager to keep up their relationship with the Project YES kids.
“They have so many groups of people in and out of their lives,” said Wholley, “We’re hoping to be something a little more consistent for them.” Miller echoes these sentiments and says there is not much she would change about the group as they go forward.
“I don’t think we need to do anything differently,” said Miller. “We just need to continue what we're doing.”
Story by Rachel Bell ’12, a senior Pike Scholar from Harare, Zimbabwe, interning this year for the Gordon College Chapel Office.