Akers of Faith

A young girl recently learned that a world-famous athlete lived in her neighborhood. Not knowing any better, she knocked on the athlete's door, hoping that her idol would come out and play with her. Now, as a Sports Illustrated article humorously pointed out, with most world-class athletes, the kid knocking on the door would either have been escorted away by security, or even rolled away by paramedics. But fortunately for this young girl, the athlete whose door she was knocking on was Michelle Akers, the now legendary midfielder for the United States women's soccer team, who cheerfully went out to play with the neighborhood kids. No one could have blamed Akers if she had said she couldn't be bothered. She was the first superstar of women's soccer. At the first women's World Cup in 1991, she scored 10 goals and led the U.S. to the championship. Her soccer-playing even brought her an Olympic gold medal. But, after the 1995 World Cup, things began to go downhill for Akers. She noticed that her energy was flagging, and even the simplest of tasks, like cooking and running errands, became difficult. Akers was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, disorders which, coupled with 12 knee operations, imperiled her career. But instead of becoming bitter, the threatened tragedy led Akers to rededicate her life to Christ. As she said in an interview, "when everything has been ripped out of your life, you become very introspective." Her physical illness led her to conclude that "God needs to be the primary focus in my life and the foundation of who I am." Today Michelle continues to play despite injuries and illnesses that would stop most of us cold. By the end of every match, she requires intravenous fluids. Her teammate, Mia Hamm, the undisputed star of women's soccer, says "She gives us such a presence out there . . . Whatever amount of time she has to put on the field, we want her. There's no one like her in the world." This "presence," as she tells anyone who will listen, is the product of her faith in Christ. That faith also led her to start an organization called Soccer Outreach International, which ministers to underprivileged children. It's ironic that in an era when athletes are among the most privileged members of society, many engage in behavior that is uncouth and offensive. That's why it's so refreshing to see a star athlete who displays gentleness, courtesy, and an indomitable spirit. You and I ought to celebrate great examples of faith like Akers. As the surrounding culture grows more hedonistic and corrupt, even secular magazines like Sports Illustrated are taking note that Christians are different. They shine out from the surrounding darkness, fulfilling Jesus' command to be "the light of the world." Tomorrow, Michelle and the U.S. women's soccer team will be playing China for the World Championship. If you have kids or friends who love soccer, why not sit down and watch the game with them. And tell them the story of player Number 10--the story of the courageous Christian athlete whose life on and off the field is an example for all of us to follow. To learn more about Michelle Akers and her faith in Christ, visit her website at


Chuck Colson


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