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Being able to play basketball is very important to Jordan Graham.
When the Starkville Academy Volunteers were eliminated from the Class AAA state tournament earlier this year, Graham wondered how hoops could remain in his future.
Thanks to Starkville Academy athletic director Glenn Schmidt, Graham found out about Athletes in Action.
Athletes in Action will enable Graham to play the sport he loves, plus share the message of Jesus Christ during a trip to Columbia, South America, later this month.
"When (the Vols) lost our first-round game, I was really upset because basketball has been my life, but I had a feeling in my heart that even though it may have been the last game at Starkville Academy, it wasn't going to be my last game (forever)," Graham said. "It was the early part of basketball season of my senior year and I was looking for different ways that I could play basketball. There weren't any colleges talking to me really. Coach Schmidt brought up Athletes in Action."
Athletes in Action is a sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ and has been a global pioneer in sports ministry since 1966. Along with the AIA ministries in 60 countries around the world and on 58 college campuses in the United States, Athletes in Action uses the universal language of sport to break down barriers, transcend differences, and bring Jesus' message of victory into the hearts, homes, and communities of millions around the world.
Graham went to the AIA website to find out more information, learned more about its trip to Columbia and filled out a profile just to see what would happen.
Despite already having a busy summer planned, Graham had enough interest in Athletes in Action to see if there was an opportunity there, then he received a call from the AIA coach.
"The coach asked me all of these questions and told me he wanted me to be on the team," Graham said. "He knew I had a trip to Rome scheduled and I said it depends on the trip coming up. Even with that, he said he still wanted to keep me on the team and if I couldn't go, he understood because I had already made that commitment."
Barb Adkins, Graham's senior sponsor at Starkville Academy, stayed in contact with the group that assigned the trip to Rome to see if something could be worked out.
"She let them know that I was trying to plan a trip to Columbia on May 28 and I had to be back from Rome by then," Graham said. "I'm really grateful for her because she's the main reason I got to go on the trip."
Graham returns from Rome on May 26 and will only have one full day in America before leaving for Columbia May 28 and won't be back from that journey until June 15.
While in Columbia, Graham and his AIA team plays against local club teams and has the opportunity to share the word of Christ with children during a basketball clinic.
Athletes in Action sends out 80 competing teams, projects and coaches tours worldwide in a year, and spiritually trains hundreds of collegiate athletes through Ultimate Training Camps.
"At the end of the day, we' get to tell them what we're doing and why we are there," Graham said. "We're traveling with a Division II and Division III college team and a high school team. We'll play before a college team and what we'll do is have a meeting with the club teams after the game and tell them why we're in Columbia and teach them about Christ."
The AIA staff, coaches and collegiate athletes participate in athletic camps, projects and domestic and international sports tours each year. The purpose of each opportunity is to use sport to share the message of Jesus Christ with millions around the world. These experiences also provide training and equipping of athletes and coaches for a lifetime of ministry.
Former Starkville Academy boys basketball coach Chris Lyle may have had only one season to spend with Graham, but that was long enough to find out what kind of person he is.
"Jordan is by far one of the most outstanding young men I've had a privilege to coaching and being around," Lyle said. "He is a great all-around individual when it comes to athletic performance, athletic performance and his character. Everyone who interacts with Jordan comes away very impressed with how he carries himself. It's great that he gets to go on this trip as a representative of Starkville Academy."
Graham thanks his parents, Ross and Karen Graham, for their support and said they have been great mentors to him over the years.