Several years ago, former NBA star Charles Barkley announced that athletes are not role models.
Barkley obviously had never met Wood County athletes Meredith Crislip, Andy Dollman and Tyler Warner. These three outstanding citizens deserve to be looked up to by young people - and not just because of their success on the golf course, basketball court and football field.
Crislip, Dollman and Warner try to help others while strengthening their own relationship with God.
They recently went on an Athletes in Action mission trip called Urban Project, Los Angeles. The three, along with other athletes, worked with disadvantaged children and adults in poor sections of Los Angeles and Compton, Calif., and spread the word of God through the sports ministry.
Warner, a former place-kicker at Parkersburg High School and Marshall University, is a second-year intern with Athletes in Action. He works with student-athletes at Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky and is helping AIA grow its football ministry.
Making his second AIA mission trip to Los Angeles in as many years, Warner said he served as project emcee and scheduled airport pickups/ dropoffs of the athletes, made sure the vans were filled with gasoline and got directions for drivers to the ministry locations.
Warner said he was excited about getting the opportunity in Los Angeles to speak to the student-athletes from across the country about starting a campus ministry through Athletes in Action SportLinc.
Dollman, the all-time leading scorer in Parkersburg High School basketball, called the mission trip, from June 8-28, an inspiring, life-moving, spiritually-changing trip for him. It strengthened his relationship with God, Dollman said.
Dollman talked to people at the Central City Community Outreach, known as "Skid Row," in Los Angeles and cleaned and painted the ministry site there.
The 10-block area has thousands of homeless people, with many living on the streets in tents and under tarps, he said. "It was almost overwhelming for me" to look at, Dollman said.
The people there thanked the AIA volunteers who handed out bags of food and personal hygiene products.
Youth from the six ministry sites spent time at the beach with the Athletes in Action workers.
"The kids respected us and listened to us," Dollman said. The inner-city youth don't get an opportunity to leave their troubled neighborhoods.
Dollman enjoyed working at a basketball station at the Nickerson Gardens public housing project. Although there was a gang presence in the area, "the gangs left us alone," he said.
The missionaries participated in Bible studies every night.
Wayside United Methodist Church in Vienna, where Dollman attends, helped raise the money for his trip to Los Angeles. Dollman said he is transferring from Glenville State College to Marietta College, where he plans to continue playing basketball.
Crislip, a 2003 Parkersburg South High School graduate who played and coached on the Marshall University golf team, said she enjoyed teaching Bible lessons, playing games outside and teaching crafts to the Compton area children.
"The kids were absolutely wonderful and beautiful," she said.
Among the many highlights of her trip, Crislip said she cherishes the fellowship of the Christian believers she worked with in California.
"Their examples in struggle, in faith, in genuineness, and in community shined as the most wonderful gift (I didn't expect to receive) on this trip," she wrote in a blog.
Crislip has a master's in business education, was a teacher in Huntington and Lexington, Ky., and is working toward a master's degree in counseling, which she plans to earn in December from Marshall. Her goal is to work as a missions counselor.
Crislip has participated on three mission trips to Nicaragua and another to Washington, D.C.
Contact Paul LaPann at firstname.lastname@example.org