NFL Star Changed by Mission Trip

Steve Smith learns God can use him beyond his athletic status

By Tricia Allen
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Photo by John Reutener

Steve Smith didn't want to go to Africa.

The Carolina Panthers wide receiver had never been on a mission trip and didn't want to leave his family. But as he began to pray, he sensed God leading him to go.

So Steve traveled to Togo and Nigeria in March with Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, along with 11 other people.

In both countries, Steve was surrounded by poverty and trash, without comforts like consistent running water and electricity.

In Togo, Steve played soccer with kids on a dirt field. For a moment, he wasn't a successful NFL Pro Bowler, but just an ordinary man willing to spend time with some kids. Throughout the trip, he communicated his faith to people multiple times and he also helped show the JESUS film to a crowd of 400.

The trip profoundly affected Steve; he began to see how God could use him beyond his status as a professional athlete.

Now back in the United States, Steve has been re-energized in his faith.

"Steve is now taking his position as a spiritual leader on the team with a lot more urgency," says Mike Bunkley, Panthers chaplain and an AIA staff member.

Already, Steve is thinking about going on another trip with AIA. "I got more out of Africa than Africa got out of me," he says.