Being a college freshman is hard enough. Throw in being 1,850 miles from home and the new challenges of playing Division I softball, and there are plenty to stress out an 18-year-old.

Kristin Scharkey

Thankfully for Kristin Scharkey, she found a new community at Northwestern University in the form of Athletes in Action not long into that first year. Introduced by a former football player who was a key leader in AIA, Kristin started attending the weekly meetings and getting to know other Christian athletes.

“Being part of AIA was so helpful for me, having this community of people who believe like me and the accountability was so huge for me that freshman year,” says Kristin, a junior centerfielder who hails from Yorba Linda, Calif.

With many of the AIA student leaders about to graduate, Kristin took on the challenge of joining the leadership team. She also felt God leading her that summer to begin a Bible study for her softball teammates.

“That was super out of my comfort zone,” she said laughing. “I came back trusting God that He would move and get done what He wanted to get done. The Bible study was such a blessing.

“It was a lesson for me to know that He is able to do more than we ask or imagine; nothing is impossible with our God. To have that community and watch the Lord move in all our hearts is great.”

Now as she begins her junior year, Kristin is encouraged by the moving of God she and her AIA leaders are already seeing on campus. Their first meeting of the quarter drew 40 to 45 students, many of those new athletes on campus. She hopes to see more get involved and share their faith so they can reach more of the Northwestern campus. And she hopes new students will find the same home-away-from-home she found with Athletes in Action.

“I think AIA serves as a safe place for athletes to support each other, love each other and worship together on a weekly basis. It’s a chance to establish relationships with people like you that are also pursuing the Lord, people to keep us accountable,” she said. “It’s been good for all of us to have that in the midst of our busy schedules and practices and games. These are people who understand and can relate to you about all those things.”

Kristin said Athletes in Action has helped her integrate her faith into her sport, which for many athletes can be a struggle as the sports world consumes much time and thought. The accountability aspect – where students hold each other accountable for their behavior and spiritual disciplines – has Galso been valuable.

“I feel like God gave me this talent to play softball. I see that as a gift, and the time I’m on the field or in practice is a time to glorify the Lord with the gifts He gave me,” she said. “For me, it’s been a journey of trusting the Lord and knowing that I find my identity in Christ and not in softball.”

The most exciting thing for Kristin, however, is seeing athletes come to a relationship with Christ and be transformed. As a believer from an early age, she is encouraged to see that spiritual movement on her campus.

“It shows you that God is moving today, right now,” she said. “It’s a reminder of the gospel and the gift we have in Jesus. It reminds me of the power of God’s grace and his forgiveness.”