Monday, September 26, 2016

Miracles never Cease

I was sharing a story with my family and they said, "Dad, you need to blog about it!" Here it is:

While I was doing chaplaincy at the Rio games some amazing things happened. This is one story I've been told to share. About the second night of chaplaincy a coach from Niger showed up asking to see the chaplains. A chaplain from Brazil and myself began to talk with him. He told us how one of his track athletes had lost a wheelchair in route to the Paralympics and was wondering if we could help find a chair that would allow his athlete to compete. I went to the American contingent while the Brazilian went to the host countries contingent. The next day I took off so nothing happened.

The following day the coach came back and I told him to followup with the American contingent. He said he would but had to go to the stadium to practice track. When he came back he told us that "miraculously the wheelchair was found." He then told us that someone in his contingent had to go to medical (polyclinic) clinic. While there he shared about this athlete and how he would like to see this athlete get orthotics. Someone there heard and looked into it. They told them to come back and get her measured for a pair of legs. So when they went there they had nothing to measure her with (none of the usual measuring instruments) but they jury rigged some tools and measured her for them.

They told them to come back the next day. Well, they came back and put the legs on her. The coach reported that the athlete stood straight up to everyone's amazement. She then took a few steps. The person commented to the coach that she was able to walk much faster then most recipients of artificial legs. When he came bqck to us to share the story he noted how good God is, He went before them and provided legs to a athlete that only had a rickety old wheelchair, and a used athletic chair to compete with. Imagine that a athlete not able to walk before the games, granted a great miracle and was able to leave to go back to her home country (Niger) with a new lease on life and the ability to walk!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Chaplaincy, what is it?

What does a Chaplain do in the Paralympic Village?
I was in a laundry mat the other day to get my clothes washed. The attendant there spoke Portuguese. Needless to say I had trouble understanding her. There was another lady in the laundry mat who saw my difficulty communicating and helped translate for me. After the conversation she asked,
Why do internationals volunteer to work at the Olympics? I shared two reasons with her. I shared for me it was my profession, that I was a Chaplain. She then asked me a question I thought everybody knew, what is a Chaplain? Which is why I write this blog today. We begin each day like everybody else, rubbing the sleep out of our eyes and eating breakfast at the hotel we stay at. At some of the  events we actually stay with families in the area. Then we head to the village (by bus or walking). Here in Rio we walk to village.  Then we enter through the service entrance.As seen in the picture to your right.

We then make our way to the Multifaithcenter. This is a place where all of the Religions of the world are found. The center house Imams (Muslim  prayer room), Buddhist priests ( a mini temple to chant and seek there God), a Counseling area, Christian/Roman Catholic room (we hold Sunday Services and Bible Studies and Mass), Hindu room and Krishna prayer room. The building in Rio is not as prominent as other villages I have been too. In this particular village it is hard for the athletes to find us here, but if they look hard enough they can find us. We are the small building underneath the athletes condos in the picture on the left.

After arriving at the Multifaith center we have prayer time and our first Bible study of the day, if some athletes come. Otherwise we take turns handing out Bibles, tracts and books sharing Christ in most of the languages of the world.
If a athlete is facing a crisis and needs a counsellor we often do that as well. When we are not sitting in the chapel we go out into the village and make contact with the athletes that are done training or competing. Often times we do a prayer walk through this big village. We do a second bible study for those who have been away competing and training. Then after our shifts are completed, in the night time, we return to the hotel. Often times we go out to dinner in the area we are staying. If you are brave you try the food of the culture you are in. If not you try to find the food you like.

Is chaplaincy worth the time and money spent?
Yes! In John 10: 14-16  Jesus states, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
We must help the other sheep from all nations! Whether it is to encourage them through Scripture, or let them know about Christ. It is an opportunity unparalleled. The world comes here every 4 years. We as Christians must be there to share the love of God with them ( the athletes of the world). Coincidentally this years slogan is "a new world". Um mundo novo. We must take the Gospel to this world.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What in The World?

As I sit in the chapel. I stand amazed at God’s grace. While here in Rio I feel as if wherever I walk, whether intentional or not, God has guided my steps. Likewise, whoever I speak with seems to have been appointed by God, Himself. As the days go on and the body tires, God gives me the strength to continue on. But as I sit here I think, it is as if we are in a bubble here in the Paralympic village. The world is trying to show us that we can come together through sports. The village is attempting to show how good and clean Brazil is, but outside this bubble lies many problems. In Brazil there is a scandal in politics, the economy is not doing well.There are signs of poverty all around us, yet in the village they portray all is well! The village also tries to show that the world can get together through sports. Though part of that last statement may be true, the fact of the matter is that Brazil (and for that matter the rest of the world) needs God.

The neat thing about coming down to Brazil is you get a glimpse of how God loves Brazil and how He is sharing the word with all of Brazil. It is as if God is moving His servants to the place they best fit, to serve. In the hotel I am staying at there is a group of people who strive to serve God and share His grace through sport. This groups name is Athletes in Action. These people have spent their own resources to come here and share with the athletes and the spectators. I met one of them whose name is Daniel. He comes from the north of Brazil and during the torch relay, he was one of the people chosen to carry the Olympic torch. He actually brought that torch that he carried to the athlete’s village. He used it to begin witnessing to some of the athletes. Very effective tool for evangelism. Little did I know that Daniel actually went to same church as one of the athletes who I've had the privilege to get to know over the years of doing this ministry. There are so many stories I could share how God is moving, but I will take the time to share 1 more story This story has really touched my heart.

There are so many stories I could share how God is moving, but I will take the time to share 1 more story This story has really touched my heart. There is a farmer's wife and mother, who came to Rio because she believed God called her here last December. She told her husband what she felt God
called her to do. Her husband said no you cannot go. Two to three weeks later, they were sitting in church and the pastor was sharing the story of Jesus at the wedding of Cana. After hearing that message he turned to her and said, you must go! So she asked her church for some support and they gave very little. Needless to say, she bought a round trip ticket to Rio. When she got here she had no money for food or hotel room. But she insisted God wanted her here! She has been a big help to us and others by simply doing what she feels led to do. I asked her, "how do you pay for the food and hotel expenses?" She simply responds, "God will pay it". Somehow everyday she gets the food she needs. I have seen it with my own eyes and am astounded by her simple faith. I am just waiting now to see how God pays the hotel for her. It's amazing to see people with that type of simple faith.

 All of this leaves me with a simple thought and a simple question. The thought is this: The world can show us an illusion of "everything in this world can be solved if we get together and strive for peace." "Um Mundo Novo" (A new world) the slogan of these games. It will take much more than that, it will take a lot of help from God through Jesus and his followers. But there is one hope that is and will always remain with us. That hope is Jesus. As a fellow brother in God I am convinced He is at work! He is changing this world one soul at a time. NOT ONLY IN BRAZIL BUT THROUGHOUT THIS WORLD. He is using people like you and me to change those lives. The simple question I face is this, "Why can't I feel God all the time, like I do here. A feeling that my every step and conversation is appointed by God. When I go home why can't I feel these divine appointments? Is it a simple matter of living a simple faith? Maybe you can answer that question. God Bless!

Friday, September 9, 2016

One mans story

Sitting here in Rio I stand amazed at what God can do to a life. I met a Kenyan who is a assistant to a blind distance runner. He came to know Jesus at the London Paralympic Games. Before those games this man was a warrior who had to fight to survive in the area where he lives. He shared that he even had to kill people for the opportunity to drink the water near his village. To even get to this water he had to walk an hour. The water they drink and bathe in is the same water the animals drink as you see in this picture of a child from his village.
Being from the United States it is hard for me to believe their are places in the world that have to fight or travel such distances to get a drink of water. This man told us of how he believes if this village could get a well (in Africa it is known as a bore hole) that he would be able to share Christ who we know is the living water. John chapter 4 speaks of something like this, “A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The man who accepted Christ four years ago shared his story with his village of 400. At first they were resistant, but he bought the Jesus movie on DVD and played it in his village. Out of that one movie he started a meeting for people who want to learn about Jesus. They meet under a tree with some thatch roof to cover them from the sun. He believes that if his village would get water, then all the villages around them would come for that water. Then he can share to them about the true "living water". Pray for him as he continues this endeavor.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Three Athletes, One God

As a chaplain that served in Toronto at the Para Pan-American games you get to observe and befriend some of the athletes from the different countries competing. As I reflect on my time in Toronto, I was able to see God's work in the lives of the athletes I have met and served. I want to share with you how God has worked in the lives of three of the athletes I have met. Their names have been changed and I won't share what countries they are from, but will show how God has moved in each one of their lives. In the competition they may have had different results for the athletes (Medaling or not). Through the results we can see God's work in each of those results to better His athletes (children).          

The first athlete comes from a background of one raising a family. He is an older athlete, yet still able to compete in his event. Watching him from afar, I saw one who sets himself apart from the team by the way he lives, but still seems to be an influencer on his team. He has been to past competitions but has not had the success that he currently possesses. He won the gold in his event, yet during the matches he played, he would openly lift his hands and give God all the glory for his victory. Whether playing good or not, he always praised God for the ability to participate.Towards the end of the games he took time with our second athlete, from a different country and event, to share and encourage them to continue on in their event. He never took winning for granted and gave God credit for his talent and his place in the games. He appeared to have learned from his past in the sport and allowed God to change him into the athlete he is today.

The second athlete was a first time participant in the event they participated in for their country. This participant had a three day wait to compete.  One rule from this athlete's country was that the competitors were not allowed out of the Athletes Village until after they competed in their event. On those days this person came to the Multifaith Center everyday to share what they were going through. This athlete shared that she had a fear of failure. That the failure would result in a diminished witness of God to her team members. Due to that fear, she did not do well in her competition. The fear of failure actually came to pass and she was left dealing with a less than stellar performance. I was able to speak to the athlete after her event, and got to witness the first athlete share his story to her about his career and the failures he had overcome. It was amazing to me to see how even though these athletes were from different countries, they helped each other out. The lesson God wanted to share with this athlete was learned. We are truly not to fear for our position on a team or in an event. We are to leave that fear with God and attempt to do the best we can. Remember always, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We also know that "perfect love casts away all fear." It is ok to fear, we must give the fear to God and Jesus will help us overcome it.

The third athlete was a young individual who wanted to medal after missing the podium in her last Olympics. This athlete ultimately decided not to participate in her event. Instead she wanted to use her near miss of a medal at the highest level of her sport, to help others in sports recognize God's work in their own lives. This retired Olympian told me of a struggle she had when coming home from an Olympic Games that she got fourth place in. She said for the longest time she felt like she let down God. In fact, she tried to use the fourth place as motivation to make it to the next Olympic Games. She finally came to the realization that it wasn't what she did for God as an athlete on the field of competition that mattered. She felt that she needed success to further His Word by opening doors for her to witness for Him. She discovered that God could use her regardless of her athletic prowess.

As a chaplain at these International Para events, you see a lot of things transpire while you are there. You meet a lot of new people and athletes. You hear a lot of great stories about how God has moved in the athletes lives just to get to the competition. The best thing you get to see is that no matter the place an athlete gets during that event, you can still see God's work through the event in the athletes lives. You get to see the beginning of the changes made through their own circumstances.  Just like God works through every event in our lives. He uses all the events to mold us and make us into His image.

In the book "God's little Devotional Book" the author sums up well what I saw in Toronto.
"In every situation, God knows far more about the people and circumstances involved than we can ever know. He alone sees the beginning from the ending. He alone knows how to create a Master Plan that provides for the good of all those who serve Him."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Second Post - Toronto Para Pan American Games

Wow, I can't believe it, it feels like time has flown very quickly. We are half way through with the Para Pan Americans already. I'll be returning home on Monday (5 days). But the days I have been here have been truly blessed. I feel like I have joined a international family. Meeting with athletes from South America, Caribbean and Mexico. They have accepted us into their lives like we were brothers and sisters. There have been two special athletes I have followed. Both have been encouraged as well as encourages and great witnesses of Christ to their teams.

In the Multi Faith Center, we do Bible Studies twice a day. 9 am and 19:00 pm. If the athletes are competing they miss the studies. But after the competitions they stop by for a vista and let us know how they are doing. Your prayers have done wonders this first week. But I urge you to continue to pray. It feels like we hit a wall. Knowing that we are fighting against Spiritual powers in dark places This is what Paul writes in Ephesians, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 NIV

 Prayer not only protects us as we minister, but it also helps to open up doors to some of the athletes lives! Why mention this, because we need all the prayers you can muster to effectively minister here in the village. Pray that the Bible Studies would continue to grow and that the Christian athletes would continue to feel free to share about Christ with their respective teams.

On a lighter side of things I want to thank all of you who sent birthday wishes. It is nice to know that we are remembered by acquaintances and friends. Though I was not home physically, I was able to celebrate with my spiritual family here in Toronto. In the midst of a fast paced city, ,God is teaching patience. My prayer is that the lessons I am learning will carry. Over into my life in the slower paces of Nampa. In ending I want to share a picture of two of the athletes I have met in action "on the court". 

                  Maria from Brazil (Silver Medal, individuals, Table Tennis)

                        David from Brazil. (Gold Medal, individual, Table Tennis)


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toronto 2015 - Post 1 August 6,2015

 I finally feel settled in for the Para Pan American Games. It was quite the trip getting here. Arriving in Denver my flight was delayed for a half hour, than another and another until after 4 hours of delays at 11 pm they finally decided to cancel (delay) the flight 12 hours and put us up in a hotel. After 5 hours of rest they called and told us it would be another 6 hour delay, which allowed us to leave 24 hours after we were scheduled to leave. Trying to book another room in Toronto and working with my supervisor of Chaplains was a challenge, but worked its way out. Arriving at Midnight I found out there was a Festival in town similar to Mardi Gras. Waking up the next morning I headed to get my accreditation. Wouldn't you know it, they had the wrong birthday on it and told me it would take a few days til they could let me he into the village. Luckily, my supervisor was with me and he encouraged them to expedite the process and they were able to approve me (Praise the Lord) rather quickly. This allowed me to start the very next day.

Though the games don't officially start until Friday (one day away) there have been many athletes arriving in the village. Chaplaincy at this level of sport is very much a Relational Ministry. Being the way Chaplains work, I was glad to have the opportunity to greet some new people from the nations involved and renew old relationships.
   Chaplain Laura Kyte, Maria (Table Tennis), David (Table Tennis) both from Brazil, Myself
These are a few old friends from Guadaljara games in 2011. 

We began Bible Studies and I had the privelage to meet two participants (one from Columbia and the other an assistant to a Canadian Athlete). We briefly discussed "Going for the Gold" out of 1 Cor. 9:23-25 and Hebrews 12:1-3.

              Berta (Colombian Weight lifter) Charlene (assistant to Canadian Boiche athlete)

Please continue to pray for all the Chaplains at the Para PanAm games. That God would continue to move in the athletes lives. God Bless you, P. Craig