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