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."