As the 2012 Olympic Games have closed, most of the world’s attention has left London and moved onto other things. Another world-wide sporting event is just beginning in London this weekend, the Paralympics, and they are also well served by a number of sports chaplains from around the world. Please pray for our colleagues who serve these world class sportspeople and for many among these competitors who love the Lord Jesus.
One of our colleagues who has served at every Olympiad since 1988, Madeline Manning Mims, sent me a very detailed report of her service at the 2012 Games. Excerpts of that report are below. I hope it serves to deepen and broaden our understanding as to the preparation process, the breadth of service and the depth of impact made by these faithful servants. Thanks are due Madeline for making these thoughts available to us.
To qualify as an Olympic Games Maker Volunteer and serve in the Multi-Faith division as a chaplain in the Village was a two-year process. Dr. John Ashley Null, chairman of the Major Events Chaplaincy Commission (MECC), a division of the International Sports Coalition (ISC), and Stuart Weir, secretary of the MECC, developed a list of nineteen international chaplains to serve at the Games. The list was presented to Duncan Green, the Head of Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Services for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Duncan would then submit the list along with UK chaplains to the London Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG). Duncan had worked with LOCOG for a total of five years to activate one of the most successful chaplaincy programs ever presented at an Olympic and Paralympic Games. John Boyers assisted Duncan as the Multi-Faith Center manager.
There were three groups operating: one group for the Village that hosted 17,000 athletes and team officials for the Olympic Games and 6,000 for the Paralympics; one group for media hosting 26,000 people; and one group for the 70,000 volunteer Games Makers. The nurturing, encouragement, and caregiving by these three groups helped to ease tensions, and bring harmony to the purpose for which the UK was hosting the Olympics Games.
A new growing experience came about for me when I was assigned as one of three Team Leaders over the Village Chaplains. This included all five faith groups: Buddhism, Christianity (Catholic and Protestant), Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. I was Team Leader for Team C, [the best Team of course] Lol. My two deputy assistants were Richard Gamble (UK) and Kjell Markset (Norway). They were ‘spot-on’ when I had to leave the Village to serve the U.S. Women’s basketball team who lived 30 minutes away.
The responsibilities of a Team Leader are six-fold:
Openness: Open dialogue; two-way communication; give opportunity for key overview of daily events; care for health and safety of team members; review previous activities; make sure everyone has what they need to do their job; and record daily activities.
Team Spirit: Develop teamsmanship; be hospitable; lead by example the walk of love and compassion for your teammates; be supportive.
Be Distinctive: Help chaplains to perform their specific role by administering their service as professionals; help them to understand the different environment they are hosting. This is the athlete’s home away from home during one of their most important athletic feats in life.
Delivery: Team leaders execute the plan laid out years before Games time to the team, troubleshooting and monitoring when necessary.
Respectful: The team must be respectful of all in their environment, specifically children and vulnerable adults. This was strongly enforced by LOCOG.
Inspirational: Be a team builder by motivating, praising, nurturing, listening, showing compassion, and willingness to act upon a complaint when necessary. Most of all, the Team Leader must walk in Godly love toward their team members.
London was the seventh Olympiad I have served as a volunteer chaplain. My position as a Team Leader to the Multi-Faith group of chaplains was a new experience for me. One in which I enjoyed and grew spiritually in my faith walk in Christ. In the (NIV) Bible, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son…” Sometimes, as Christians, we forget that God loves the people of the world. The Olympic Village expresses a utopia of the world which God so loved. I was reminded on a daily basis of God’s love for ALL people, no matter what faith they choose to follow. Christ still died for them and the love of God is poured out freely and unconditionally, drawing them back to their Creator and Father. As a Christ-follower, I must see the world through my heavenly Father’s eyes, and participate with Him in reaching out to those He created in His image and likeness. My heart overflowed with God’s love toward all the chaplains I encountered on my team in a fresh, new way that has made me a better Christian and minister of the gospel. It was worth all the sacrifice I made to position myself to serve at the 2012 Games. I am thankful that God is patient with me as I grow in His ways of ministry for my life and others.
In the midst of such intense competition, where the thrill of a lifetime dream manifests, or extreme disappointment and grief envelopes an athlete’s life, a calm cloaked the Games, and a peace settled over the Village where residents called their home away from home. I am a four-time U.S. Olympian, gold and silver medalist in Track. I have experienced the highs and lows of Olympic competition. During my competitive career, there were no chaplains there for me. As a chaplain, I know what it means to have caring, loving chaplains available for athletes as they produce to their highest ability before the world. In my opinion, the UK did an excellent job of being sensitive to the needs of the whole person in this athletic arena, and I personally want to thank LOCOG (London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games) for the opportunity to share in meeting the spiritual needs of the Olympic family at the 2012 Olympic Games.