Friday, August 31, 2012

A Report from the Olympic Games

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.

Ministerial Responsibilities

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.

Personal Reflection

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.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dynamic Ministry at the Olympic Games

Earlier this week I enjoyed a phone conversation with my friend and colleague from the United Kingdom, Stuart Weir of Verite Sport He and I discussed his ministry at the London Olympic Games and the potential for this model in future games. His work as an “in country” atttache’ for the Togo Olympic Committee afforded him unique opportunities and tremendous access to various venues. His ability to speak French and his familiarity with London were key to this opportunity. May we be similarly creative and available to serve at major sporting events or even local sports events of any level.

Please read Stuart’s ministry update for even more insights into this month’s ministry.


The Olympics from every perspective seemed a thoroughly enjoyable and most successful sporting events ever. For me it was hard work and long hours but at the same time an immense privilege to be part of it.


I was in an unusual role as Olympic Attaché for Togo. At the outset I had four aims:

1 To provide logistical back-up for the team of 19 international chaplains.

2 To fulfil my commitments to the Togo Olympic Committee who had asked me to be their Olympic Attaché.

3 To support Christian Olympians whom I knew.

4 To enjoy the games.

Chaplaincy logistics

It was exciting that LOCOG allowed us 19 international (Protestant) chaplains. I managed the budget, travel arrangements, accommodation, provided UK mobile phones and generally helped with orientation. Several were kind enough to say that the infra-structure was the best at any event they had ever worked at.

Togo Olympic Attaché

The role of the Olympic Attaché is not clearly defined in the Olympic Charter. The word “liaison” is mentioned a few times. My role was to do what was asked of me using my knowledge of how to get things done in the UK. Practical tasks such as getting business cards printed, screen-printing of the running vests the athletes wore, ordering Togolese flags on the internet, liasing with the uniform supplier were typical tasks I undertook. Paying bills – as I was the only one with a Visa Card – was at times a little scary as the debts mounted but, in the end, all was repaid to me.

I had the opportunity to attend meetings that were absolutely fascinating such as the team reception meeting in which every name, role etc is checked against LOCOG’s records, and a briefing for athletics coaches. Each time I was asked to attend to facilitate matters.

The team press attaché seemed somewhat disinterested in his responsibilities so I found myself fielding press enquiries like why was our hurdler disqualified. I also set up an interview for our 13 year old swimmer with CNN. I wore team uniform every day after I finally received it. I marched with the team to our official welcome ceremony. I would have been part of the Opening Ceremony except that the team was only allowed 6 non athletes.

The accreditation privileges given to the Olympic Attaché are wide ranging. While I did not sleep in the Village – well not at night – I had access to the Village at all times. I ate in the athletes’ restaurant and travelled on athletes’ transport. In the sports venues I had access to the warm-up areas, the athletes’ stand and the Olympic Family Lounge [free food and drink]. While this made the games more enjoyable than I had expected, it also created unprecedented ministry opportunities.

Supporting Christian athletes

From my work in previous years I knew about 35 Christians who were participating in the Olympics. I decided to send them all a daily devotion in the style of my weekly devotion but with a focus on the Olympics and a bit shorter. About ten of them thanked me for it, one said she was sending it on to several team mates. That was an encouragement. One emailed me: “The daily messages were great as well. A perfect little shot of Jesus at just the right time!”

Having access to the Village, the dining room, transport and warm-up areas meant that I was constantly bumping into athletes. It was not a situation for many deep conversations – more a word of encouragement and a prayer.

The tunnel between the stadium and the warm-up area became holy ground for me. I was able to walk the length of the tunnel with several athletes – a unique opportunity permitted by the access I was allowed.

By the end of the Games I had prayed with 20 different athletes – some of them several times. To pray with someone on the day of the most important competition was an immense privilege.

I had produced a prayer diary and circulated it to friends. A number of Olympians said it was a real encouragement to know that people were praying for them on the day of the competition.

Enjoying the Games

I love major sports events, the buzz, the excitement, the atmosphere. London 2012 was so special. Being in the stadium for so many exciting events was indescribable. Being on the inside as part of the Togo delegation was an amazing privilege. The access to athletes created so many opportunities to serve. See photos at

The Paralympics

Next week I am off to the Paralympics. Again I am doing logistics for the international chaplains. I will be accredited as a journalist and doing some newspaper writing. Again I will be supporting the Christians I know, about 5-6, and also also hoping to make new contacts.


Pray for the ministry of the chaplains to the Paralympics.

Pray for the Christian athletes – Stef in sprint and long jump, Michael and Anna in Goalball.

Pray for me that I would be in the right place at the right time for divine appointments.

Stuart Weir

Verité Sport

Tel + 44 (0) 1865 864265

Friday, August 17, 2012

God's Team at Ephesus

During my annual study retreat I wrote a verse by verse, inductive study of the Epistle to the Ephesians as viewed through the lens of sports teams. The first session of 12 is below. If you would like a copy of the study, simply email me at and I’ll send you a pdf copy.

God’s Team at Ephesus
An inductive study of Paul’s Epistle to
the Ephesians through the lens of sport teams.

Session 1- Your Position on God’s Team

1) Read Ephesians chapter 1, verses 1-14 aloud and pray together.

2) How does the author describe himself and those to whom he’s writing in verses 1 and 2?

3) Where was Ephesus and what kind of a city was it?

4) According to verses 3 and 4 how did we gain our positions on God’s team?

5) What is the difference between being chosen for this team versus our choosing to join God’s team?

6) What was the timing and purpose for which we were chosen?

7) From what you read in verses 5 and 6, what has God’s grace accomplished in us?

8) Verses 7 through 10 describe further accomplishments of God’s grace in us. Let’s make a list of what has been done.

9) In verses 7 through11, we hear details of our inheritance.

a. From whom does a person receive an inheritance?

b. On what basis is it received?

c. Who were “the first to hope in Christ” mentioned here?

d. Who are the people he addresses as “you also” in verse 13?

e. What is the common result of both groups having heard and believed the gospel?

f. How is the Holy Spirit a pledge of our inheritance?

10) Thoughts for contemplation and application:

a. How does knowing God chose you for His team affect your sense of belonging to Him?

b. Which of the accomplishments of God’s grace listed in verses 7 through 10 do you sense most strongly in your life? Which seem most remote to you?

c. How can we best reflect our position on God’s team and our inheritance this week?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Innovative Ministry at the Olympic Games

Throughout these Olympic Games, my friend and colleague from the UK, Stuart Weir has been sending daily devotional readings to a wide number of competitors in his network from the UK and beyond. These have been heartily received and many are forwarded to other competitors, coaches and friends. I was privileged to contribute to this project with 22 submissions which Stuart tailored to fit his format. One such installment is below.

Let’s consider new and innovative ways to deliver the hope of the Gospel in the language of sport. Please check out Stuart’s ministry at this web site:


And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place. Acts 26:22

Have you ever had a sense that God was helping you as you competed? Do you remember having healed from an injury more quickly than normal? Have you obtained help from God? Have you told anyone about it?

Here is Paul in chains before the people who could free him or could send him on to Rome and ultimate death. What does He talk about? He speaks of how God has helped him and how Jesus is the fulfillment of everything spoken by the prophets and Moses. Has your relationship with Christ so changed your life that it consumes your conversation with both great and small?

Let's join Paul in speaking of the times in which we've sensed the Lord's help. Times of recovery from injury, grief from a friend's death, hope in the midst of despair, displays of power when you feel weak.

As you pray and prepare today, ask the Lord for His help. He is ever present. Ask Him also for the opportunity to speak of Him to both the great and the small. He will be honored by your witness, as He was by Paul's.

Written by Roger Lipe; used by permission

J Stuart Weir
Executive Director
Verite Sport
19 The Glebe

Tel +44 (0) 1865 864265
Mobile +44 (0) 7710 800539

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sports Chaplains at the Olympic Games

This week’s notes feature info from our friends and colleagues of Christians in Sport in the United Kingdom. Please continue to pray for the chaplains serving at the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London.

Andrew Wingfield Digby's Olympic prayer update :

Andrew Wingfield Digby, Vicar at St Andrew's Church Oxford and founder of Christians in Sport, reports back from the Olympic Park, where he and his team of international Christian chaplains are serving at the 2012 Games.

The team, working 8 hour ‘shifts’ in the village, will be on hand to encourage and pray with those in the village, lead Bible studies, cope with any pastoral crises and hold daily services and prayer meetings in the chapel. They will also have approved resources to give to enquirers.

Sunday 29th July 2012

'The Chaplains have been hard at work in the Village this week making contacts and seeking those divine appointments e.g. I introduced myself by chance to a young athlete who trains with a friend who attends St Andrew's.

Several International Chaplains are holding Bible studies with believers in different national teams. We are also contacting the countries which have brought their own chaplain with them e.g. Poland and South Korea.

There is a steady stream of visitors to the multi faith centre, not least muslims as Ramadan has begun. I am preaching at the main Christian service today (Sunday 29th) at 8.30am, when a significant number of athletes and officials are expected. Lovely chat with Tom Daley's great rival in the diving - a lad from the US who is a believer.'

Sunday 22nd July 2012

'The International Chaplains have all arrived and are so grateful to St Andrew's Church for their financial support especially those from Africa, Latin America and India. Training and accreditation is complete and duties in the Village have begun. My first duty will be Monday 7am (23rd July). Please pray that we can serve the Games effectively, be faithful ambassadors for Christ and bring His love and compassion to the Village in an appropriate way.'