From yards away Lyndon
Rush’s red coat and tall frame are easy to spot shuffling among skis,
snowboards and tourists. They’ve come to Whistler to ski, relax, shop and watch
elite athletes like Rush, Canada’s number one bobsled driver.
“Hey! How are you?” he says,
stepping off a stair and into the cobbled path where North American Mission
Board (NAMB) missionary Derek Spain is taking Southern Baptist volunteers on
one of his daily walkabouts.
They shake hands and shortly the word “revival”
“There are lots of Christian
athletes here,” Rush says.
Rush is one of dozens of
athletes Derek Spain has connected with over the last few weeks, and Rush sees
a mission field among his brothers and sisters in the Olympic world.
“Rush is the real deal,”
The light of Christ is
bright among the athletes in Vancouver. Following the death of slider Nodar
Kumaritashvili this became apparent as chaplains and fellow athletes in the
Olympic Village responded to the grief and uncertainty they experienced.
“A lot of coaches and
athletes tried to stay focused, and this often meant not talking about it. But
many of our athletes were facing strong emotions,” says Spain, who is an
official chaplain for the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) at the athletes
village in Whistler. “Our job was to listen, but we also offered hope and
assurance of something greater than these events.”
Spain was chosen to be a
chaplain by the VANOC because of the relationships he already had with the winter
athletes he serves in his hometown of Lake Placid, N.Y.
“We’re doing the same kind
of things we do in Lake Placid — meeting regularly for one-on-one discipleship,
praying together and providing spiritual encouragement,” Spain says.
“Someone told me the other
day ‘I think a revival is coming among our athletes,’” says Spain. “I’m praying
and hoping that this is true.”
As the Games continue, Spain
and his fellow chaplains are showing that sports aren’t just sports. It is a
mission field with an easy connection to the spiritual.
“The atmosphere at the
Olympics is fantastic,” Spain says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet
people and engage people from all over the world. The opportunities for
ministry and evangelism are everywhere.”
discipline and endurance — all fruits of a soul sold out to Christ — are the
keys to success for the best athletes in the world. And the world is waiting.
Winter Olympic athletes represent some 80 nations.
“These athletes are returning to their countries in
a few days,” Spain says. “My hope is to see them return with a seed to plant.”