Sunday, February 28, 2010

Closing out the Games

I left Whistler today. We had our last worship service inside the Athletes Village, said our "good-byes" to people we have gotten to know in the past three weeks, and then headed down the Sea to Sky Highway from Whistler to Vancouver. We took a bus for the first hour of the trip to the town of Squamish, then jumped in chaplain Nick's Mitsubishi Delica for the second hour the rest of the way to Vancouver. We dropped Lindsay off with her friend, and then went to Nick's house.

On the ride down to Vancouver, the USA v Canada men's gold medal hockey game was on. Lindsay and Nick kept getting updates via text messages and iphone apps on the score. Canadians love hockey. The game was not quite over when we arrived to Nick's house, so we watched the overtime period. Congratulations to Canada. Now, what's such a big deal about hockey? It's not the only sport to follow.

Two of Nick's kids had a good time talking to Kim, Andy and Emma Grace via Skype. We also looked at lots of photos of my family on my computer. I'm grateful for Nick opening up his home to me for a night. This is host home #3. Tomorrow night's host home = LaGuardia aiport. My flights get me to NYC tomorrow night, then a short flight to Boston on Tues AM, then a short flight to Saranac Lake airport after that. Andy told me today that he hopes the school has a snow day on Tuesday so he can be home when I get home. That's my boy!

I posted all of my Olympic photos on my Facebook page if you'd like to see them.

The closing ceremonies were tonight. I watched them on CTV. One of the exciting parts of the closing ceremonies was to see Adam Pengilly be introduced for his newly-elected position as one of the Athlete Representatives on the International Olympic Committee. May God use Adam in that position of influence to be a light for Christ there. Well done, Adam, on a successful campaign! The LORD puts people right where HE wants them to be.

Tomorrow I will blog about my most lasting memories of the Games.


Perseverance

"LORD, give me the strength to do the things You want me to do today."

Today was the first day that I felt tired when I woke up. My schedule is pretty long each day, with lots of walking, talking, praying, encouraging, etc. So I needed an extra prayer for strength as I began my day.

I enjoyed a great devotion with the mission team from GA. It was written by Dr. Tom Blackaby and shared with us by Kelly Seckinger. It was about being salt. It beautifully described our opportunity as believers to be catalysts for change in others, if we let God use us to show love and compassion to others. Another Kelly - Kelly Manire - who is on staff with the Canadian National Baptist Convention planting churches on college campuses, led in prayer. He prayed that God would use us all today to touch lives for the kingdom of God, to be salt to the people we would meet.

I felt a bit more energized after the time of devotion and prayer with the team.

My last morning at Starbucks (sigh). Before leaving, I left two copies of the book Soul Cravings for the staff that I have met over these last few weeks. I pray they will take the time to read it.

It was raining at the lower end of the Whistler Village Stroll, but as I walked up the rain turned to snow. Wet snow, however. So we jumped on the gondola (my favorite Australian chaplain - Matthew - and me) and started for the start line grandstands for the four-man bobsled race. In line we connected with some orange-poncho-ed folks from Oregon, and had a great time walking to the start with them, explaining bobsled along the way. It turns out they were believers, and that they were praying that God would connect them with Christians along their journey to the Olympics.

During the first heat, we sat beside John's mom, and he joined us for part of the race. The folks in the stands kept handing me their cameras to get a picture with him. We watched the first heat of the race from the start, then headed down to the finish area, thinking we would get a seat on the grandstands.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

We did manage to get a spot standing, with a great view of the video screen, right near the finish line. If it were not for the thousands of people in front of us we would have had a clear view of the finish line.

We were met by two other folks from our Multi-Faith Centre for the second heat, Lindsay (one of our office coordinators) and Mohammed (one of the imams). Mohammed lives in Vancouver, is originally from India, and has never seen bobsled before. It was a lot of fun to watch the race with them.

Results of the race were:

* Gold medal - USA1, driven by Steve Holcomb
* Silver medal - GER1, driven by Andre Lange
* Bronze medal - CAN1, driven by Lyndon Rush (who was beaten by 0.01 seconds - the slimmest margin possible in bobsled)

By winning the gold in four-man bobsled, the USA ended a 62-year drought. Since 1948, no USA four-man bobsled team had won a gold medal. Congratulations to "Team Night Train" - Steve Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler, and Curt Tomasevicz!

We walked down the ski slope one last time from the bobsled track. The lines for the gondola and buses were way too long. Then I headed back to the house to wash clothes and rest. I had been invited to come over to the USA House for the four-man bobsled victory celebration.

At about 8:30 people, I boarded #1 bus to go the USA House. It was great to hear the speeches by the athletes and coaches. All the "Night Train" team thanked their coaches and staff. They thanked Geoff Bodine for his commitment to the USA bobsled program. Geoff just humbly smiled.

It was pretty emotional at times. A few years ago, Holcomb was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease and he officially retired, but head coach Brian Shimer located a surgeon who attempted an experimental surgery that has brought healing to Holcomb's eyes. Holcomb came out of retirement and is now an Olympic champion! That's perseverance.

Also, praise God for HIS healing. He uses surgeons in amazing ways!

We had some good food and good conversations at the bobsled victory celebration. I was able to meet some of the family members of the athletes, and they were appreciative of our ministry to the athletes. And, I was able to congratulate the team and the coaches. Some of the USOC staff who I had met three weeks ago were very great to talk to. Relationships develop over time. They take perseverance.

Teresa was at the USA House, of course, being her usual cheerful self. She is always so encouraging to everyone. She did share a couple of prayer requests with me, so when you think about it pray for Teresa and the two prayer requests. Pray that she will persevere til the end of her time in Whistler, with joy and effectiveness.

Tomorrow is my last shift at the Village, and then I go down to Vancouver for the evening to spend the night with Nick, one of our chaplains. Then I fly out on Monday, on my way back home (Yay!)

Pray that God will give us a great day tomorrow, and that our time of worship at the Village (tomorrow is Sunday) will be Christ-exalting in every way!

All of the athletes will be leaving the Whistler Village tomorrow to go to the Closing Ceremonies in Vancouver. Pray for God's protection.

Friday, February 26, 2010

God's Plans

The 5th grade students at Keeseville Primary School were great to talk to this morning. I had a Skype interview with them and they asked a lot of great questions about the Olympics. It was fun telling them about what has been going on from my perspective, and telling them about some of the local North Country athletes who are in the Games. Their teacher, Mrs. Melinda Preston, is a member of our church - thanks for setting that up, Melinda.

I had another Skype interview later on in the morning, where I got to share about what the LORD is doing through the chaplaincy ministry inside the Village.

A little while later, as I drank a Venti bold black coffee - with just the right amount of sugar - I began reading Soul Cravings, one of the books the More Than Gold groups are giving away to people who are interested. The first couple of chapters were pretty good. I really liked the way the author said something like this, and I'm paraphrasing: we Christians really believe that every single person has the ability to change. We believe that God can change each person's life. They are not stuck because of their pedigree, or social status, or economic status, or anything. God can change their life, and He can change their destiny. I like that.

It was time to go meet some friends and head up to the grandstands at the Start for the four-man bobsled race. I had a long conversation with a guy named Christopher from Ohio as we sat and waited for the race to start. Beside us sat some folks from Germany, behind us some fans from the USA. The folks from the USA were the family of Steve Langton, one of the guys who slides with John. They were nice enough to give me a "Team Napier" red-white-and-blue cap and t-shirt.

The weather was SNOWY! Huge flakes of snow fell from the sky. The track crew and volunteers were working extra hard to keep the bobsled track in drive-able condition.

Unfortunately for many nations, the track proved too difficult today. Out of the 25 sleds that started the race, 7 sleds crashed either on heat 1 or heat 2, ending their dreams of a medal. Our own Team Napier was one of the sleds that crashed. All of the guys who crashed were banged up, but no one sustained major injuries (praise God). We are proud of all of the teams - they are Olympians!

The bobsled team of USA1 (driven by Steve Holcombe) sits in first place right now, hoping to earn the first USA four-man gold medal in 62 years! Canada1 (driven by Lyndon Rush) is in second place, followed by Germany1 (driven by Andre Lange). It should be an exciting conclusion tomorrow. By the way, if you didn't catch the video of Lyndon Rush sharing his testimony of his faith in Christ, you can view it HERE.

After the race, I headed over to the Multi-Faith Centre, connected with the chaplains who were there (they were all glued to the nearby TV watching the Canada/Sweden curling finals, then on to the Canada/Slovakia hockey game). We did have time during commercials to talk about some of the ways we have seen God at work during the Games, and to begin to think about ministry in Sochi, Russia in four years.

When I arrived back at the host home, I talked with everyone in the house for a while. Each person has been used by God to point people to Christ. They are seeing how they are part of His plan during these Olympics. The team from GA all served as official VANOC volunteers today at the bobsled track (called the Whistler Sliding Centre officially). They have great souvenir uniforms to bring home with them.

Today in Numbers I was reading about how God had chosen the literal land for His people to live on in the Promised Land, and how He divided it out for them. It reminded me of how God has every detail of our lives planned out. We need to seek Him, listen to Him, and obey Him. He knows the plans He has for us, for tomorrow and for the future. God knows the big details and the little details. We need to walk closely to Him so we know and obey His plan.

More Than Gold - Update

Teams of people from churches in Canada and from many states in the USA have joined together with several Christian ministries under the umbrella of More Than Gold to provide "Radical Hospitality" to people throughout Vancouver during the Olympics.

My friend Pastor Rick Wilburn from Tupper Lake Baptist Chapel (NY) has been blogging about his experiences. You can read his blog and see some photos HERE.

Also, here is an update of some of the ministries from More Than Gold's Janet Campbell:

I wish we could be sending you all daily updates, but things have been moving at a fast pace and it hasn’t been possible. Thanks for your prayers though!

We have had report after report of volunteers having conversations with spiritually open people - conversations that have led to people giving their lives to Jesus. Praise God! The More Than Gold pin has continued to be our most popular item to give away – most people have turned into enthusiastic pin collectors during the Olympics, as happens in all Olympic cities. Our volunteers have found it easy to start conversations by offering a free pin.

Others have prayed with people, encouraged them, and delighted them with free hot chocolate on cold mornings and evenings. People are SO appreciative of the hot drinks at the transit stations. We’ve got people in some places at 4:30 a.m. and other places til 12:30 a.m. at night. Even our B.C. premier (like a state governor) commented on the service of the volunteers - he had personally noticed it as he went around the city.

Most volunteers have come and gone, but we still have several teams here serving away. We had 2 volunteers who, in separate incidents, fell last night, leading to trips to Emergency, but nothing serious. We had 2 people last week who had to go home suddenly due to deaths in the family. Please especially hold up in prayer the family of Barbara Webb from GA (a More Than Gold volunteer) whose 8-year-old grand-daughter was killed in a car accident.

Many of you contributed to the welcome kits and care kits. Just today a load of the care kits was taken to the Union Gospel Mission, probably the best-known ministry to homeless and low-income people downtown. The people they care for are receiving the beautiful hand-knit scarves made by many of you (along with many other items in the kits)! Thank you again.

Local churches have been busy. My church had a children’s program one day and had several new-to-us families participate. Both Kevin’s church and mine are “perking locations” for More Than Gold – ie the kitchens are in use as sites for making the coffee and hot chocolate that are served at nearby transit stations. Other churches in our Association have had children’s programs, held big-screen viewing parties, taken shifts at the More Than Gold beverage stations, and more.

Kevin and I went up to Whistler last week one day and were able to briefly visit with a couple of mission team members there, plus our chaplain working within the Athletes’ Village. All had good reports of ministry opportunities and spiritual conversations. There is another group in Whistler right now – they will be working as official VANOC volunteers Friday and Saturday so please pray for them that they will “let their light shine”!

We have been blessed to have “extra-special” helpers who have been tireless in their service behind the scenes this week, last week, or both. From Texas, Georgia and Colorado: Dan & Joanne Crawford, Les and Darla Dobbins, Peggy Colbert, Beth Ann Williams, Steve Hoekstra, Jeff and Ruth Wagner. From here in Metro Vancouver: Kelly and Jeanne Manire, Gary and Carol Oaks, Marsha Davidson and others as called upon! What a great support team. Thank you all. We could NOT have done this without you!!

We are tired, but happy with all of the wonderful reports of open doors, “stretched” (in a good way!) Christians, and new believers. We have greatly enjoyed meeting the mission teams face to face after so many months of emails and calls. And we’ve enjoyed seeing our city come alive – the people on the streets and buses are excited and much more open to talking with strangers than usual.

More after the dust settles….meanwhile, send us your stories of what you have seen God doing. Thanks!

Medals Ceremony

Up early for the morning shift at the Athletes Village alongside chaplains Nick (from North Vancouver - called "North Van") and Dr. Lawrence (from Boston, MA). Nick is a pastor in the North Van area, and Dr. Lawrence is a retired pastor who nows works part-time as a chaplain on cruise ships.

On my way in to the Multi-Faith Centre I saw some of the USA bobsled coaches and congratulated them on their bronze medal from the day before. Also, I saw the USA Nordic Combined (cross country skiing and ski jumping) team on their way to their competition. I saw Billy Demong and told him "Congratulations" for his medal earlier in the week. Little did I know he was on his way to earning a gold medal in the competition today! Congrats Billy!

An alpine skier joined us for Bible study this morning, which focused on John 6:68. Nick led a good Bible study and then we prayed for the athletes, for the volunteers, for the spectators, for the workers, and anyone else we could think to pray for.

I had a good conversation with one of the workers inside the Athletes Village today. She said her family has never really attended church, and she didn't know much about the Bible. But she said if I wanted to bring her a Bible she would check it out. I brought her a "More Than Gold" New Testament and showed her where the Gospel of John was. I explained how the New Testament is 27 short books so you don't have to necessarily read it from page 1 to the end. Pray that she will read it, and that God will draw her to Himself. Pray that for all of the people we've given Bibles to.

Ever since the tragic accident and death of Nodar, the luge athlete from the Republic of Georgia, we have had a "book of condolences" for volunteers, staff, athletes and coaches to sign. We've kept it in the Multi-Faith Centre so that everyone could have access to it, and so that people could take a private moment to pray for his family as they sign the book and write him a note. But, now that the Games are almost over, we decided to move the book inside the Athletes Cafeteria so that everyone who has not had a chance to write in it can do so conveniently. The VANOC staff moved it over today. There is quite a protocol that must be followed for something like that to be moved to a new location. Pray that the words people wrote will help to comfort Kodar's family and that God will show them His love, mercy and grace.

In the afternoon I caught up with Erin Pac's family & friends to go to the Medals Plaza for the Medals Ceremony. It was pretty exciting. I was standing near Erin's family & friends, Elana's family & friends, and Shelly Ann's family & friends. They let the family & friends get really close to the stage for great pictures. When they put the medals on the medalists, you could see the happiness on their faces and the tears of joy in their eyes. They awarded many medals for events from the past two days. Some took place in Whistler (where we are) and some in Vancouver (which they showed to us live on the big screen).

If you'd like to read an article from BP News about Erin and Elana's bronze medal performance - and what role God had in their victory - click HERE.

After the Medals Ceremony, we boarded a bus to take us to the USA House for a celebration in Erin & Elana's honor. The USA House is a house rented by the USOC to be used for these types of celebrations as well as meetings, interviews, etc that need to be done away from the Villages. Teresa McAlpin, a member of our church and USOC staff, is one of the front-desk workers at the USA House. She and the rest of the team greeted us, got us signed in, etc. It was great to see her. Teresa showed me some verses of Scripture that the Lord had laid on her heart that she had written down to be an encouragement to the Christian athletes.

We had some good food to eat at the USA House. My wife Kim would have been proud of me for trying some food that I've never eaten before. It was all delicious.

At the USA House I was able to connect with a lot of the bobsled coaches, staff, and administration. I saw some friends who are going to the four-man race tomorrow and we made plans to meet up and hike to the Start line grandstands together. It was a privilege and a blessing to be there at the house.

A couple of last thoughts. The best part about the Medals Ceremony (from an earthly perspective) is to see the celebration and joy of people being together, celebrating the accomplishments of someone else. Everybody was getting along, so many different countries, all of whom had just been hours earlier competing against each other, now were applauding those who were the winners. But it is true in saying that all who compete are winners.

From a sociological point of view, it was interesting to see how much people love music, dancing and celebrating. It makes me think that we as Christians need to think about that in worship services because there are ways to do all those things in a Christ-honoring way. That brings me to my last thought. It's going to be pretty amazing in heaven when we get to enjoy music, and dancing, and celebrating, and being rewarded, and getting to place our crowns at the feet of Jesus. That's a Medals Ceremony that you should be really looking forward to!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women's Bobsled Finals

The morning began quite early, with a 4:20 AM alarm to make sure I was ready for my Skype appointment with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes group from Little Mill Middle School in Cumming, GA. A guy who was in my youth group when I served as a youth pastor in GA, Jimmy Woodward, is a teacher and the FCA leader at this school. I had a great time telling the students and parents all about some of my experiences at the Olympics, about some of the Christian athletes, and answering the great questions they asked. The Skype call was 7:45 AM for them, which was 4:45 AM for me. But it was worth it!

The early-morning Skype call made me so tired that I went back to bed for a few hours and caught up on some sleep. Everyone in my house keeps giving me a good-natured hard time about the long hours I am out every day and night. But I guess I am just blessed with an extra amount of energy. (Dad & Mom, was I this way as a kid??) The LORD gives me the strength I need to do all that He wants me to do each day. Every conversation, prayer time, text message, etc that I spend with people here is worth it to advance the kingdom of God.

The mission team staying at the house with me told me their devotion started at 9:30 AM, so I headed upstairs at 9:27. I heard two people praying, one of them praying for my family & me specifically, and it was very encouraging. After their prayer time was over I sat down to hear the devotion only to discover they had started early and I missed the whole thing! Oh well, at least the prayers were good.

I was scheduled to Skype with students from Keeseville, NY but a big snowstorm caused their school to be cancelled. Hopefully we can do that Skype call on Friday.

An hour at Starbucks allowed me to catch up on emails and post a couple of links on Facebook highlighting other ministry going on around Whistler and Vancouver. My friend Debbie Wohler was highlighted in one article, and my friend Sid Hopkins "The Pin Man" in another. Before I left the coffee shop I ran into Amanda Moreley from the Canadian bobsled team. She was the alternate on this year's team, just missing the Olympics. She is a dynamic follower of Christ. She is the person who helped to get our Athletes Bible Study in Lake Placid connected with FCA years ago. I also got to meet her mom and sister at the coffee shop.

The weather was turning a bit rainy/snowy so I headed back to the house for a quick change into my snow pants instead of jeans, then off to meet my friends Otis Jones and Betsy Napier to watch the women's bobsled finals. Before the race began, we had some great conversations with the folks around about bobsled, Olympic chaplaincy and more. I also had a chance to pray with Erin Pac as she came up to the Start area.

I'll get right to the results. Erin and Elana slid very well today, and so did the Canadians. Overall, the Canadian bobsled teams earned the gold and silver medals, and we are so proud of Erin and Elana for earning an Olympic bronze medal!! They are going to be on The Today Show on Thursday morning if you get a chance to watch. Pray that God will give these two Christian bobsledders just the right words to say. The silver medal Canadian bobsled team includes Shelly Ann Brown, who is a devoted follower of Christ also. Pray that her opportunities through the media will allow her faith in Christ to shine brightly too!

After the race and after saying "Congratulations!" to Erin & Elana, I walked down from the sliding track with Erin's family & friends. They of course are incredibly proud of her and Elana. I tried to find Shelly Ann to say "Congratulations!" to her, but there were too many Canadians in the way!

;-)

I arrived back at the host home before 9:00 PM, which is actually pretty early for me during these Games. The ladies from the mission team had made some yummy meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and I enjoyed a tasty dinner. After watching some of the Olympic Games from the day on TV with the mission team, it was time for bed.

One other quick praise: the mission team from Hebron Baptist Church (Dacula, GA) applied a few weeks ago to be official volunteers with VANOC, and they were all accepted. They will be official volunteers at the four-man bobsled races on Friday and Saturday. Pray that the LORD will use them to be a witness for Christ with all the volunteers and spectators that they meet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Praying for Protection and Blessing

Every day is different.

Today I worked the morning shift at the Multi-Faith Centre. Our group of chaplains met for a specific time of prayer for all of the athletes in general and for the bobsledders in particular as the women's (competition) and four-man (practice) bobsleds were sliding today. Later, I dropped in on the PolyClinic to check on the staff. They thanked me again for how our team of chaplains were there to help on the day that Nodar died.

After stopping at the PolyClinic, I dropped by "The Living Room" (a nice room with large open windows, nice couches and chairs, and lots of coffee tables). The Living Room is also the place to get a cup of coffee, a muffin, or some Vitamin Water. The young lady who works behind the counter, Jessica, is always very nice to us chaplains when we stop by for a coffee and a chat.

In the afternoon, I met up with Matthew from Australia and we headed to the women's bobsled race. (On the way I stopped to chat for a couple of minutes with two of the ladies from Hebron Baptist Church who are here on a mission trip.) Matthew & I went early to the race to get a good seat at the Start in the grandstands. It's a pretty good hike up the bobsled track hill. Lots of exercise! Our seats put us in the German/American/Australian section. Next to me sat the boyfriend of German bobsled driver Cathleen Martini. She is a very good driver, but so are the Canadians and Americans. Our friends Rob and Matt from GA joined us at the Start grandstands too.

Before the race, I always take a moment to bow in prayer to the LORD, asking Him to protect the athletes, and to bless them, and to draw them to Himself. A huge praise is that earlier in the day training/practice had gone really well, and also that during the women's race no sleds crashed! Thanks be to God for answering the prayers for protection and blessing.

I saw several of my friends from Canada and America who are serving on the jury for the bobsled race. I know them from our ministry in Lake Placid at World Cup Bobsled & Skeleton races. It was good to see all of them.

Our friends Erin Pac and Elana Meyers raced well today. After 2 heats, they are in 2nd place. Pray that the LORD will be with them tomorrow during their finals, blessing them, helping them to do their best, for HIS glory. I saw Erin's boyfriend, Peter Blumert, and a lot of their family & friends at the race. Peter has been a friend of our family for years, and stays with us when he comes to Lake Placid.

After the bobsled race, we decided to avoid the lines at the gondola and the buses, and just to walk down the ski slope to get back to the Village. That seemed like a good idea. We were doing OK until we made one wrong turn, and we walked about a mile farther than we needed to. We did run into Peter and his family on the Village Stroll and Matthew, Rob & Matt got to meet them. If you'd like to see some good photos of the bobsled races by a local Lake Placid photographer Todd Bissonette, visit www.usabobsledphotos.com.

Dinner was good pizza. Then a quick look at the "Fire & Ice" ski/snowboard show, along with a live drum band and more, then off to our host home.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to Skype with two schools, one from GA and one from NY, about my experiences here. That should be fun.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jesus Christ Superstar

Up early this morning to cover the morning shift at the Village. When I was on the bus after going through the security checkpoint one of our other chaplains boarded the bus. When she saw me she said, "Now you're not on duty this morning, right? Just coming in to connect with some athletes?" I double-checked my schedule and she was right. So, I hung around for a few minutes, drank an orange juice and grabbed a muffin, said hello to the chaplains who were on duty, then headed back to the bus to go back into town.

Starbucks is my favorite spot to hang out. It's the Starbucks on Main Street in Whistler, right beside the IGA SuperMarket if you're looking for me. (Some of you will find this on GoogleEarth right now.) I ran into Darren Steele, the CEO of the United States Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, and we chatted a couple of minutes about the bobsled team and my role as a chaplain at the Games. Then I called my father on Skype, then my father-in-law, then tried to call my wife but she wasn't near the computer. Did I say how much I wish Kim was here with me??

I decided to take a walk up the Village Stroll to the Lake Placid Friendship House to see if anyone was there. On the way I bumped into Clark Moran, a youth pastor from Ontario who is one of the coordinators in our Multi-Faith Centre during the Games. He's a great part of our chaplaincy team and a lot of fun to be with. Clark and I stopped to talk to Mike Gravette (from Georgia Baptist Convention, my current "host dad") a few yards up the road, then off to the Friendship House. Saw Betsy Napier (John's mom) and the Lake Placid's own Todd Bissonette, one of our local photographers here covering the Games.

Next I headed on over to the Village to connect with our athletes. I shot some pool with John (he let me win!), then spent some time with Wynn, along with his brother, his sister, his girlfriend, and a family friend. They had a fun time, mostly playing video games in the athletes' game room. Wynn was able to bring those guys in on "day passes" that the athletes are allowed to give out. Each athlete only has a few they can give out the entire time of the Games.

Two interesting things about the Whistler Athletes Village. First, it is built on the site of the former town dump. Second, the dorms the athletes are using will be used as affordable housing for the workforce of the Whistler community after the Games are done.

We had a great chaplains meeting in the afternoon that included one of the chaplains from the Vancouver Athletes Village. We talked about a lot of items, and a had a very stimulating conversation about how God is using us, and how our ministry at these Games fits in with what the LORD has been doing, is doing, and will be doing at Olympic Games in the future. The chaplain from Vancouver was very complimentary of our ministry in Whistler. Praise God.

Our Bible study this evening was more of a special night of testimony by one of our chaplains, Kathy Kreiner-Phillips. Kathy is a Canadian gold medalist from the 1976 Olympics in downhill skiing, and she also competed for Canada in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. She gave her testimony of faith in Christ. The room was packed with people, and lots of people asked questions. Here's a cool part of her testimony: she first started seeing her need for a personal relationship with Jesus by watching the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbrook, Austria.

On the way out of the Village I had a chance to pray with one of the athletes, meet two security guards who are very interested in joining us for Bible study starting tomorrow, and a great chat with Brad from Athletes in Action ministry. Brad serves the LORD in Europe and has a heart like mine to see God do some amazing things in the lives of winter sports athletes.

God continues to expand my vision for how HE is at work around the world. Give Him glory.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Two-Man Bobsled Finals

Today was Sunday, and it started with a walk then a bus ride then a walk to the Multi-Faith Centre at the Athletes Village for a worship service with some athletes, some volunteers, and some chaplains. Good music, a good message on John 1:19-34 (where John the Baptist directs all the fame to Jesus), and the Lord's Supper. Then chatting with a couple of the athletes before they headed to breakfast.

From there, I connected with Matthew, the chaplain from Australia, and we had lunch at a very good (and very reasonably priced) Greek restaurant in Whistler. Then we met up with Lindsay - our young Canadian friend who works with us in the Multi-Faith Centre - and my friend Sid Hopkins, and the four of us headed to the bobsled track to watch the race with John's mom, Betsy, and his sister, Meg.

After a short gondola ride that lets you off near the entrance to the bobsled track, we were almost the first people in line. Lindsay needed to buy a ticket to the event but the ticket booth didn't open until 1:00 PM, which was the same time the gates opened for the event. So what did we do? Well, Lindsay, the polite Canadian was just going to wait. I, being a typical American, didn't mind asking loudly to the crowd, "Does anyone have an extra ticket!?" In about 10 seconds, Lindsay had purchased a ticket from a nearby spectator who was more than happy to sell his extra ticket. That's one big difference I've noticed between Canadians and Americans - Americans don't mind being a bit loud and taking charge; Canadians are quite a bit more laid back in an effort to not offend anyone. Maybe they inherited the "polite gene" from the British, and we Americans didn't get it passed down to us!

Before the bobsled race began, we hiked up the mile-long track to the grandstands at the Start Area. We knew these seats would become premium, so that's why we arrived there about 2 1/2 hours before the race. They were filled in a very short amount of time. Since there was so much time before the race began, Matthew and I did a little educational/comedy routine we called "Bobsled 101" and had the crowd at the start deck laughing. Leave it to an American and an Aussie.

From the bobsled track, I was able to text with Pastor Rick Wilburn from Tupper Lake, NY who was traveling today to connect with More Than Gold on a mission trip to Vancouver this week. He and a father/son mission team (the Wittemores) from Plattsburgh are serving together.

The two-man bobsled race was a good, safe race of extremely fast sleds. Our USA teams slid well. Holcombe's team was 6th, Napier's team was 10th, and Kohn's team was 12th. They all hope to do even better next weekend in the four-man competition. Congrats to the Germans, Germans, and Russians for their gold, silver, and bronze performances today.

After the race, I was able to stay at the track a little bit to watch the women's bobsled teams practicing. Our friends Erin Pac and Elana Meyers were among the teams practicing. I watched a bit of practice with Erin's boyfriend Peter, who is a good friend of our family. Peter's friend Josh came with him. We also met Elana's dad, who was also there to watch practice. The women's competition is on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Next we went back down the gondola, connected with Wynn, and headed over to the Lake Placid Frienship House here in Whistler. (You can find the Lake Placid Frienship House on Facebook.) We joined in a nice reception being held there to celebrate the Lake Placid athletes and all the athletes who are competing in the Games, and to give everyone a chance to connect. I had some great chats with several people there.

After a quick meeting with John to tell him "great job" on his race, it was time to go back to the host home. When I got back to the host home, some friends from Hebron Baptist Church (Dacula, GA) had arrived. They are here for a one-week mission trip. [Hebron is where I served as a youth pastor for 9+ years before moving to NY.] Some of the guys on the team that has come here to Whistler have joined us on mission trips in Lake Placid before. It will be good to serve with these guys for a few days.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

May God Be Glorified Though His Creation, His People and His Word

"In your hearts set apart Jesus as Lord. And always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

That verse is one of my life verses. This morning I began with a simple prayer, that God would be glorified today through His creation, His people and His Word. The tall, snow-capped mountains up against a beautiful, clear blue sky today displayed the glory of God. I hope that people noticed and acknowledged their Creator. He is an amazing God.

The LORD opened the door today for lots of conversations about faith, about my reason for being at the Olympics (their first reaction is always "I didn't know there were chaplains at the Olympics"), about my Canadian accent (yep, two different people heard me talking today and thought I was from here!), about my connection with the bobsled team, etc. On more than one occasion I was able to mention Lake Placid Baptist Church and our website so people can see for themselves where I am from and learn about our church and about Christ.

I had a great chat with Adam Pengilly this morning. He loves the LORD. Although he was hoping for a better finish in his skeleton race (he finished 18th in the world!) he remains steadfast in his trust in the LORD, knowing that God will work all things together for good for those who love HIM, those that are called according to HIS purpose (Romans 8:28). It's that kind of faith that causes people to ask questions about the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15) that opens up witnessing opportunities. Adam is a tremendous witness for Christ. We had a great chat about Numbers 6:22-27, the blessing that Aaron was instructed to pray over the children of Israel.

22 The LORD spoke to Moses: 23 "Tell Aaron and his sons how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 The LORD bless you and protect you;
25 the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace.
27 In this way they will put My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

After meeting with Adam, I enjoyed a quick game of table-top shuffleboard with John Napier and then off to lunch and then to the two-man bobsled race.

Twenty-seven (27) sleds began the two-man bobsled race. There were a few crashes, but no one was hurt badly (thank you LORD for answering the prayer for safety!). All of those who crashed were disappointed though.

Pray that all of the athletes who are believers (and there are several bobsledders who are believers - praise God!) will be bold witnesses for Christ, whether they did well today or had a difficult day. May their hope in HIM lead to words of thanks to HIM in interviews and personal conversations. And may GOD be glorified tomorrow as the two-man bobsled finals take place.

I had the chance to watch the start of the bobsled race with John's mom and sister, and then they moved down to the finish line later on. I stayed behind and chatted with the others who were there. My knowledge of bobsledding (I'm constantly learning!) led into great conversations about all sorts of things - including my job in Lake Placid as the volunteer "chief of acetone control" during bobsled races, and chances to be a witness for Christ too.

It was nice to see how the volunteers at the bobsled venue handled two situations when there were bobsled crashes. In the first situation a spectator from the country that crashed was very broken emotionally. I think one of the athletes in the sled was his son. The volunteer came over and comforted him, asking if he wanted to get quickly to the finish line where his son was. It was very compassionate and caring. In another instance, the mother of one of the bobsledders was shaken up when her son crashed, and the volunteers immediately called for a shuttle to get her and her daughter down to see her son where he was, to see for herself that he was fine. Those stories won't make the headlines, but they are nice, personal touches that happen throughout the Games.

There are some friends from the Canadian National Baptist Convention who are in town for a couple of days, and I got to meet them last night. Also, a friend named Sid Hopkins from the Gwinett-Metro Baptist Association in GA (the county I grew up in!) is staying at the house with us for a couple of nights. Sid is highlighted in some of the videos and articles produced by the North American Mission Board about ministry at the Olympics. He is the master "pin-trader" (he must have a million pins!) and he uses pin-trading to witness for Christ. Here is a cool connection: my very first ministry job was as a part-part-part time children's minister at a church plant in Dacula, GA that Sid helped to get started! We go back 20 years, and it's been great to see him here.

Tomorrow is another day to set apart Jesus as Lord, letting Him set the agenda for my day, and following Him where He leads. I will be praying for my family and for our church family back in NY as they gather to worship and study His Word. I will be worshiping inside the Village with some of the athletes, volunteers and chaplains.

My prayer is that God will continue to use all of His people (people like the Christian bobsledders, people like Sid, people like us chaplains) to display hope so that we will have chances to witness for Christ, and that we would do it ALWAYS with gentleness and respect. May we share His Word - the Good News of Christ - with others.

Skeleton Finals

Tonight I had the privilege of watching the second day of the skeleton races (the Finals) with my friend Matthew, a Christian chaplain from Australia, and Lindsay, one of the coordinators in our Multi-Faith Centre. We watched the women's and men's races with Adam Pengilly's fiancee, Ruth; her mum, Pat; and Chris, the man who will be the best man at their wedding this summer. We also saw Adam's parents and their friends. And, I bumped into a lot more Lake Placid friends. It was great.

The races were exciting. The crowd was huge. The cowbells were clanging. The air was crisp and clear. Congratulations to Amy Williams from Great Britain and Jon Montgomery from Canada for winning gold in skeleton! As you might imagine, it was pretty loud being in Canada with a Canadian-filled crowd when a Canadian man won the gold medal.

While we were walking and talking, Chris shared with me that he was born again in Washington, DC. It's always great to hear someone's story of how they came to faith in Christ.

Earlier in the day, Matthew and I had a great conversation in our Multi-Faith Centre with the imam who had come in for Friday prayer times. He asked us many questions, and we gave Bible-saturated answers filled with truth, faith, forgiveness, grace, authority, love and hope.

His biggest question related to how it was possible for us to follow the teachings of the prophets in the Bible since the Bible is clear that the prophets were not perfect people. The answer is that the very reason we CAN trust the Bible is because the Bible is clear that only Jesus was perfect. The Bible describes how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things when they put their trust in Him.

We believe that the Bible is the TRUTH and can be trusted to present things absolutely truthfully. Therefore the Bible doesn't gloss over the sins of any individual. Only God is the hero of the Bible. We learn from the examples in the Bible (sometime we learn what to do, sometimes what not to do), and we follow the clear teachings of Scripture. God's Word can be trusted. It will give you the answers to every question you have in life and eternity!

There were a bit of other conversations throughout the day, of course, including two great Skype calls: one with my dad in GA and one to my family in NY. Although Grant had already departed for the Adirondack Baptist Association youth ski night at Titus Mountain in Malone, NY, I did get to talk to Kim, Andy & Emma Grace. I called them from one of the lobbies where a computer company has set up a couple dozen computers with video cams so the athletes can all call their families via Skype too. I turned my laptop around so my family could see me AND see the athletes calling back to Germany, Russia, etc while we were talking. Ah, the age of modern communication does have its blessings.

Have a blessed day. Saturday the bobsled races begin. All for GOD's glory.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Day with Athletes' Families

Today I had some great fun watching Olympic events with the families of some of the athletes we have connections with in Lake Placid.

The day started with a meeting with Teresa over breakfast, encouraging her as she continues to be a light for Christ in her role here in Whistler. Her boyfriend Jeremiah (from Holyfire Ministries) had asked me to give her a high-five the next time I saw her, so I did and we captured it on a photo. I haven't seen the photo yet.

As soon as I was leaving my meeting with Teresa, I got a call from Wynn. He was excited to tell me that he was going to be racing today! (Remember, Wynn was the alternate for the US biathlon team, so he didn't know if he was going to get to race at all.) I quickly re-arranged my morning schedule and jumped on a bus to the biathlon race.

On the bus, I sat with a delightful elderly lady from Canada. We talked about life in Canada, about the beauty of creation, about the Olympics, about challenges facing young people today, about salvation, and more.

On the way into the race, I met some guys who were volunteers for the event. They were excited to learn that I was a chaplain during the Games because they are part of a Christian ministry in British Columbia.

I got to the biathlon race in time to see the end of the women's race, and to see the men's race. I met and spent time talking with Wynn's family (from Minnesota) and his girlfriend. Wynn did great, and everyone was very proud of him.

Sara competed in the women's race, and she had an outstanding race! I had the chance to meet her parents, and also to spend quite a bit of time talking with her boyfriend Zach Hall. I know Zach from the Athletes Bible Study in Lake Placid. He is a world-class biathlete himself, and he graciously explained the rules and strategy of biathlon to me. I really learned a lot.

At the end of the biathlon race, I ran back to the bus and traveled back into town. I jumped off the bus, worked my way quickly through the village, grabbed a bite to eat to go from Starbucks, and met up with Adam Pengilly's fiancee, Ruth, along with both of their families & some of their close friends to watch the skeleton race. I saw lots of Lake Placid friends at the race, and everyone cheered all of the athletes on. The racing was very exciting. The women's race was first, and then the men's. All of the athletes are competing well and giving it their all. After the first two heats of the men's race, Adam is in 20th. Tomorrow will be heats 3 & 4.

During the race I met some new friends with Athletes in Action ministry. It was good meeting Tim, Danny & Mike.

In summary, today was a great day to be with the families and friends of the athletes. The common bond of Lake Placid helps us to feel close. The common bond of Christ makes us feel even closer!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Telling the Story of How Great God Is

Today I had the morning shift at the Athletes Village. Each day I either have the morning shift (8:00 AM - 3:00 PM) or the afternoon shift (2:00-9:00 PM). Even when I'm not "on duty" I try to head over to the Athletes Village for an hour or two to connect with some of the athletes.

It's a blessing to realize that six athletes with connections to our Athletes Bible Study in Lake Placid have made it to the Olympics this year: Adam Pengilly (skeleton), Elana Meyers (bobsled), Erin Pac (bobsled), John Napier (bobsled), Sara Studebaker (biathlon), and Wynn Roberts (biathlon).

We are proud of all of these athletes, not just for their athletic accomplishments but also their faith in God. Be praying that God will work in each of their lives during the Games.

Since I had the morning shift at the Athletes Village, I was able to connect with many people there. And then I had the chance to go to the Men's Doubles Luge race tonight with Kevin Sigsby and Janet Campbell from More Than Gold. It was a great race.

A friend of mine, Steve Sellers, is another one of the chaplains at the Whistler Athletes Village. He is the pastor of an SBC church in Canmore, Alberta and the chaplain at the National Sports Center in Calgary. He is a world-class cross-country skier. He even coached the cross-country team from Costa Rica in the last Olympics (yep, Costa Rica!). Anyway, if you'd like to check out Steve's perspective on the ministry during the Games, check out his blog: http://stevesolympicblog.blogspot.com/.

Lastly, Adam Miller from the North American Mission Board wrote a nice article about the ministry in Whistler. Here's a link to it: "The Light is Bright in Whistler."

And, I guess you saw the video below... "God at the Games."

More Than Gold update

In addition to the ministry that I am part of, there are other Christian ministries going on in Vancouver and Whistler. Here's a recent update from one of the "More Than Gold" leaders Janet Campbell:

This is a very brief update on what is going on here. We are in the middle of “week one” with 25 Baptist teams (plus some individuals) in addition to those of the other denominations and organizations. We have had some glitches and problems, but overall things are going very well and we are hearing story after story of the fruit of your prayers…. we have heard of several people who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour as a result of the witness of volunteers at the transit stations!

Often the More Than Gold pin has been the conversation-starter. People are very appreciative of the free hot drinks and there have been great conversations and relationships forged. Some of our volunteers are helping out at performing arts concerts and some are doing “as you go” ministry – literally walking around downtown talking with people, giving and collecting pins, and so on. The volunteers are excited and God is opening doors for them.

Please continue to pray for this. Also pray for safe and un-delayed travel to and from Vancouver for mission teams, and for their health and stamina.

Thank you SO much for your prayers for both of us. We definitely could not do this without God’s grace and strength. We have been blessed with many excellent helpers this past week – they have come specifically to assist us as we coordinate logistics and orientations for all of the teams.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Encouragement

OK, let's get to some of today's highlights:

I met with a young lady from our church named Teresa this morning. Teresa says "hi" to everyone back in Lake Placid! She works for the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), and although we have both been here for 10 days, today is the first day our schedules allowed us to see each other. She is doing well in her role of helping to support the USA athletes, their families, media, coaches, etc.

Later on in the morning I met with Tim Ellsworth from BP Sports. He's writing articles on many of the Olympic athletes who are followers of Christ. Check out his articles at www.bpsports.net. We had a great chat, and then he talked with some of the mission teams who are here in Whistler doing ministry during the Games.

At about lunchtime I headed over to the Athletes Village for some important work: SHOPPING!! I got some great Olympic souvenirs for my family. I can't wait to see their faces when I get back home to deliver them. I love my family and wish they were here with me. That's probably about the only thing that could make this experience even better.

In the afternoon I spent some time with John Napier. We watched some luge on TV, chatted a bit, and played some pool. I almost beat him in 2 out of 3 in pool, but I scratched going for the eight-ball on the last game! We had a good time hanging out as always. It's great to hear about all that the Lord is doing in his life.

A worker in the village who is a Christian and who is from a country in South America stopped by the Multi-Faith Centre today. He just needed a place to be quiet and pray. The folks like him who have come from other nations to work during the Olympics are living in crowded conditions, with no peace and quiet, and are working very long hours (like the volunteers!). I prayed with him, then left him alone to spend some quiet time with the Lord.

For dinner, I ate in "heaven" -- the athlete's cafeteria. I call it "heaven" because compared to the volunteer cafeteria it seems like heaven. Maybe in heaven we will be able to eat all that we want, whatever we want, and never have to worry about gaining weight! I had dinner with Erin Pac and some of the other US athletes. A cool thing that Erin and her teammates do is intentionally sit with athletes from different nations every meal to get to know them and to be an encouragement to them. Tonight we talked with an athlete from Croatia who is in her first Olympics.

During Bible study tonight we discussed Philippians 4:5-9. It was another great Bible study.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Racing | Walking | Riding

Walking is a great form of transportation. Buses compliment walking. Or maybe walking compliments buses. Here's how we got from our host home to the venue to watch the Cross Country Ski Race this morning.

10 minutes - walk from host home to bus stop on Main St in downtown Whistler Village
5 minutes - wait on #10 bus to take us to the Athletes Village
10 minutes - ride bus to Athletes Village
10 minutes - go through security checkpoints at Athletes Village
5 minutes - walk from last security checkpoint to Multi-Faith Centre
10 minutes - check-in at Multi-Faith Centre, make sure everything is fine, realize that we need to meet our other friend who is going with us at a bus stop back in town
5 minutes - walk back to security checkpoints
10 minutes - go back out through security
10 minutes - take the #10 bus back to Main St in downtown Whistler Village
5 minutes - take the shuttle bus from Main St to other bus area, near gondolas (as instructed by our bus driver)
10 minutes - walk from gondola bus area to parking Lot #5, where we met our friend and caught the bus to the Cross Country Ski Complex
30 minutes - bus ride to Cross Country Ski Complex
15 minutes - walking/running to the Cross Country Ski Race

TOTAL TIME = 135 minutes (2 hours, 15 minutes) from the time we left our house until we arrived at the Cross Country Ski Complex.

It's not easy getting around during the Olympics. But that's part of the fun - big crowds, switching buses, lots of walking, talking to people on the bus rides, etc. And just to give a comparison: on a normal day in Whistler you could drive from our host home to the Cross Country Ski Complex in less than 30 minutes.

There is a funny part of our adventure today. The Lot #5 is only a 5-minute walk from our host home. Had we realized at the start of the day that we were going to that Lot, we could have eliminated 85 minutes of walking and riding! Next time we will consult the bus route map!

The cross country ski race was exciting. Great enthusiasm from the fans, everyone getting along wonderfully, kids sliding down hills of snow (not even realizing the Olympics were going on). It was the Ladies 15k race and then the Men's. Two of our chaplains have competed at the highest level (World Cup for one of them, Olympics for the other) so they really appreciated getting to see the race in person. I was just thinking about how tired I was from 135 minutes of bus riding and walking! A guy they call "Q," the youth pastor of Bethany Baptist Church (McDonough, GA) was able to join us. We all had a great time. Maybe you saw us on TV? We were at the 7k mark of the race.

After the race, we went back to work inside the Village. We had a great time chatting with the chaplains from the other faiths that we are sharing worship space with in the Multi-Faith Centre, and then chatting with the gentleman who will be the head chaplain for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. I met some college students from the University of South Carolina (go SEC!) who are at the Olympics as part of an internship. Throughout the afternoon and evening, many people came in to sign the book of condolences that will be sent to Nodar's family. Late in the evening, two athletes came by just checking out the Multi-Faith Centre. They said they'd like to come back another time to join us for Bible study.

During the early evening, one of the other chaplains (Steve) and I spent some time in prayer, asking God to move in powerful ways in the hearts and lives of athletes, meeting their needs, drawing them to Himself, helping them to do their best, protecting them, and letting the Christian athletes' faith in Christ shine brightly.

Bible study tonight was on Galatians 6:2, about helping to carry each other's burdens. We ended by praying for Sara as she gets ready for her biathlon race tomorrow.

I caught up with the mission team from GA at the host home tonight. When I asked them, "How was your day?" the first thing they said was,"We walked forever!" Sounds like every day at the Olympics!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Connecting

This morning, our worship service at the Athletes Village included people from Canada, Australia, Great Britain, the USA, Norway, and two volunteers (I'm not sure what nations they were from). There was great music, the Lord's Supper, prayer time (including prayers of comfort for the friends and family of Nodar), and a great sermon from Joshua 1:9 by our chaplain from Norway. God spoke in powerful ways.

After morning worship it was great to hang out with my friend Adam. He loves Christ and it's always encouraging to spend some time with him. He is a skeleton athlete from Great Britain. Yesterday my friends John, Erin and Elana (USA bobsled) arrived and we spent some time talking and catching up. It's been a while since I've seen a lot of these guys, and it's great to see and hear how God has been at work in their lives.

Tonight, we worshiped at an ecumenical worship service in Whistler Village, at the Canada House. They opened up the Canada House for three local Whistler churches - Church on the Mountain, Our Lady of the Mountains, and the Whistler Village Church. Also, folks the Norwegian Church who are in town for the Olympics were there, as well as several of us from the USA. And, the chaplain for the Austrian team led one of the prayers. It was a very Christ-exalting worship service. There were prayers, songs, and a sermon by Chad - the pastor of Church on the Mountain - about "Connecting" (from John 17:20-23). There was a great time of greeting/fellowship/passing-the-peace/connecting right in the middle of the service.

In the middle of the day, I was (finally!) able to locate the Lake Placid Friendship House (you can find it on Facebook) inside the downtown Whistler Village. I kept asking everyone where it was but no one seemed to know. It was great to find it and connect with some Lake Placid friends. I look forward to checking in there from time-to-time to see everyone. I'm having a great time promoting Lake Placid while I've been here.

During the day I was able to talk to my beautiful wife Kim several times! Thanks to the LORD for cell phones and free mobile-to-mobile. Here's a funny story: the first time I was on the phone with Kim to tell her "Happy Valentine's Day" I was standing in the entry way to our Multi-Faith Centre. Just as I said, "Hey baby, happy Valentine's Day!" a 60-something sweet little lady walked in to the Multi-Faith Centre. She thought I was talking to her (she didn't notice my cell phone, I guess) and said "Thank you" to me! All of our chaplains were rolling with laughter in the floor. One chaplain said that it was the highlight of the Olympics for him so far.

Also during the day, some guys from Atlanta (Chip, Matt & Adam) and I spent some time shooting a video downtown. And, my friend Jeff Wagner came up from Vancouver and we spent some time at Starbucks and around the village.

I've enjoyed spending time with friends from the Georgia Baptist Convention and meeting new friends from Bethany Baptist Church (McDonough, GA) who are in town doing some encouraging ministries around town. We are all staying in a big house together.

The competitions at the venues went well today. Keep praying for the athletes, that they will do their best, be safe, have great attitudes no matter if they win or lose, and that God will draw people to Himself.

I have posted a few pictures of my time in Whistler on my Facebook page, if you'd like to see them. And, make sure to check out the videos about Lyndon Rush and Elana Meyers on my Facbook page.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aaron's Blessing

Two times today the same Scripture was given to me. Once was when I was reading the Bible early this morning out on the deck that overlooks the athletes transport area, where we pray for the athletes as they leave each morning to go to their training and competitions. The other time was when one of our chaplains shared it with our group during morning Bible study. It was Numbers 6:24-26.

Aaron's blessing to the Israelites is what I am praying for everyone involved in the Winter Olympics. I am also praying this for my family. And I am praying this for our church family.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

24 "The Lord bless you
and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace."'

Re-read the prayer a couple of times, or more. Focus on each word. Pray it. Claim it as a promise for your life. Let God bless you so that you can be a blessing to others.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

No Person Is Just a Number

Today began with walking to the bus stop in the main village of Whistler to catch the #10 bus which takes us volunteers to the Olympic Village, a few kilometers away. Praying as I was walking, I prayed for my family, the day of ministry ahead, and other things. When I arrived at the Olympic Village I grabbed a cup of coffee and read from the Scriptures. I read a couple of chapters from the book of Numbers.

It is tempting to read through Numbers and not notice the names of people throughout the book. If you're American you probably have a hard time pronouncing many of them (I know I do). It's tempting to scan through the pages and think, "OK, that's important for someone, but not sure how those verses apply to me."

Let me suggest one way they apply to you.

God knew the name of each one of those people. They were not a number to him. They were a person who had worth. They were a person with a soul. They were a person who knew how to love and to be loved. And He loved them so much that He invited them to follow Him and to be their God.

God knows your name.

God loves you with an everlasting love. God sent His Son Jesus to die a cruel death upon a cross to pay the penalty for your sin. Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He is God, and that He can give us eternal life. He offers salvation to those who will trust in Him for salvation.

Do you believe this? It's true.


Today at the Olympics there was a terrible tragedy. A luge athlete named Nodar Kumaritashvili died in an accident on a training run at the luge track in Whistler. The accident occurred only a few hours before the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

First of all, won't you join me in prayer for Nodar's family, friends, teammates, coaches, and all of those affected by this tragedy?

Second, won't you join me in praying for each of the athletes who are competing in this year's Winter Olympics? God loves each one of them, and He wants to be their Savior and Lord.

Third, won't you join me in praying for us chaplains as we minister, and listen, and pray, and share, and love, and show mercy during the rest of these Olympics?

No person is just a number to God. He knows each person by name.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Let's Celebrate & Let's Pray

LET'S CELEBRATE

* I met with two men today who are pastors in Whistler. Praise God for how the Lord is using Pastors Tim and Chad and their churches to reach all kinds of people for Christ. May God use them to not only share the gospel with their village but also for years to come to be part of what God is doing to draw winter sports athletes from all over the world to faith in Jesus, and to encourage Christian athletes to courageously follow Christ.

* Praise! The nightly Bible study inside the Olympic Village at Whistler continues to grow.

* We continue to have great "God-chats" with volunteers, staff, athletes, coaches and people we meet inside and outside the Village.

* The Opening Ceremonies are on Friday night. Congratulations to all of the Olympians!


LET'S PRAY

If you haven't started praying yet for God's will and work to be done during the Winter Olympics, don't feel condemned - just start praying today.

* Pray for snow!

* This 2-minute video will help you to know some of the ways to pray.

Read the related article here: "Baptist to be Olympic Chaplain"

video

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Putting GOD First

God is drawing people to Himself. The growing excitement of the upcoming Opening Ceremonies and the first few days of competitions are causing people to think about what are the most important things. And commandment #1 (found in Exodus 20) could be stated simply "Put God first." God deserves to be #1 in our lives because it is His rightful place AND it is best for us!

Athletes continue to arrive in the Village. They are settling into their routines for each day: exercise, training, meals, rest, visiting with family & friends, media obligations, etc. Today was a 2-hour media day inside the village so you should be able to find many stories about the Whistler Village online now.

Here are a couple of them:

"Whistler Village Serves Up Free Burgers and Wii"
"Inter-faith chaplaincy plays role at Games"

Our Multi-Faith Centre continues to provide rooms for people of any religion to practice their faith. Here's one way to think about the value of the Multi-Faith Centre: inside the Village are many athletes, coaches and others who would like to go to church, synagague, mosque, or temple, but they either can't get there or don't know where to go. The Multi-Faith Centre provides several rooms so that multiple groups could be worshiping, praying, etc at the same time. Sort of like going down a street in your town and there being a Catholic church, an interdenominational Christian church, a Jewish synagogue, a mosque, a Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple all on the same street. That's the idea.

We Christian chaplains continue to connect with people God brings our way as we go throughout the Village each day. Some are friends who we have known for years and it's great to see them here and to be a spiritual encouragement to them. Others are new friends that we are just meeting. Even riding on the multiple buses each day to get from Point A to Point B - or grabbing a cup of coffee - provides opportunities to talk with people, to hear their stories, and to share the good news of Christ with them. Our Bible studies continue to grow. Keep praying.

A big prayer request would be for snowy, colder weather. It's pretty mild and today was a bit rainy. Vancouver and Whistler could use some snow. The weather is in the LORD's hands. Let's call on His name.

Thanks for continuing to pray. I appreciate the comments you leave on Facebook or on this blog page.

Putting GOD first...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Deeply Committed to Christ

Q: What do you call it when sports chaplains from Norway, Austria, Canada, Russia, Australia, and the United States are all together in one room?

A: It's either a corny joke or it must be the Olympics!

;-)



The men and women I am serving with as chaplains are deeply committed to Christ. They have strong faith in Jesus, are grounded in the Bible, and have lives that have been transformed by the gospel. They have a desire to minister to athletes, volunteers, coaches... everyone. It is quite encouraging to realize how God is at work through sports ministry all over the world. It is quite a privilege from the Lord to be here in Whistler serving as a chaplain during the Games.

Continue to pray for the athletes. One athlete received news that his grandfather - who has been gravely ill - passed away yesterday. Many athletes are battling injuries. Some are battling the flu. All are trying to stay focused on the task at hand - their competitions - with lots of distractions all around. The Christian athletes are seeking to be a witness for Christ through everything they do and say.

Pray for God to draw people to Himself.

Continue to pray for all those who are participating in the activities surrounding the Games: bus drivers, volunteers, security, food staff, cleaning staff, officials, spectators, venue staff, and media, just to name a few. Pray for God to impact lives and to reveal Himself as the one who died to redeem us all, and who offers salvation to all who will put their trust in Him.

A few final thoughts and prayer requests from today:

I was excited to hear from one of the chaplains what the Lord is doing in Norway through sports ministry and outreach. I want to hear more and to learn from him.

Pray that the Lord will guide our steps in the Village each day, that we chaplains will be exactly where the Lord wants us to be at all times, ready to minister in His name.

Every day brings new conversations, new challenges, new opportunities. Pray that in our hearts we believers will set apart Jesus as Lord, and that we will be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope that we have, and that we will do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eight (8) Blessings of Today

#8 - Meeting a worker at Starbucks in Whistler Village who is a believer in Christ, who is just in town for the Olympics (they need extra staff during the Games), and who is looking for a church to attend while she is in town. I was able to recommend two to her: Whistler Community Church and The Church on the Mountain.

#7 - Walking around the Olympic Village with my new friend, Pastor Matthew, a chaplain from Australia, as we introduced ourselves and our chaplaincy ministry to several nations. Word is beginning to get out about the ministry. God is drawing people to Himself.

#6 - Venti Starbucks dark roast coffee.

#5 - Listening to some great Christ-honoring Christian rock music on my headphones while riding the bus from the Village (the downtown Whistler Village) to the Olympic Village (a few kilometers away). Newsboys and some other great artists always pump me up.

#4 - Getting a surprise phone call from a US Athlete who made the Olympic biathlon team. He made the team and I didn't even know it. He attends our church and Bible study when he is in Lake Placid. Great job, Wynn! It was great to see him, to have dinner together, and to attend Bible study together tonight. Also, here's a cool "it's a small world" God-connection too: one of the chaplains from Austria (Joerg) recently met a pastor from the USA who told him that one of the US biathlon athletes who is a Christian is dating his neice, and that the US athlete knows me. Yep, it's Wynn. And I just met the chaplain from Austria three days ago.

#3 - A good start to our nightly Bible studies. A few chaplains and a couple of athletes were in attendance, but many of the athletes who we know are believers still haven't arrived in Whistler yet. Charis (pronounced "chair-iss") led a great discussion on John 11:1-16. A great talk about how God's love compels Him to do things in His timing not in ours, and how He always knows what is best and when to do it. And, to discuss how we die to self and walk with Him in the light because of our LOVE for HIM (not to earn His favor, not to earn earthly rewards, etc).

#2 - A great chat with my host family tonight, about wood stoves, about how they are caring for the wife's aging mother (her mum is 99 years old!), about ministry to athletes, showing them the "Life In The Fast Lane" video (see previous blogs), about faith in Christ, and more. They are a blessing to me.

#1 - Getting to talk to my beautiful wife and kids AND to see them via Skype today. It was good to see them. I wish they were here with me!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Sunday

Sunday began with a good breakfast of apple pooridge, Chinese tea, orange slices, coffee, hard-boiled egg and water with my host family. Then we walked about a half hour to church. This walk helped me get my bearings about how Whistler is laid out. Worshiping at Whistler Community Church was great. It was my first time worshiping at a Mennonite Brethren church. The church currently meets at a school gym for worship services. The worship team led songs very familiar to me (although they sang them in Canadian English!) and Pastor Tim preached a great sermon from Matthew 5:43-48. I look forward to connecting with Pastor Tim later on so we can fellowship and encourage each other. You know, both of us are pastors in resort areas with great ski mountains, bobsled tracks, etc, so we have a lot in common.

One blessing at church was meeting a few other folks who are serving in various areas during the Games. Some were local to Whistler and some were from out of town like me. Another blessing was to hear that their church is mobilizing people to pray during the Games.

In the afternoon, as many chaplains as humanly possible and our backpacks plus a bit of other luggage (one of our chaplains from Austria has been waiting for the airline to bring his lost luggage up) piled into a small van/SUV and headed to Vancouver, a 2 hour drive.

To my American friends: apparently no one informed our team leader of chaplains - a Canadian - that the Super Bowl was being played on Sunday afternoon, February 7. Our meeting began at the same time as the Super Bowl. In all fairness - he did apologize to us for the schedulig conflict!

Our meeting was great, getting to connect with all of the Christian chaplains who are serving at the two different Athletes Villages. This is the only time we will all be together, and the only time those of us serving at Whistler will meet those serving at the Vancouver Village.

Chaplains are here from Canada, Australia, Russia, Norway, Austria, Great Britain, and the USA, serving as part of the Multi-Faith Centre. We are also hearing that some other nations - Germany, for instance - are bringing chaplains with them, concentrating on ministry to their teams. As we sat around at dinner, we were sharing with each other about athletes we know who are on fire for Christ. It was powerful and encouraging to hear that many of these chaplains know a handful of winter sports athletes from various nations who are believers in Jesus. One guy remarked, "It sounds like there's a mini-revival going on among the winter sports athletes." Hmmm. That's what we are praying for!

Thanks for praying!

PS. Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for winning the Super Bowl. I am a proud alumni of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary! I hear it was an exciting game to watch.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Day at the Village

On Friday evening, my flight arrived in Vancouver, a bit late but not too much. My friend Kevin picked me up at the airport, he in his red St. Louis Cardinals hat and me in my NY Yankees hat. Kevin drove me through Vancouver on the way to my Friday night host home. The drive went through some of the streets of the downtown areas, and people were out and about, just like most cities of the world on a Friday night. A city full of people who need to know the hope of salvation found only in Jesus Christ.

My host family on Friday night was a wonderful family who live in North Vancouver, which is separated by an inlet from Vancouver. This wonderful Christian family includes dad, mom, six daughters and one son. They hosted me and a doctor from GA on Friday night. The doctor is also in town to help out at the Whistler Village; he on the medical team. We had pancakes for breakfast, served with pure Canadian maple syrup. During the Olympics, this family will be hosting a team of folks from a church in GA one week and a team from MS the next, both of which are partnering with More Than Gold provide "Radical Hospitality" during the Olympics.

I had a chance to talk with Kim, Emma Grace and Maria (Kim's sister) on the phone today. It was wonderful to talk with them!

After breakfast, I was driven to the building where I picked up my accredidation/credentials. There I also connected with three other chaplains - one from Canada, one from Australia, and one from Austria - and we headed up to Whistler, about a 2-hour drive on the "Sea to Sky" highway. The skies were clear, so we had beautiful views along the winding road. When we arrived in Whistler, we met my host family for the next week, a delightful couple (the Lam's). We had a quick bite to eat, and then we chaplains went to the Whistler Olympic Village to begin serving.

We went through the proper security/screening procedures, and then directly to the building that includes the rooms set aside for spiritual purposes, the "Multi-Faith Centre." Written into the International Olympic Committee's charter is that each Olympics will determine how to provide religious services for the five major religions of the world - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. So I am here as one of the chaplains to represent Christ and to be His ambassador. We toured the village, met various other volunteers and staff, ate dinner, followed by a time of Bible study and prayer. Some of the nations have begun arriving. The opening ceremonies are less than a week away.

Tomorrow I am worshiping with the Lams at their church, then off to Vancouver to meet up with all of the other chaplains (from both the Vancouver Olympic Village and the Whistler Olympic Village) for a big orientation/training meeting.

Thanks for praying!

Friday, February 5, 2010

On the Road to the Olympics

Today I am leaving for a three-week (plus a couple of days) trip to the Vancouver Olympics to serve as a chaplain at the Whistler Village. My flights today go from Saranac Lake to Boston to Dallas to Vancouver. May this day of travel be a blessed day indeed, and may I have many opportunities to make God famous. Here are some of my prayer requests related to ministry to the Olympics:

* Safety for everyone (athletes, spectators, coaches, officials, volunteers, mission teams, everyone)

* For Christians to display the love of Christ in everything we do and everything we say

* For the good news of Jesus to be shared with people from all over the world

* For people to be receptive to the gospel

* For local churches in Vancouver and Whistler to be blessed and to be a blessing to athletes and others (starting now, and for years to come!)

* For God to keep watch over my family while I am away

* For God to bless our church family while I am away

Here are some stories in various media about my oppportunity to serve as a chaplain at the Olympics.

"Local Pastors to Help Out at the Olympics" -- http://bit.ly/7OsPyR
"Derek Spain ministers to Winter Sports Athletes" -- http://bit.ly/97M9qW
"Life in the Fast Lane" -- see video in yesterday's blog

I will keep you updated via Facebook and Twitter on how I see God at work each day, and how you can pray. Thanks for praying!