News from the London 2012 Paralympic Games
These Paralympic Athletes are my heroes. They have battled with adversity most (if not all) their lives, overcome incredible injuries, barriers and obstacles to live normal lives, and gone on to become super sports men and women. I feel very inadequate in their company. They actually counsel me by their example more than I counsel them. Their lives challenge me immeasurably – even those who don’t get medals – just to think that they made it to the Paralympics. And what about all those unsung heroes living in obscurity across the world who don’t make it to the Paralympics, just struggling to live a normal life – they are heroes too. I salute them!
For the Paralympics I was assigned to work with the South African Paralympic Team because I spoke the Afrikaans and Zulu languages. It’s been a joy listening to the team conversations and then offering advice in one of those languages. Seeing the smiles on their faces, and the comments like, “You sneaky man. It’s great to hear some one speak Zulu like that” is very encouraging.
Our volunteer team assisting South African Paralympic Team is great to work with. Three of us hail originally from South Africa but have never met until now. The South African managers, coaches and doctors took us for a wonderful meal at a restaurant near Tower Bridge, and made us very welcome. It’s been a joy serving and helping them from the top management to the athletes. I have been able to share Lord with so many of the athletes and officials. When they ask me what I do in real life, I tell them about the orphans we support in Eastern Europe and the Sewing School that we have (started by our daughter, Deborah) in Soweto for African ladies who have Aids – so they can build a home industry in dress and garment.
The South African Welcoming Ceremony where their flag was raised and national anthem sung was very moving. The Welcome Team of actors and dancers put on a magnificent display and made all the incoming teams so welcome on that day.
The Opening Ceremony is always a grand affair. The South African team danced and sang the old African tribal-dance songs that I was so familiar with as a youngster in South Africa. It was all so loud and jubilant that the other nations waiting line to march to the Stadium were awestruck.
It was a joy meeting up with Michael Louwrens, the Paralympic shotput champion who qualified for his 4th Paralympics in London. I met Michael at the Sydney Games in 2000 where it was a privilege to pray for his healing when he tore a muscle in his groin which would have excluded him from the medal contentions. God graciously healed Michael and he went on the next day to win gold in the shotput and break his own world record. In addition to that Michael gave his life to Christ and has been sharing his faith for 12 years with great effect. In the London Games Michael (now aged 52) won a bronze medal against very intense opposition. We meet up regularly in the Paralympic Village for coffee and fellowship.
It was such a joy to meet up again with Moises Fuentes Garcia the Colombian swimmer who I also met at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. At the Sydney Games I was privileged to lead the Spanish interpreter into a closer relationship with Jesus. She introduced me to the Colombian team and then asked if I could provide a competition wheelchair for Moises. This special team had gone into debt to pay their way to the Sydney Games. Moises had welded his own wheelchair from old parts, which was falling to pieces as the Games went on. With the help of a few friends I was able to buy him a wheelchair from the Games wheelchair company. The entire team was euphoric and felt as if they’d all been given a gift. In fact by the end of the Games all of them had received Jesus into their lives – the greatest gift of all. At the London Games Moises won a sliver medal and was overjoyed to see me again. He kept saying, “David, you are my father from Sydney. So wonderful to see you again.” This was a very moving experience.