One day I was helping security at the Transport Mall, the entrance to the Olympic Village where the ahletes arrive back from events or practice, when the Greek water polo team arrived back from a game. Discussion arose about tactics of their game and they wondered that I knew about the game. Somebody asked, “What else do you do?”I was amazed how this opened opportunities to share spiritual things with them for a few precious minutes.
Over the next hour I met up with the Australian water polo champion, Alexander Over the next hour I met up with the Australian water polo champion, Alexander Osadchuk, the Spanish Physiotherapist, Miguel Angel Cos, and Calvin Bruton an Australian basketball player – an powerful young Christian man with Proverbs 3:5-7 tattooed on his arm.
One day while walking near the entrance where the athletes return from their events that was good place to talk with them – they were either jubilant after winning a medal, or discouraged after losing. Either way the were willing to talk) a tall young man, Vadim Makhreu, a rower from Belarus, arrived back with a wreath on his head, his bunch of flowers and a bronze medal around his neck. I greeted him in Russian and blessed him in the name of the Lord. He whipped around and said back, “That is why I won medal, because He blessed me.” What a great time we had sharing the Lord. Shortly after that Aleksey Krupniakov, a wrestler from Kyrgystan walked by. I greeted him too in Russian. He came over as we started chatting. He was thrilled the way he was progressing at the Games. He hugged me and asked me to pray for him. He willingly prayed and received Jesus.
In the shopping precinct I met up with a huge man – the Ukrainian wrestling coach, Yuriy Yevchenko. I asked to him, “Do you remember me from Sydney?” He blinked and a smile broke out across his face. He burst out, “You are the man who prayed in Sydney. You are the man who prayed in Sydney.” I had led him and the Ukraine wrestling team to Jesus at the 2004 Games, and he remembered. That was precious.
While helping with security checks at the International Zone, I was introduced to a young Chinese man, named Liangzhi Jiang whom I found was the man in charge of the Volunteer Selection of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. He’d come to learn how to organize the volunteers for Beijing. He personally asked if I’d apply for the 2008 Games and gave me his official email address. What an amazing God-incidence.
PARALYMPIC GAMES 2004
I had a short stint of ministry to the Paralympians. It was really fun counselling them. They were very humble and far more willing to talk and open their hearts. These two early arrivals from Australia were amazing girls and ready to compete for gold. As the volunteers arrived I saw many who were disabled too, with such willing hearts to serve their special friends.
One of these wonderful “servants” was Jamie from Mexico. His heart was so open to the Lord. As in Sydney in 2000, I had to be careful not to be patronizing and offer too much help. These folk are fiercely independent. I had to remind myself these were the real champions. They had overcome their personal tragedies and gone on to be super athletes – they were the real heroes. I had to help him find accommodation in the Paralympic Village on his first day their as normal accommodation in Athens was not suitable for wheelchairs.
I met a delightful married couple from England, Ian and Tanni Thompson, who were just so thrilled to be at the Games. They were very gracious in listening to me as I shared with them. Both were Paralympians and I watched, without them noticing, how they helped each other, not only with training but as they moved around the difficult uphill ramps at the transport mall of the village. I wondered what they had had to overcome in their relationship with each other as well their sporting career, to reach their high standard of competition. Then I thought of how so many married couples really couldn’t be bothered to help each other, even in the normal issues of life’s problems. This couple here, ministered to me, I think, more than I ministered to them.
We want to thank you so much for standing with us in prayer, support and sponsorship. during this time. Your investment through me into the lives of so many high profile athletes will bear fruit further than we can imagine. They will influence people in a far wider context than we can, and sow the seeds of the Gospel through their testimonies in far corners of the world. We only see the full harvest in eternity.
In addition to this we have had to keep up the support of the 4,200 orphans in the 32 orphanages we sustain, and the workers we pay to minister the Word of God regularly into these needy homes. You have helped and encouraged us greatly in this context.
God bless and reward you for your help and sacrifice, with harvests of blessings that will overwhelm all your needs.