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Daily Devotions for Competitors

P R I V I L E G E
Psalm 16:5-6


How much are you a student of your sport?  Do you know its history and traditions?  Who are the key figures in your own program’s history?  The Bible is full of stories and even poetry that recount the history of God’s people.

In the Hebrew book of Poetry called Psalms at chapter 16 and verses 5 and 6 we read, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

The writer was well aware of his blessed heritage.  He credited God with putting him in position to be even further blessed.  He described his place in life as secure, pleasant and delightful. 

As you are in preparation for today’s competition, let your mind page back through the players and coaches from this program’s past.  Remember their names and the heritage in which you now live.  Recall the achievements of those who have gone before you.  You’ll probably join the psalm writer in seeing your position as secure, pleasant and even delightful.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 18:15-35
Acts 25:13-27
Leviticus 11-13

C O M M I T M E N T
Mark 1:19-20


What have you left behind to pursue your athletic career?  Many of you left your families hours away.  Many more left your best friends and possibly even a relationship with a potential spouse.  What do you suppose that Jesus’ disciples left when he asked them to follow him?  We get to see the price of such decisions in the writings of Mark.

At chapter 1 and verses 19 and 20, Mark writes, “When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”

These men walked away from their family business and their whole careers as fishermen to follow this man Jesus.  That’s what total commitment looks like.

You’ve shown similar commitment and you are to be commended for it.  You walked away from your family, friends, everything that was familiar and comfortable to you to come to a strange place and strange people. 

We must now show the same kind of commitment to our team and to the coaching staff that we’ve always shown to our family and friends.  Demonstrate family-like commitment and loyalty to your teammates as you compete strongly together today.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 18:1-14
Acts 25:1-12
Psalms 40
Leviticus 8-10

L A Z Y   O R   D I L I G E N T ?
Proverbs 13:4


Would you characterize yourself as a diligent, hard worker in practice or do you lean toward doing just enough to get by?  What might be the eventual outcomes of each of those attitudes toward training?

In the Proverbs chapter 13 and verse 4 it says, "The soul of the lazy craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is full satisfied."  It's true in all of life that some people will be lazy and will find their needs going unmet, while others who are consistently working hard will be rewarded with success.

This seems to be true of more spiritual matters as well as it says the soul of these people is the subject.  If we will be faithful in prayer, consistent in Bible reading, committed to our friends and teammates, we'll find that the real stuff of life is supplied in great abundance.  Our souls will prosper and be in good health as we diligently do the things that please God.

As you pray and prepare for competition, ask the Lord for diligence in all the affairs of your life.  To be diligent in the classroom, in practice, in the weight room, in your relationships, with your teammates and certainly in relation to spiritual disciplines, will result in a fully satisfied soul.  You'll find real happiness and great success.

Compete today with the focus and intensity befitting your abilities and your satisfied soul.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 17:14-27
Acts 24
Psalms 39
Leviticus 5-7

P O S I T I O N
I Peter 5:6

What is the key to attaining a position of power and influence?  How do leaders and other people of prestige and authority attain their places?  It is shown throughout the Bible that God sets people in places of prominence and power after they have taken the lower position to serve others and the Lord.

In Peter's first letter to his friends, in chapter 5 and verse 6 he writes, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may lift you up at the proper time."

Peter calls us to maintain an attitude of humility, both before God and among our teammates.  There seems to be no room for self promotion or arrogant attitudes in God's kingdom. 

The promise that Peter offers in this verse is that as we maintain a spirit of humility, God himself will lift us to prominence at just the right time.  I'm sure God is smarter than me and it's probably true that He's smarter than any of us.  Let's trust Him and His timing for our coming into positions of prominence. 

Hold your ambitions in check, He's guarding your best interests, at all times.  Conduct yourself with humility toward each other and certainly in relation to God's plan for you.  Trust Him to deliver you right on time.

Bible Reading Plan:
Acts 23:12-35
Psalms 38
Leviticus 1-4

E M E R G I N G   L E A D E R S
Judges 11:4-7


How do leaders emerge from among your teammates?  Is there a personality type or a position on the team that automatically makes one a leader?  Be careful, sometimes the best leaders appear from the most unlikely places.  One such leader is seen in today’s scripture.

In the book of Judges at chapter 11 and verses 4 through 7 we read, “Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.  ‘Come,’ they said, ‘be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.’  Jephthah said to them, ‘Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house?  Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”

Jephthah was an illegitimately born child who nobody cared for, but he grew up to be a mighty warrior.  Suddenly, when the people were in trouble, they came to him to be their leader.  There must have been something special about Jephthah for the people to reach beyond their prejudice to seek his leadership.

It could be the same among you.  Watch and listen to your teammates.  Look for and encourage the leaders who emerge, even if they don’t fit into your previous leadership profile.  These leaders are often God’s gift to a team.

As you compete today, respect and loyally follow your team leadership.  Your coaching staff and the leaders among your teammates may lead you out of real trouble and into tremendous victory.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 16:13-28
Acts 23:1-11
Psalms 37:23-40
Exodus 38-40

B E L I E F
Mark 9:23


What are the limiting factors for you in relation to achievement?  What is the greatest thing you think you're capable of accomplishing?  Do you believe you're able to achieve everything God has called you to do? 

In Mark's gospel at chapter 9 and verse 23, Jesus speaks to a man with a great problem, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 

This man was faced with his son's terrible affliction and struggled to believe the Lord would free him from it.  Jesus tells him that all things are possible to him who believes.  Believes in what?  In this case in the goodness, compassion and mercy of God. 

What is it you're having trouble believing?  What is there about life that keeps you from fully trusting the Lord?  Look fully upon the Lord Jesus and trust Him.  He says to you the same words He said to that man.

In your prayers today, ask the Lord to help your unbelief.  Ask Him for more grace to trust Him.  Tell Him that you believe in Him and in all that He can do in you.  Commit yourself fully to Him for all of life.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 16:1-12
Acts 22
Psalms 37:1-22
Exodus 35-37

A N X I E T Y
Proverbs 12:25


As we approach a competition, many times we're burdened by anxiety and worry.  Often we wonder how well we'll perform, how good our opponent is, how well we know our assignments and other concerns.  While these are legitimate concerns, they can serve to hinder our athletic performance.

In Proverbs chapter 12 and verse 25 it speaks of this dynamic, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” 

It's like our heart becomes lined with lead or our legs are made of rubber, when we are overcome with anxiety we are weighed down.  Suddenly we're weighed down by doubt, confusion and frustration.  All these lead to a less than our best performance during competition.

There is also a great promise in this scripture.  It says that a kind word cheers one up.  Encouragement is a powerful tool for the athlete.  A simple word, a kind expression of thanks, a well timed compliment can put a charge in a teammate or a coach and thus will lift the weight that he's been carrying.

In your time of prayer today, ask the Lord to lead you to someone whom you can encourage.  Ask Him for a chance to speak the kind word that cheers up your teammate, coach or friend.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 15:21-39
Acts 21:27-40
Psalms 36
Exodus 34

P O W E R F U L    T E A M M A T E
Joshua 5:13-14


Have you ever had a teammate of whom you’d say, “I’m glad he’s on our team?  I really don’t want to be his/her opponent.”  There is a story in the Bible of just such a person.

In Joshua’s book of history at chapter 5 and verses 13 and 14 it reads, “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’  ‘Neither,’ he said, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have come.’  Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

Joshua didn’t really understand to whom he was talking as he encountered this man.  It didn’t take long, however, for him to get a clear picture of who was the greater person.

It may be the same with you and your teammates.  After just a few practice sessions you probably knew who the superior athletes were.  Your probably saw right away who the leaders were.  With such people, it’s not a matter of them being for or against us; it’s more a matter of being sure we’re on their side.

In today’s competition, be sure to closely align yourself with your teammates and coaching staff.  They’re for you.  Be thankful them and the privilege you have of being on their team. I’m praying that we’re all with the commander of the Lord’s army.  He’s the ultimate victor.


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 15:1-20
Acts 21:1-26
Psalms 35
Exodus 32-33

G I F T S
I Peter 4:10


As an athlete you're a gifted person.  From where do these gifts come?  How is it that you're given certain abilities and others do not possess them?  How much of your talent is a gift and how much is cultivated skill?  How should we use our gifts and abilities in relation to our teammates and coaches?  The Scripture has some insight into all these questions.

In Peter's first letter to his friends in Asia, in chapter 4 and verse 10 he writes, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms."  What special gift have you received?  How are you specially gifted?  How well do you manage the gifts with which you've been entrusted? 

The key message for me in this sentence is that I'm to use my giftedness in the service of others.  The fact of my being gifted has very little to do with me, but everything to do with Him who gives the gifts.  These are gifts, not merit badges.  I'm called to exercise my gifts in the service of others.  Think for a minute about how to use your giftedness in the service of your teammates. 

Where sports are concerned, some of you are gifted at ball handling, others at rebounding, others at running, others in encouraging, others at defense, others at passing, still others at developing a game plan.  The key for us all is to not exercise these gifts selfishly, but in the service of all the others.  The Giver of the gifts is best honored by this kind of selfless, humble, effective, management. 

Pray and ask Him to give you the strength to serve your teammates through the exercise of your gifts. 


Bible Reading Plan:
Matthew 14:22-36
Psalms 34
Exodus 30-31

D I L I G E N C E
Proverbs 12:24


Would you characterize yourself as a hard worker in practice or as a lazy player?  What would your coach say?  How about your teammates?  Today's scripture provides a warning for the lazy and a promise for the diligent.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs chapter 12 and verse 24, “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.”  Obviously none of us wants to labor like a slave, that is with no reward for our investment of time and energy.

The Proverb says that slave labor is the inevitable outcome of laziness.  Let's be diligent in our work and we will reap the reward that comes with diligence... ruling.  Ruling means to have success and authority in our spheres of influence.

As you compete today, be diligent in your preparation and in the execution of your responsibilities.  Your diligence, concentration and hard work will result in your ruling.


Bible Reading Plan:
Acts 20:1-12
Psalms 33
Exodus 27-29

Chaplaincy

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    Sport Chaplain / Character Coach / Sport Mentor Blog

    "Former Coach" or "Former Competitor"

    In the lives of every competitor and coach we serve there is one inevitable event, the end of his or her career. At some point, he or she has played the final game, run the final race, swam the last lap, hit the final shot, had the final at bat, inning, quarter, or period of his or her competitive career. While some who compete in sport may go on to be a coach, even that career will run its course and suddenly the weight of that moment is felt again.

    Many of those we serve make this transition very well and rather easily. They are usually the ones who derive very little of their personal identity from their sporting life. The ones who are at most risk in this moment are those whose lives in sport fully consume all that they are. Some see the final day coming from a long way off and begin to prepare for it. Others find themselves overwhelmed by the gravity of the moment as they change clothes in the locker room immediately after the final competition.

    Across twenty-three seasons of collegiate and professional sport I have witnessed a broad range of emotions in these moments. Some finish with a sigh (as Moses describes in Psalm 90), they are simply spent and are relieved at the finality of their careers. Some finish in a flood of tears as this era of their lives is over and they feel it as grief, though a part of them has died. Others become bitter and look back on their investment of time, energy, emotion, relationships, injury, and pain as a net loss rather than a gain. Still others seem to glide through the day without apparent difficulty, but a couple of weeks later they are stunned at the sudden appearance of free time and leisure.

    One of our men’s swimmers from a few years ago shared his thoughts with our FCA group one evening. Although we had been talking about the end of career issues for a couple of years, he said it still hammered his heart and mind after he touched the wall for the final time at the end of his unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the USA Swimming Team for the 2012 Olympic Games. “It’s like I had been writing right handed for my whole life and then suddenly I had to start writing left handed.” That is how he described the depth of the change in lifestyle he experienced.

    A coaching friend of mine recently retired due to health concerns. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done as the passion for the game and the daily process was still there, but it appeared it could also kill him. “I’ve never done anything else.” He was looking straight down the barrel of a crippling loss of identity, and wondered who he would be if he didn’t wear the title, “Coach.”

    Given the power of this epoch in one’s sporting life and the fact that it will come to everyone at some point, I would like to offer some strategies to help those you serve navigate these turbulent waters safely and successfully.
    ·         Help them see the end of career issues before they arrive. Ask questions about their plans for post-career life. Talk about family, calling, life purpose, short and long term plans.
    ·         Encourage them to journal during the last season of their careers and to thereby capture each day’s memories, moments of significance, joy, and sorrow.
    ·         Ask them to share their stories of career highlights, funny moments, times of joy and fulfillment. Ask about the most significant people and situations in their sporting lives.
    ·         Discuss how their lives in sport uniquely qualify them to serve, to lead, and to make significant contributions beyond sport.
    ·         Help them see that they are of infinite value to you, to others, and ultimately to God, in or out of sport.
    ·       Help them to find their identity in a vibrant, living relationship with Christ Jesus. They are infinitely loved and identified with Christ, even more than as a competitor or coach.

    Your presence in walking with them, your wisdom in guiding their approach, and your kindness in understanding their hearts will go a long way in assisting your sporting friends to make the painful transition from sporting life to that of “former coach or competitor.” 

    A Swimmer's Reflection

    Occasionally we are privileged to be allowed inside the minds and hearts of those we serve. Many of our friends in the sporting community are quite reserved with their thoughts, their feelings of insecurity, their worries, and especially with their fears. That’s why it is so remarkable when we come across a candid and even vulnerable expression of the heart. I recently was able to get a glimpse into the heart of a twenty year old young lady who is a swimmer at our university. Her excellence in the pool, in the classroom, and in the community is evident to all, but I have been watching her faith grow over the last year or so.

    The paragraphs below are from a social media post she made just a few days ago. It is in expressions like this one that the significance of our ministry is seen. More than with celebratory selfies after winning a championship that simply allow us to revel in the reflected light of athletes’ success. These moments unveil the normally hidden hearts of sportspeople and point to the significance to be found in quiet, behind the scenes conversations, study, prayer, and community. I hope this young lady’s faithful reflection on her life in sport is both a challenge and an encouragement to you.

    In the past few months I've had some life changing events occur. I'm not really sure why I am sharing it on social media but something is willing me to do so. 

    Maybe it's my way of "talking it out". I'll warn you there is religious references in there. That is not to push my faith on anyone but as I am telling my story from my viewpoint this is how I best see it. This is pretty lengthy and I apologize, I've never really been good at summarizing ha-ha. Anyways, enjoy! 

    It’s 11:48...p.m. I have a very overwhelming lab practical tomorrow at 9a.m. You know the kind where you feel you will walk in and forget everything because there’s too much to remember. So why am I still up? I have this shooting pain that goes from my hip all the way down to my toes. The kind that makes your eyelids scrunch up even when they are closed. I guess this was kind of my fault. I stood on it for the past 3 hours pretty much. Sad isn’t it? I can’t cheer on our basketball team with my swim team, get all crazy, dressed half naked and chanting, showing school spirit without being in agonizing pain after. Sorry, let me explain, I feel like I’ve told my story to so many people, I don’t want to tell it anymore, but here is the shortened version. 

    On New Year’s Eve, I was diagnosed with a DVT which is a blood clot that takes up ⅔ of my right leg as well as a few superficial clots. They found this through an MRI that was to figure out what a lump on the back of my knee was.[Okay, side note, I was admitted into the hospital and they gave me an IV. Now, I am not a fan of needles. They are always associated with some sort of pain. To calm my nerves the nurse administering the IV comforted me by saying, this is the only stick. Just one and the IV is basically a one stop shop so they can do everything through there. If they need to take blood they won’t have to re stick you. Let me tell you, that IV HURT. I thought though, it’s over no need to worry. So when another nurse came to my room to draw blood for some tests, I raised up my arm with the IV to give it to her and her response? “Oh good you're IV is on that arm I need your other arm please.” Are you kidding, another needle? Not to mention I was getting injections of blood thinners through my abdomen. So then morning comes and they need to take more blood. I expected it this time and sure enough they’re stick me. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. The nurse comes back in about 5 minutes later and says, “I’m sorry, we forgot one. I’ll need to stick you again.” REALLY? Of course you forgot one! It was literally a needle haters worse nightmare.] Okay, back to my story,  

    New Year’s marked the day that the sport I loved was taken away from me. I can’t swim until the clot is gone. They estimated that will take around 3 months. I will not get to swim in my Junior Year Conference Meet. I will not get the opportunity to score for my team. I will not get the opportunity to defend my 200 freestyle record. I will not get the chance to defend the 800 freestyle relay, or try and take back the 400 freestyle relay if I were chosen to be a part of it. The chance to walk out through the tunnel of athletes and get to my team and feel their support as I go to battle for them. I will not get to stand next to my teammates with water running down my very tight suit that hurts my shoulders, face beat red, uncontrollable breathing, knowing I had just given my all for them. I won’t get the chance to fight to defend our Championship title, to deal with other teams willing to do anything even if immoral to take us down and smiling and rising to the occasion. (Ahhhh, that’s the best feeling.)

    This might sound dramatic especially when there are a lot of problems in our world today. I might agree with you on some level. I realize it is a privilege that many do not have to be able to compete in a sport, go to school, or even have medical resources. Some might say, “It’s only three months, ”so let me explain my viewpoint since not many can understand. 

    Every day I deal with guilt. I realize there was nothing I could have done to stop this situation from occurring, but it doesn’t take from the fact that my teammates are working their butts off and I sit. Yes, I go to every practice. I sit there and cheer my teammates on. While this is torture for me, this is where I’d be had nothing happened. To me, it is where I belong. It’s ‘where my friends are, my team I call family, the pool is home. So that is why I show up to 6 a.m. practice. Not only because I’d feel bad if I got to sleep in while my team didn’t, but also so I can keep some normal part of my life. Meets are the worst. I get there and I am hungry. I sometimes have to sit away from the pool so I don’t throw myself in and start swimming. I just want to be able to help my team out and be a part of the fun atmosphere. Instead I have to take breaks from cheering and sit down, I can’t get up and dance because that would increase my blood flow too much, heck I can’t even do the warm up dance. 

    This may seem all doom and gloom, you’d be right. The above information could destroy me. It could make me hate my life, wonder why me? Engulf myself in misery and jealousy to my healthy teammates. I could be mad at God for letting something like this happen. To wonder why it seems he never gives me a break. (Earlier in the season I had problems with asthma and my lower back.) However, as easy as that path would be I have chosen a different one. 

    You see, I now have a new appreciation for life. To know a few more days and the clot could have traveled to my heart or lungs kind of teaches you that life is precious.  It’s a weird feeling for sure. To go through everyday knowing you have something inside you that could potentially kill you. While it is very unlikely it would travel there are no guarantees. So every slight chest pain, every leg pain, every time my leg swells, every time I get out of breath, it’s all very unnerving. I am happy to still have the ability to feel pain. 

    When they say life could be over in a split second, live it to the fullest, it never really hit home with me until it could have so easily been taken from me. (Talk about learning a lesson the hard way.) You see, for all that I explained went wrong I never said what went right. Let’s start with my team staying in Carbondale instead of flying somewhere for a training trip. (Flying is deadly with a blood clot.) I had to have the athletic trainer want to take a look at that bump, then have our team doctor take a look. Instead of brushing it over and waiting to see if it’d get better in a week or so he wanted an MRI as soon as possible. For those non-medical people out there, MRIs aren’t good at picking up blood clots, they sometimes go undetected in them. The doctor that read mine was thorough enough to find signs of a blood clot and called me right away to get to the hospital. (This wasn’t even what they were looking at)  

    As scary and heart breaking as this process has been, it has shown me that God is always, ALWAYS with you. Take a second and think about the last few sentences. If any one of those had not gone just so, this could have been a very different story being told. Probably not by me. It’s super scary when you think about it. However, I know God was there because he guided all of these people to the right answer. 

    You see Faith is not measured on a good day. Of course it’s always good to thank God for those happy times, but faith is measured when it seems all is taken from you and you look to him and say God I trust you. It’s one thing to say God has a plan for me and then to be able to say that in dark times and truly mean it. It’s pretty funny actually. Only a couple miles before this situation arose, I posted a status on Facebook that my Nonnie had told me. It read, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I had a point to prove in the pool this year. I had a plan to have a great conference meet. I had a plan to train really hard over Christmas break. However, God has a different plan. I’d be lying if I said I was happy with this process. Although, I know that while I can’t see it now and I have no idea what it is, something good will come from this, and it will make me a better human being. 

    So here I am saying it, GOD IS GOOD. I AM ALIVE. I love my family, I love my dogs, I love my friends, I love my team, I am one blessed individual. There is always a better tomorrow and a brighter side of looking at every situation. 

    It is now 12:16 and I should probably get some sleep so I don’t fail out of college tomorrow morning. (Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit.) Anyway, these are my words for thought. I hope I have helped someone understand or made someone smile. Remember you are loved and as my family always says, YOU MATTER.

    Global Sports Chaplaincy Summit

    A number of the leaders in Sports Chaplaincy from around the world were gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina for discussions on a number of topics and to coalesce their efforts toward continuing growth of this form of ministry across the globe. We were gathered by Richard Gamble of Cede Network ( @ CedeNetwork ), formerly of Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom. We were very graciously hosted by Bob Dyar of Cede Network ( http://cedenetwork.org/) in conjunction with Joe Gibbs Racing.

    The august list of attendees included these men:
    Brad Barts  - Athletes in Action
    Cameron Butler  - Sports Chaplaincy Australia
    George Dansey – Hillsong Church – Sydney, Australia
    Bob Dyar  - CedeNetwork
    Warren Evans  - Sports Chaplaincy United Kingdom
    Richard Gamble - CedeNetwork
    Ross Georgiou - Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand
    Landon Huffman - Johnson University - Knoxville, Tennessee
    Brad Kenney - Cross Training - USA
    Reid Lamphere - Athletes in Action
    Roger Lipe - Fellowship of Christian Athletes
    Larry Thompson - Athletes in Action
    Stephen Waller – University of Tennessee - Knoxville Tennessee

    Our discussions included such matters as: defining sports chaplaincy, outlining characteristics for the quality delivery of sports chaplaincy, and naming various models of sports chaplaincy service. The aim was to find agreement in such matters and to provide clarity as to what sports chaplaincy is. Many forms of ministry in and around sport are being called chaplaincy, but are far from these agreed to standards of sports chaplaincy.

    Because of the global nature of our group and the presence of men from the academic community, we also discussed strategies and alliances for encouraging and growing sports chaplaincy as a form of ministry in non-Anglo regions of the world. We were most thrilled with the collegiality experienced by all of us.

    One of the consistently strongest felt needs listed by sports chaplains is that of isolation. Most of us feel terribly remote from our colleagues. One of the ways we aim to address this issue is through a global registry of sports chaplains. Our teammates from Cede Network have the technical expertise to develop, to manage, and to lead such a network with state of the art security features to protect the data and identities of all concerned.

    We left Charlotte for our respective homes with a great deal of momentum for the growth and development of sports chaplaincy around the globe and with a strong brotherhood between us. Please join us in praying for wisdom, favor, and vision as we pursue the Lord’s purposes for this form of ministry in the world of sport.


    FCA Collegiate Ministry Conference 2017

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a conference for Collegiate Ministry leaders in Louisville, Kentucky last week, 23-25 January. Over 105 men and women from across the USA were in attendance at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Louisville for an inspirational, encouraging, and fast-paced event.

    The event kicked off with a welcome from FCA Campus Director at the University of Louisville, Chris Morgan, some talk around our tables, and then a welcome by FCA National Director of Training, Dan Bishop. We then enjoyed dinner together followed by a bus ride to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to participate in the U of L FCA meeting. Roughly 300 Louisville student-athletes welcomed the FCA staffers into their meeting which was highlighted by testimonies from Jessica Brewster of Tennessee State University and Derrick Moore of Georgia Tech. After the huddle meeting we rode buses back to the hotel.

    Tuesday morning included worship music, and a talk from Virginia Tech Campus Director, David Gittings. After a break and lots of conversation, we heard from Florida State University Campus Director, Reggie Hutchins. Several periods of discussion around our tables were woven into Reggie’s talk. We had lunch together and lots more conversation. During lunch, we also enjoyed a panel discussion featuring four Head Coaches from various sports at the University of Louisville. These four men all participate in a weekly lunch time Bible study with Chris Morgan.

    After lunch, Chad Mosteller, also from the U of L, shared about “Four Chairs of Discipleship” and we discussed this, point by point. After an afternoon coffee break, we regathered for another presentation and discussion by Tammy Morgan, chaplain at the U of L and Chris Morgan’s wife. Jill  Nash from Georgia also contributed strongly to this discussion. The final portion of the afternoon was given to FCA’s new President, Shane Williamson. He took some time to outline his vision for FCA’s future in general, and in collegiate ministry in particular. Shane took some questions and wrapped up the session with an energetic tone.

    The evening was highlighted by a purposefully loose plan for groups of people to gather themselves for dinner in any of the nearby restaurants. Upon our return at 9:00 pm, we enjoyed the comedy of “The Laugh Therapist,” Vernard Hines. We wrapped things up with an ice cream sundae bar.

    Wednesday morning kicked off with worship music and a challenge by our host, Chris Morgan. I had a few minutes at the conclusion of the conference to promote the monthly conference calls we host for sports chaplains and character coaches, to promote the FCA IMPACT Internships in Europe and South Africa this summer, and to outline the growing list of resources available in the FCA collegiate staff Dropbox.

    The conference was very encouraging, inspirational, and allowed plenty of time for us to network with our valued teammates and colleagues. A number of issues were addressed including David Gittings’ “Reality Check,” awakening us to parallel realities at work – one we can see (circumstances) and one unseen (where God is at work) as he walked us through the entire book of Galatians. Reggie Hutchins challenged us re: Racism. He said we must understand: Our role in a world of racism, the reason for racism, and our resources for dealing with racism. Chad Mosteller outlined the four chairs of discipleship as: “Come and See, Come and Follow Me, Come and I’ll Make you Fishers of Men, and Go and Bear Much Fruit.” Tammy Morgan challenged us re: the nature of our ministry with women. She had us discuss our strategies and our roadblocks for serving women well. Chris Morgan challenged us in the final session on “Occupational Hazards.” He reviewed Mary’s example of how to serve in contrast with Martha’s example of how not to serve.

    Conferences like this one directly address one of the greatest problems for sports chaplains, isolation. Many of us feel like we’re serving on an island with very few of our friends, colleagues, or supervisors either understanding what we do or the issues with which we deal every day. Simply being together like this is a shot in the arm, a boost to the spirit, and a fresh drink of cool water to the soul. Thanks to everyone at FCA, especially Molly Collins and Dan Bishop, who made the arrangements for us.

    "Faith is the 'Biggest Under-Covered Story' in Football"

    Partners in Ministry,

    This article from Relevant magazine ran across my Twitter feed this week and I thought it could be of interest to you. At the bottom of the page there is a link to the complete article from Sports Illustrated mentioned by the author. I hope this is of value to your service of the men and women of sport. To my readers outside the USA, when he says football, he means American football.

    Jan 19, 2017 /
    NFL Columnist: Faith Is the 'Biggest Under-Covered Story' in Football

    If you're not a football person, you might not know, but we're approaching the culmination of the NFL season: There are now only four teams left in the league's playoffs, and this weekend's conference championship games will determine who will meet in the Super Bowl on February 5.
    Sports Illustrated gathered a few sports journalists and NFL columnists for a  "roundtable" discussion  about the 2016-17, trends, off-the-field issues and stories they think get overlooked. That last part is where things get interesting. When asked about stories in the NFL that don't get enough attention from sports media, Armando Salguero, an NFL columnist for the  Miami Herald, brought up the place of faith within the NFL.
    "The biggest under-covered story in the NFL every year is how huge a factor faith in God and Jesus Christ is in the playing and coaching of the sport," he says. "Every day, in season and out of season, coaches and players (and women on staff) pray before they begin their duties and often ask God through Jesus Christ for guidance and health in the carrying out of their functions. Yes, they get paid and rewarded, but for many, everything they do is unto God. It is their motivator and at the center of who they are."
    He continues:
    In times of adversity, which come often in the NFL, they turn to their faith for answers, strength and encouragement. That touchdown celebration you see every weekend, where guys point to the sky? That's not the first or only time these men address God, Christ, and heaven, but rather that is the public view of a deep and daily walk and relationship these people have with their Lord. Many of these people see themselves as Christians first and employees of the NFL later. And yet, their stories—their testimonies—go unreported because the media is largely secular and the NFL wants to keep the game largely secular despite the fact a large percentage of its employees are believers.
    Salguero suggests that faith is under-covered because the topic makes people in sports media uncomfortable. Apparently anticipating pushback, Salguero points out how frequently football players will cite God, Jesus or their faith in sideline interviews, but almost never get asked to elaborate on or even defend their statements. He says:
    When sideline reporters ask a question after the game and the player says, "First I want to thank my Lord Jesus Christ," the follow up is never, "For what? What did He do for you?" The follow is more likely about a touchdown run or turnover. Disagree? Here's a test: Did you cringe or roll your eyes when you read the first sentence of this answer? Yeah, faith in God and Jesus Christ among NFL people makes the media uncomfortable and reporters and news organizations run away from the topic.
    Who knows if Salguero's analysis will bring any change in how sports journalists approach faith in football, but at the very least he's put the topic on a very big, nationally read table.
    You can read the whole  SI roundtable—which goes on to talk about other social and ethical issues surrounding the sport like concussions and continued instances of domestic violence among players— here .


    Ministry at a Coaches Convention

    The American Football Coaches Convention was just held this week in Nashville, Tennessee (USA). Approximately 4,000 American Football coaches, mostly collegiate, but some from high schools were in attendance for the Sunday through Wednesday activities, meetings, seminars, awards programs, and more.

    For the last dozen years I have attended this event, simply because that is where the coaches are. To see this many of the coaches, already in my network or those I have yet to meet, at any other time would require months of travel and tens of thousands of dollars. On these days, they are all in the same building.

    The Fellowship of Christian Athletes was in attendance and engaged in ministry with these coaches and their spouses in various ways.
    1.    We held a worship service on Sunday morning at 10:00. An estimated 250 people were in attendance for the service which included a simple welcome, three worship songs (led by a man with a guitar), prayer, and a talk by a college football team chaplain (Mitch Mason from the University of North Carolina). The service was well done and well received.
    2.    We held a Coaches Huddle on Sunday night from 9:00 to 10:15. Rather than delivering another talk from another guy at a podium, we had the coaches and spouses (around 200) to rearrange their chairs into circles of 6-8 people each. We then invited them to talk with the others in their groups, answering the questions projected onto the screen. We started with facts like their names, where they coach, and how many years they had been in coaching. We moved on to questions like, “Why do you coach?” We talked about the coaches from their pasts who shaped how they coach, their legacy in the coaches’ lives now, and the legacy they’d like to leave in the lives of their players. Lastly, we invited them to pray together, and we finished a few minutes early. We were thrilled that many lingered in the room well beyond the parameters of the meeting. They enjoyed the fellowship and our questions uncovered their hearts in a way that passively listening to a presentation never would have.
    3.    We hosted an FCA Breakfast for about 400 coaches on Monday morning. The program was crisp, it moved quickly, and each part was succinctly presented. It included an emcee with introductory thoughts, a prayer, and then breakfast. We viewed a strong video of a coach, his team, and the impact of FCA’s 3Dimensional Coaching upon the players and the community. We then interviewed that coach, live on stage. The program continued with an annual Coach of the Year award, and the recipient made brief, but excellent comments. The final part of the program was an address by FCA’s new president, himself a football coach. The coaches left the room encouraged and many made connections with other Christian coaches they only see at this event or occasionally on the field of competition.
    4.    We spent hours and hours at our booth in the exhibition hall. We were favored to have a spot right by the entry doors, very convenient for those looking for us, and even better for those not looking for us. We had countless conversations, hugs, handshakes, trades of business cards, referrals of colleagues, and more. We distributed hundreds of copies of books, devotional materials, and brochures. In addition, we had a kiosk that included an iPad for connection with our various web based resources and programs.


    I would challenge you to consider where the people you intend to serve are. Where do they gather? What would it take to be there with them? In what ways could you serve them in that location or event? The clinics, conventions, and other gatherings where they gather are rich environments for ministry. Discover them and then develop a strategy. Go!

    Who is Your Chaplain?

    One of the items of great interest to me in the book, Replenish – Leading from a Healthy Soul, by Lance Witt, is the terrible fact that far too many pastors and other ministry workers are terribly isolated. Too few of us have strong relationships with trusted friends or mentors.

    This leads me to ask, “Who is your chaplain?” Who is there in your life to provide the same sort of service that you regularly dispense to others? If you didn’t immediately have an answer, this is a problem to be addressed. Who cares for your soul? Who knows you well enough to ask you hard questions about your use of time, energy, and relationship? Who understands your life’s pressures, your weak spots, your character flaws, and loves you through them?

    Are you close enough to your pastor for this sort of relationship? Have you given him or her permission to enter your life beyond your “public persona?” Is there a friend or colleague with whom you meet often enough to be vulnerable about your life?

    Although I am an off the chart extrovert with thousands of acquaintances, there are few people I trust with my life’s pains and struggles. My introverted friends may find this even more difficult, but with a smaller circle of relationships.

    Again, “Who is your chaplain?”

    I meet with two men every Tuesday at 6:30 am at a local coffee shop. One of those gentlemen and I have been meeting together for over twenty-two years now. We three have walked together through family health issues (cancer and epilepsy), a divorce, a suicide attempt, a remarriage, multiple family issues, financial growth and challenge, joy, grief, and pain. Such is life. We know and trust each other. They are my chaplains.


    Once more, I will ask, “Who is your chaplain?” I challenge you to find an answer to that question, to commit to an enduring and vulnerable relationship with someone who knows you well enough to care for your soul’s health. The long-term success or failure of your ministry as a sport chaplain or character coach may be determined by this relationship or the lack thereof.

    Changes in Service Across 23 Seasons

    I was recently reflecting on the changes I have seen across my twenty-three seasons of serving Saluki Football (collegiate American Football). We have served with five different coaching staffs, some with lots of changes within the tenure of the same head coach. We have seen hundreds of young men cycle through the university in those years, about 25 new players each year, 100+ on each year’s roster. This note will feature the differences in how my service has changed across the years. I hope this allows you some sense that changes can be good, even if clouded by firing, failure, pain, and uncertainty.

    1994-1996 – Head Coach Shawn Watson – I owe Shawn more than I could ever express. He invited me into college football and gave me enough room to experiment, to fail, to succeed, to be trusted, and to innovate. I attended practices, led team chapels, served in crises, began to travel with the team, wrote personal notes to players and coaches, and began to write game day devotions for the team. I prayed with Shawn personally before games and led the team in praying the Lord’s prayer after games in the locker room. He left our program to take another opportunity in coaching and we have stayed in touch as he has traveled through six universities since.
    1997-2000 – Head Coach Jan Quarless – I was stunned when Coach Q allowed me even more space to serve and I started with tremendous favor. I did all the things I had done with Shawn and added some sideline responsibilities (get back coach), but with a little less personal relationship with the head coach. Coach Q’s tenure included a good deal of turmoil, a number of coaching staff transitions, and the team hovered near the point of excellence without ever achieving it. He was relieved of his duties shortly after the university hired a new Director of Athletics. Jan is out of football, having completed his PhD after being fired and then finished his career as a school administrator.
    2001-2007 – Head Coach Jerry Kill – When Coach Kill and I met for lunch to discuss how I would serve his team, I was stunned at his response to my questions about boundaries. He said, “As far as I’m concerned, there are no boundaries.” I had again been given an amazing level of favor and access to the coaching staff, the players, the facilities, and more. We did as we had in the past years, but added some new forms of service as this staff developed an excellent program. I began to do “team-building” activities with the team during the preseason. In these sessions it was my job to accelerate the process of developing both the culture and the community that enables a team to compete well. We also added some weekly meetings to build team leadership. Coach Kill and I developed a strong relationship that continues to this day. It was forged in the fires of early losses, later championships, personal crises, health scares, cancer surgery, court appearances with troubled players, and lots of heart to heart talks. Coach left our program after a string of very successful seasons to take a new coaching opportunity. He has recently been out of coaching for a season, but just took an offensive coordinator position.
    2008-2015 – Head Coach Dale Lennon – Coach Lennon came to us from the University of North Dakota and a radically different culture from Southern Illinois. I was unsure how he would perceive me or my role, but when we talked after recruiting was finished I was again amazed at the favor the Lord gave me with Coach Lennon. He fully embraced every way I had been serving and strongly endorsed our team-building process. He and I collaborated on annual and weekly themes for the team and I was thrilled to build those themes into my team-building, team chapels, and more. Coach Lennon’s more introverted nature made building our relationship more difficult than it was with Coach Kill, but we had a strong and open friendship characterized by respect and collaboration. There were a number of changes within the staff during these years, and though we had early success (two conference championships), the program seemed to decline year to year and Coach Lennon’s tenure ended in his firing. He and his wife, my wife and I, had dinner a couple of weeks after the season and I could sense how deeply it hurt him. I don’t think he had ever tasted failure of this sort and it was a rather bitter experience. We have stayed in touch, mostly by text message, as he is out of coaching. I doubt he will return to the game as this last experience may have squashed his passion for coaching and its life consuming nature.
    2016 - ? – Head Coach Nick Hill – I have known Nick since he was an area high school football and basketball player. After a year of playing college basketball elsewhere, he transferred to our university, playing both basketball and football. As a four year starting quarterback retired from the game, Nick was the heir apparent to the starting job, and he wisely walked away from basketball. He led us to two of our most successful seasons, went on to some pre-season NFL football and then a couple of seasons of Arena Football. He coached some high school football in Florida, returned to coach a local high school team, and then was offered the opportunity to coach quarterbacks for Coach Lennon’s staff. He and I discussed the opportunity over coffee one morning and he chose to join us. Two seasons later, he was named our head coach, at thirty years of age. On the day of his introductory press conference, he called me to come to the office and to pray with him. That set the tone for our service together. Once again, I have been given remarkable favor and unfettered access. Added to all the earlier avenues of service, we added an off-season discussion of the book, Legacy, with the coaching staff and discussions of the same book with the five team captains during the season. Coach and I have shared book titles we are reading and he has been very responsive to each suggestion I have made for his leadership of the program.

              I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea how many years I will continue to serve in this manner. I have no idea how my service may change, immediately or in the next five years. I have full confidence that I am operating in the grace and favor of God, because there is no way I could engineer the opportunities I have been given. I trust that the Lord will lead and that I will follow as well as I am able. I cannot wait to see what is next. 

    Conference Calls for Sports Chaplains and Character Coaches

    A couple of the most effective, but hard to arrange avenues of professional development for sports chaplains are networking and mentoring. Most of us are either too busy, or we don’t prioritize the time to be with our colleagues on a regular basis. Most of us learn best when we simply spend time in conversation with each other, comparing notes, telling stories, and asking questions of each other. The wisest among us make time for such networking, and we seek out mentors to help us develop our ministries.

    One of the most effective ways we have been doing this recently has been through conference calls on a monthly basis. Starting in August of 2015, I began hosting conference calls, approximately sixty minutes in duration, in which I simply interview one of our respected sports chaplaincy colleagues from around the USA. Several times, we have even connected with people outside the USA by Skype while having my mobile phone on speaker so our international friends could participate. Dozens of people, from coast to coast, have called in, learned, asked good questions, and have been encouraged and inspired by our guests.

    I am aware that some others have been doing this within their geographic regions and by other associations. That is wonderful. Below, please see the details for the calls, the questions I use to direct the calls, and a list of people who have contributed to them, as well as some who are on queue for future calls.

    I hope you can join us for a future call.



    Template for each call: (30-60 minutes in duration)
    ·        I will start the call with a welcome.
    ·        I’ll have someone ready to pray to begin.
    ·        I’ll promote any upcoming events related to training, networking, or mentoring for sports chaplains and character coaches.
    ·        I’ll introduce and interview the guest.
    ·        I’ll wrap things up and will have someone close in prayer.
    These are some of the questions I use for FCA Sports Chaplain conference calls.

    ·         Tell us about yourself, your family, and your background.
    ·         Tell us about the place where you serve as a sports chaplain or character coach.
    ·         In what sports do you serve?
    ·         When did you first begin to serve as a sports chaplain or character coach and how did that happen?
    ·         What are some of your most effective strategies?
    ·         One thing a sports chaplain or character coach should ALWAYS do is…
    ·         One thing a sports chaplain or character coach should NEVER do is….
    ·         Questions we received via email ahead or during the call.
    ·         Who are your mentors and most valued colleagues? How do you connect with them?
    ·         What forms of communication do you employ in your service as a chaplain?
    ·         How many months did it take for you to feel like you had a good handle on your role?
    ·         How well does your church understand your ministry and the fact that it may require you to occasionally miss Sunday services?
    ·         What are some things a sports chaplain or character coach should do in his or her first 30 days of service?
    These are sports chaplains and character coaches who have been recently interviewed on our conference calls:
    ·         Jason Lipe – Southeast Missouri State University
    ·         Sara Hurst – University of Illinois
    ·         Eric Drake – Benton High School
    ·         Anthony Morris – Towson State University
    ·         Troy Collier – University of Illinois
    ·         Russ Talley – Northern Illinois University
    ·         Scott Tickner – Sesser-Valier High School
    ·         Robbie Trent – University of Nebraska
    ·         Dan Bishop – FCA National Director of Training
    ·         T. J. Carlson – South Dakota State University
    ·         Justin Neally – University of Illinois
    ·         Marla Butterworth – formerly of Georgia Tech University
    ·         Brandi Cantrell – Texas Tech University
    ·         Chris Morgan – University of Louisville
    These are sports chaplains and character coaches slated for upcoming conference calls:
    ·         Tim Schneckloth – Augustana College
    ·         Keith Brown – Georgia Tech
    ·         David Applegate – Iowa FCA
    ·         Kirby Myers – Naval Academy
    ·         Richard Lopez – University of Arizona

    ·         Jill Nash – Georgia FCA 

    "Stay in Touch."

    One of the values I learned from my mentor, Fred Bishop, is to maintain long-term relationships, even across the globe and for decades. He did it by making long trips by car and by writing post cards by hand. He has since graduated to email and social media. I have marveled at the way he was able to stay in touch with people, to pray for them, to encourage them, and to be encouraged by their development as men and women who love Christ Jesus. Below are the ways I have found to do this and the results I receive.

    I maintain relationships with former players (college football, basketball, baseball, softball, professional baseball) via a number of channels:
    ·         Email – I have near 900 people on my weekly devotion list and send them out each Monday morning.
    ·         Text messages – I send a daily verse from the Proverbs to baseball players who have come through our club.
    ·         Social media – I employ both Twitter and Facebook, with a strategic approach, in maintaining contact with players from the past. On Twitter, I post links to our daily devotional site, in English and in Spanish. I also tweet or retweet items I believe could be of interest to those in my Twitter network of 1,300+.
    ·         Face to face meetings – Collegiate sports programs have occasional events like homecoming that welcome former players back to the university and these are perfect for reconnecting with players from past years. These face to face meetings deepen the relationships that can be further maintained at a distance.

    I stay connected with coaches in similar ways:
    ·         Email – many coaches who have come through our university are also on my Monday devotion list.
    ·         Text messages – During the college football season, I send messages to dozens of coaches for whom I have numbers. I send a prayer, an encouragement, a scripture, a congratulatory note for a big win, or a conciliatory note after a bitter defeat. I always aim to encourage and to inspire.
    ·         Social media – A number of the coaches from our network also follow us on social media.
    ·         Face to face meetings – The American Football Coaches Association holds an annual convention and I have attended it each year since 2005. I attend not because I am a football coach, but because thousands of them are there. Rather than chasing all over the USA to see them, I can meet them at this event and reconnect very well. There is a similar event in Champaign, Illinois for high school football coaches and there are doubtless similar events for coaches of most other sports. Find a way to get there and to engage the coaches.

    I stay in touch with sports chaplains around the nation and the world as well:
    ·         Email – this weekly email is my primary attempt to share what I am learning and often the excellent strategies, methods, and ideas of others.
    ·         Text messages – I have a group of numbers in my phone that are for college and high school football chaplains. I text message these weekly with scripture, prayer, and/or encouragement. I will also send individuals a text message related to particular situations, crises, or opportunities. I also use text messages to promote monthly conference calls for sports chaplains and character coaches.
    ·         Social media – I promote the monthly sports chaplain conference calls via Twitter, and each one is automatically repeated on Facebook.
    ·         Face to face meetings – Events like the PowerUp Sports Ministry conferences, FCA’s annual Sports Chaplains Conference, the AFCA convention (for American Football), and other events are excellent opportunities to see a number of our colleagues, to share a cup of coffee, a meal, and to compare notes.


    I firmly believe that the Lord puts people in our lives for specific purposes and that our responsibility to Him for them does not end simply because their career paths have led them away from our communities. Especially now, when our communities can be held in our hands, electronically, via our smart phones.  We can maintain influential, redemptive relationships with countless individuals by very simple and time efficient methods. Please join me in extending the Lord Jesus’ love, encouragement, challenge, and instruction by any and every means at your hand.

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Roger has written many books. You can find them at Cross Training Publications. Their home on the web is here.

Click on the following image to order copies of Roger's devotional Heart of a Champion.

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Roger Lipe is the Midwest Region International Coordinator for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The Midwest Region includes the states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. In addition to this role, he is the Campus Director for Saluki FCA at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He also serves the Midwest Region in developing sports chaplaincy ministries.
Roger has served as chaplain to several of the athletic teams at Southern Illinois University since 1994.www.siusalukis.comHe has also served as chaplain to the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League since 2012.
Lipe previously served as the Field Representative for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the 26 southernmost counties of Illinois for twenty-one years.
Roger was born and raised in Carbondale and currently resides there with his wife, Sharon. Roger was a high school athlete at Carbondale Community High School, competing in football, wrestling, and track and field. He was also a high school wrestling official for 13 years. He now competes in racquetball and golf.
Roger committed his life to Christ at 10 years of age and was greatly influenced by the Jesus Movement of the early 70s as well as by attending F.C.A. camps in his high school years. He is an active member of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale.
Roger has been profoundly impacted by the short-term mission trips of No Greater Love Ministries since the early 1980s. Fred Bishop, No Greater Loves founder, continues to be a valued mentor and friend.
Roger is the author of seven books of devotions for athletes and coaches. The latest of these is titled,Heart of a Champion Devotions for the People of Sport. He is also the author ofTransforming Lives in Sport A Guide for Sport Chaplains and Sport Mentors. Both of those titles have been translated into Spanish under the titles,Corazon de un CampeonandTransformando Las Vidas en Deportes.

Free to Compete Reflections on Sport from a Christian Perspectiveis Lipes most recent publication. It is a compilation of the weekly reflections he has emailed to hundreds of sport chaplains and character coaches around the globe since 2007. All of these books are available through Cross Training Publishing.
In 2010, Roger published,Soul Food Heart Fuela book of scriptures and prayers in conjunction with Southern Illinois Healthcare. All proceeds from the sales of the book benefit the Coach Kill Cancer Fund.
Roger is the chair of the Sports Chaplaincy Table for the International Sport Coalition and worked with several colleagues from around the world to developwww.globalsportschaplaincy.org. His global network has enabled himto make dozens of international trips to facilitate ministry in sport since November of 2000.

"I lead, encourage and inspire sportspeople as they pursue the fulfillment of God's purposes for their lives."

"I believe lives are transformed as people experience the Lord Jesus' presence and pleasure in Sport."

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