With the London Olympics just five weeks away Olympic Ministry Award Receiptent Mark Tronson, the chairman of Well-Being Australia is writing a weekly series of articles leading up to this world gala event which encapsulates the nations of the world in sport, politics, economics, culture, benevolency and religion.
Mark Tronson says that “Games Village” Olympic ministry has a number of perpendicularities and pit-falls for the initiated. The Olympic Village is like a meeting of the world's nations. The Religious Services Centre (Multi-Faith Centre) caters for the five major world's religions and therefore it is not a Christian Ministry centre (as it were). Protocols are strictly adhered.
The ministry that former Olympic athletes engaged in Chaplaincy outside the Olympic Village is “Christian specific” and these people receive invitations by current Olympians into the Olympic Village whereby private ministry is provided. Lay Witnesses for Christ International have been engaged in this Chaplaincy model since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics led by Dr Sam Mings. London is their eighth Olympiad.
Obviously this model is unrestricted by the “protocols” of the multi-faith centre and where Olympians themselves invite other Olympians to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It requires an established link of confidence and friendship in which LWFCI have developed over all these years.
Sports Ministry Experience
Sports ministry experience is therefore an important aspect of Olympic ministry at this level and not surprisingly, its not gained by only turning up to an Olympic Games once every four years (or when the Olympics comes to your city). Rather its gained by being involved in sports ministry and learning from those who are fully engaged in this highly specialised form of Christian ministry.
One example of someone fully engaged in this kind of sports ministry in Los Angeles is sports ministry guru Nelson Cook.
Nelson Cook for many years was the director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in Dallas, Texas. He was challenged to start afresh in 1988 in Los Angeles to develop a ministry to College Sports Coaches.
Thirty years hence, he has witnessed a life time of experiences that few others have seen, with enormous highs and lows. Initiating a fresh ministry from scratch is something Mark Tronson knows all about, as in 1982, he too was a pioneer when he developed the Sports and Leisure Ministry in association with Australian Heads of Churches.
Nelson Cook and Mark Tronson
Nelson Cook and Mark Tronson have very similar paths in Sports Ministry. These have been heady years, as both Nelson and Mark developed their respective sport ministries. Mark Tronson personally met with Australia's professional sports organisations across Australia, to negotiate chaplaincy arrangements. By 2000 he was released by Heads of Churches due to stress, and by that had established 150 sports chaplaincy appointments and all on “faith finance”.
At this time, Mark Tronson and his wife, Delma, moved sideways and established Well-Being Australia which specialises in Life After Cricket and 'athlete respite' with facilities Basil Sellers Moruya, Basil Sellers Tweed, Basil Sellers Laguna Quays and the continuation of his Olympic Ministry.
Nelson Cook had a similar path, he arrived in Los Angeles with a vision to establish a Christian fellowship support network with College coaches. He had his wife, Stephanie, and three little daughters in tow and they needed housing and a way to maintain and increase his “faith income”.
Over the next few years, he developed his ministry along with a network of financial supporters for his family and established new ministry through personal contacts and businessmen. Mark Tronson says that on his many USA study tours on sports ministry he learned as much as he could from Nelson Cook.
Then tragedy struck Nelson Cook's family. Stephanie succumbed to cancer and died two years later and Nelson was left to raise his three young daughters and maintain his ministry and funding.
Olympic Ministry is assisted by such insights
Mark Tronson says that Nelson Cook's ministry and his struggles have illustrated afresh the blessings of the Lord on a faithful servant through tragedy and then years later into a new marriage.
“I stand in awe of the Lord when I see a person such as Nelson Cook, my heart weeps and yet rejoices,” Mark Tronson said. “Moreover he has been a wellspring as a sounding board for my Olympic Ministry as be brings a mixture of common sense and Scripture with his wisdom.
When Nelson Cook invited Mark Tronson to minister to a group of elite sports coaches and then a more broad based men's breakfast at a local church, Mark realised that Nelson understood the nature of Olympic ministry.
It's ministry to the lost regardless of titles and sporting achievements, reaching out to a new generation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that he died on the Cross for our sin and rose again to defeat death to resurrection. This and only this is the Gospel message for any Olympic Games.
Dr Sam Mings President of Lay Witnesses for Christ International (LWFCI) – Chaplains to the World's Olympians, has focused on these critical issues and as he and his team, many whom are former Olympians, attend London, their 8th Olympiad are people of experience in Olympic Ministry in the joy of the Lord.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html