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Commonwealth Games: Continuing the day job Down Under

Date posted: 28/03/18

Commonwealth Games: Continuing the day job Down Under

 

Christians in Sport staff support more than 400 elite athletes as they look to live for Jesus in the world of sport where He has placed them. This support takes our team to various locations around the UK and further afield - including Australia! Staff members Graham Daniels and Jules Wilkinson will be among the 10 international chaplains at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, but their time Down Under will actually be an extension of their day job.

Our vision is to reach the world of sport for Christ, and there are more than 10 million people playing in clubs and teams in the UK alone. We do not value the life of a professional sportsperson more than an amateur one, so why do we invest so much in terms of staff and hours in such a small number of people?

Firstly, being a top-level sportsperson often means lots of time away from home due to training and competition schedules - something certainly the case for those at the Commonwealth Games. All this leads to regular and significant times away from local church community and teaching, making it difficult for churches to support and reach them. Partnering with churches is key to all of our work and therefore we want to make sure elite athletes are rooted in a local church. Our staff can ‘team up’ with the athletes’ churches to help support them.

Secondly, the unique pressures that come from top-level sport mean following Jesus as an elite athlete can be particularly challenging. Elite sport is a profession where you continually have to prove yourself to get selected, where your salary or funding is dependent on maintaining extremely high levels of performance and often where you’re intensely scrutinised by the media and fans. Many of our staff have been in this position themselves previously, so can offer great advice as to how elite athletes can stand tall for Jesus.

Commonwealth Games: Continuing the day job Down Under

 

Going to a major event like the Commonwealth Games is therefore a great way to provide this support. And while Danno and Jules are there, we pray they can find more Christian sportspeople to support. We caught up with them before they flew Down Under to discover what they will be up to.

How would you describe your role at the Commonwealth Games?

GD: Chaplains are available to people of all faiths and none. Our first role is to make ourselves available on a pastoral level to anyone who wants it. There will also be athletes at the Games who are Christians and will want to have Bible studies and corporate worship and we will be able to provide that for them.

JW: As Christians, we need to take our eyes off ourselves and fix them on Jesus. That’s what we will be helping the Christian athletes to do at a pressurised time when this can be very hard.

What are you most looking forward to?

JW: I have been walking alongside a number of the competitors for some years now, so it will be brilliant to have that extra time with them. Easter is also such a fantastic time for Christians, so it will be amazing to be celebrating Jesus’ resurrection with athletes from all over the Commonwealth as they get ready for the Games. We will also be taking part in an Easter service at the Team England holding camp, which we’re really looking forward to.

GD: We have been involved in track and field athletics for some time at Christians in Sport and I’m particularly looking forward to building on these friendships with teams from all over the Commonwealth. It will be great to see Christians from different sports and Commonwealth nations meeting and encouraging each other. This is something their schedules don’t normally allow to happen. On a personal level, I am looking forward to spending time with some of the home nations officials and athletes. I dare say I will be popping into the Welsh HQ at times because I have got friends there.


 

You can hear more from Danno on the special Commonwealth Games Podcast.


What challenges are you anticipating?

GD: It’s a long time away from home and that’s definitely a challenge. There is a danger of uncertainty when you’re at an event of this stature. A lot of people are under a lot of pressure for a long time. The challenge is to overcome my own uncertainty and focus on serving the athletes, coaches and officials. They can be pretty anxious and disappointed at times. We need to ask God to to help us serve as opposed to being served.

JW: I will definitely be missing my family and church family, especially over Easter. It will be exciting to be out there, but that is the other side of the picture. Tiredness can also be a challenge. As I know a lot of competitors out there and will be available for long periods of time, my energy levels can easily drop.

Commonwealth Games: Continuing the day job Down Under


What can we pray for you?

JW: Do pray for boldness. Doing this is something that comes far outside our comfort zones. Just as I’m challenging the athletes to take their eyes off themselves and focus on Jesus, I need prayer to do exactly the same myself.

GD: Pray first of all that we would be really good servants of all the athletes, coaches and officials at the Games. Pray too for the special relationships we have with a number of athletes - those who are committed Christians and those who are committed to exploring Christian faith - that those friendships would grow deeper over the course of the Games.

Jules was also a chaplain at the Rio 2016 Olympics. You can read her diary here.