February 2010

Sharing coffee & Good News

February 20 2010 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

VANCOUVER — Making an impact at the Olympics means serving others beyond what they are expecting.

Photo by Adam Miller

Baptist volunteers Kenneth Hungerford, left, and Chris Clifton pray on the streets of Vancouver about the witness they have had to people in town for the Winter Olympics. Showing kindness and hospitality have given Hungerford, Clifton, and nearly 1,000 More Than Gold volunteers tangible ways to engage people with the gospel.

“I’m a Christian. Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do?” asked Irina State, a member of a Romanian Southern Baptist Church in British Columbia.

State echoes the feelings of more than 400 Southern Baptist volunteers from 25 states and two Canadian provinces who have joined in making Christ known among crowds in Vancouver for the Olympic Games.

With a home base at churches throughout Vancouver, “More Than Gold” volunteers fill large portable containers with hot chocolate and coffee and hit the streets as the days turned cool.

While it’s an awkward contraption to wear for three or four hours, there’s little doubt the large cylinder attracts attention from a distance — jutting out as it does among throngs in downtown Vancouver. “Free coffee!”

From train stop to train stop, dozens of these backpack coffee dispensers bob around street corners, usually surrounded by volunteers wearing the trademark-blue More Than Gold jackets.

Their backpacks filled with brand-new trading pins, city guides and copies of Mark’s Gospel, the volunteers engage passersby with conversation and coffee.

“People come to the Olympics for excellence, and that’s what we want to give them,” said Steve Timmons, director of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ Baptist Campus Ministry. The pins are premium quality, coffee is organic Nicaraguan and the pocket guides include profiles of Christian athletes and helpful city maps.

Timmons and a dozen college-aged volunteers form an assembly line along Granville Avenue just outside the doors of the nearby SkyTrain station.

Coffee dispenser, cup bearer and sugar and cream holder all perform their jobs working out of pocket-stitched aprons and a large tank strapped to the biggest volunteer’s back. They remain mobile, going where the crowds gather.

If they’re serving hot chocolate, someone stands with a can of whipped cream at the ready.

A crowd will form around them, depending on how cold it’s become.

The temperature drops by 15 degrees after sunset, and the Northwest offers its fair share of rain.

“People really respond to this,” says Chris Clifton, a volunteer from UNLV who, just two nights earlier, had talked with an atheist for two hours.

Photo by Adam Miller

Volunteers from Tabernacle Baptist Church joined other More Than Gold volunteers during the Winter Olympics working three- and four-hour shifts near Vancouver’s Granville SkyTrain station to dispense coffee and hot chocolate, often emptying their supply in less than an hour, then quickly getting their tanks refilled by volunteers three blocks away at Coastal Church.

“It was an amazing conversation,” Clifton said later. “The guy has two kids and I’m thinking, ‘Why is this guy out in the cold after dark with kids at home?’ There were some deep issues there.”

Coffee isn’t the only thing that grabs tourists’ attention.

So does pin trading, a longstanding Olympic tradition. When handing out the More than Gold pins, volunteers use the colors on the pins to tell about Jesus.

Developed for the 1996 Summer Olympics by the International Sports Coalition in association with the North American Mission Board, More Than Gold seeks to provide a tangible Gospel presence in host cities, benefitting Olympic committee work and as well as the witness of local evangelical churches.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers — almost half of whom are Southern Baptist — joined the effort in Vancouver.

“This has been a very unifying experience for our churches,” said Alan Au, a local Baptist pastor who helped plan the More Than Gold outreach in Vancouver. “The results will extend far beyond the Olympics, both here and in the lives of athletes and spectators returning home. This is only the beginning.”

With more than a week left in the Games and volunteer teams continuing to arrive, there’s no telling what God will do with the time left.

“Our only hope is that God will use our efforts to create divine appointments,” said Debbie Wohler, a NAMB missionary in Vancouver deployed from Tahoe Resort Ministries in California.

Wohler has been a presence at more than a dozen Olympics and maintains contact with people she’s shared the gospel with over the years.

“The world is here,” she said. “This is our chance!”
2/20/2010 11:14:00 AM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hospital visit leads to bobsledder’s salvation

February 20 2010 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

WHISTLER, British Columbia — John Napier couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Here his father was dying in the hospital, and in walked Derek Spain, pastor of Lake Placid Baptist Church, who had driven more than two hours to visit him.

“It kind of astounded me that this guy drove five hours total that day just to see my father,” Napier said. “Who would do that? What kind of human being? It was my first witness of Christ-like love.”

Photo by Charlie Booker

U.S. bobsled driver John Napier

Napier’s father died two days later, but that encounter set Napier on the path to faith in Jesus Christ. Now, five years later, making his debut as the youngest bobsled pilot at the Winter Olympics, the 23-year-old says he owes all his success to the Lord.

“I’m trying to walk as close as I can and do everything I can for His glory,” Napier said. “Because I realize that He saved me on numerous occasions. When I could have fallen, He’s been there to catch me.”

His father’s death was the first of two major valleys Napier has navigated in his life, which has always centered on bobsledding, largely stemming from his parents both being bobsledders.

His father was diagnosed with cancer when Napier was 18 but was able to see John’s first World Cup race before he died.

“After he passed away, I was devastated,” Napier said. That’s when he began attending a Bible study to which Spain invited him.

As a bobsledder, Napier spent a lot of time training and competing in Lake Placid. Since Spain had ministered to Napier by visiting his father in the hospital, Napier figured he owed Spain at least a few visits to the Bible study.

Until then, Napier had grown up Catholic but had never been taught about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He did a lot of studying and a lot of learning over the next few months, and decided he needed to give up some of his worldly lifestyle — women, alcohol and even drugs.

So there was a change in Napier’s life, but not a complete one.

“It was kind of a halfhearted walk, still,” he said.

The second valley for Napier came after a girl he had been dating ended the relationship. That sent Napier plunging into despair yet again.

“Instead of putting God first, I put her first, and that was a huge problem,” he said.

Photo by Todd Bissonette/usabobsledphotos.com

U.S. bobsled driver John Napier and his team compete during the 4-man Bobsled World Championships in February 2009 en route to their berth at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

But Napier would soon discover how God would take the hardest chapters in his life and turn them into something good.

A friend told him to read Jeremiah 29:11. He did, and the Lord used that verse to open Napier’s eyes.

Tired of living halfheartedly for God, he called Spain to step forward in baptism.

“From there on, it’s just been an awesome walk with people who have been guiding me — other Christians, my pastor,” Napier said.

Spain has seen the difference in Napier’s life.

“He is now deeply committed to Christ,” Spain said. “He and I have great conversations about the Word of God and what God’s doing in his life, not only changing his behavior but giving him hope and focus and joy and strength and all those blessings that we have in Christ.”

Now bobsledding has taken on a new significance for Napier, and his successes on the track have given him opportunities to talk to a broader audience about what Christ has done in his life.

“Maybe He wants to use me for an instrument of His glory,” Napier said. “Maybe He wants to use me to show that you can be humble and respectful in defeat. I don’t know why He’s using me.”

This year has been a breakout season for Napier, who came out of nowhere to win the World Cup in Lake Placid — a lifelong dream come true for him. Now he’s anxious to see what the Lord has in store for him in Vancouver.

He competes Feb. 20-21 in the two-man bobsled and Feb. 26-27 in the four-man bobsled.

“I should not be accomplishing what I am, in my eyes or in a lot of people’s eyes,” Napier said. “But I am. He’s pushing me down that track.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
2/20/2010 11:10:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Clark wins bronze in halfpipe

February 20 2010 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

VANCOUVER — Listening to the music of Christian music artist Misty Edwards as she competed in the finals, U.S. snowboarder Kelly Clark won a bronze medal in the women’s halfpipe event Feb. 18 in Vancouver.

“It was a tough final,” Clark said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Photo by David G. McIntyre/Genesis Photos

For U.S. snowboarder Kelly Clark, a poor first run in the halfpipe finals “put the pressure on for the second run,” which she turned into a bronze medal performance at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Clark recounted that “a lot of us went down after the first run and that put the pressure on for the second run,” in which she posted a score of 42.2, just behind her U.S. teammate, Hannah Teter, who posted a 42.4 score.

Australia’s Torah Bright won the gold with a score of 45. Clark won gold in the halfpipe in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and finished fourth in 2006 in Turin.

Earlier in the day, U.S. speedskater Rebekah Bradford finished 29th in the women’s 1000 meters with a time of 1:18.778, a mark with which she was disappointed.

“Thank you for your prayers and support,” Bradford wrote on Twitter. “Not too happy with my performance, but now is family time. God bless!”

Also on Thursday, British skeleton racer Adam Pengilly completed the first two runs in his competition, with the final two heats coming the night of Feb. 19. Pengilly was in 20th place after the first two heats.

Pengilly says he goes about his work as any Christian should: working for the Lord.

“Working hard at it, but keeping it in perspective of trying to do it for Him, which can be difficult when you’re enveloped in a 24/7 environment of sport,” Pengilly said. “Your life can become quite blinkered around that if you’re not careful. There’s also the danger that it can become an idol as well.

“Bearing those things in mind, I try to work as hard as I can at skeleton, keeping it in the right perspective of trying to do it for God and not for me.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., is covering the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver for Baptist Press.)
2/20/2010 11:05:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CBF council recommends reduced budget

February 20 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

DECATUR, Ga. — The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) will vote this summer on a new budget $1.65 million smaller than the current spending plan.

The CBF Coordinating Council voted Feb. 19 to recommend a $14.5 million budget for 2010-2011, to be presented at the organization’s General Assembly June 23-26 in Charlotte. CBF moderator Hal Bass called it “a realistic budget” after more than a year of reduced spending under a contingency budget based on declining revenue.

The council voted in March to spend at no more than 80 percent of levels in line items in a 2009-2010 budget of $16,150,000.

Larry Hurst, director of finance and accounting, said as of Jan. 1, expenditures were in line with the 80 percent projections but revenue was coming in at only 71 percent of budget.

CBF moderator Hal Bass presides at Coordinating Council meeting Feb. 19.

“The contingency plan is working as we hoped it would,” Hurst said. “The revenues are not cooperating quite as well.”

Daniel Vestal, the Fellowship’s executive coordinator, described the organization as “financially plateaued” and said it has been for about four or five years.

“Obviously we are living in a financially challenging time right now,” he said.

Vestal listed strengthening the Fellowship’s financial base as one of five major challenges the organization faces as it prepares to gather for its 20th annual meeting this summer.

“How do we strengthen our financial ties to local churches and to individuals where CBF is seen as an extension of a local church’s ministry?” Vestal asked. “How do we grow — how do we strengthen our financial relationship to local churches so that local churches really do see CBF as an extension of their ministry and a part of their mission, as integral to their mission and, I would even say, to their identity?”

Other challenges facing the CBF movement, Vestal said, include how the national organization will relate in the future to state and regional CBF groups and to partner ministries; how to increase the Fellowship’s ethnic, racial and cultural diversity; and starting new churches.

Vestal said starting new CBF churches has been a struggle since the beginning and the organization has tried many different approaches. He said many pastors he knows are not interested in church planting.

“They are not interested in starting churches,” he said. “Most of them are trying to keep what they’ve got, but they’re not interested in planting churches.”

“I am not going to give up on church planting,” Vestal said. “How does CBF help churches start new churches?” he said. “Because I don’t think CBF starts churches. I think churches start churches.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
2/20/2010 11:02:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The light is bright in Whistler

February 19 2010 by Adam Miller, North American Mission Board

From yards away Lyndon Rush’s red coat and tall frame are easy to spot shuffling among skis, snowboards and tourists. They’ve come to Whistler to ski, relax, shop and watch elite athletes like Rush, Canada’s number one bobsled driver.

“Hey! How are you?” he says, stepping off a stair and into the cobbled path where North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary Derek Spain is taking Southern Baptist volunteers on one of his daily walkabouts.

They shake hands and shortly the word “revival” emerges.

“There are lots of Christian athletes here,” Rush says.

Rush is one of dozens of athletes Derek Spain has connected with over the last few weeks, and Rush sees a mission field among his brothers and sisters in the Olympic world.

Photo by Adam Miller

North American missionary and Olympic chaplain Derek Spain, left, meets with Lyndon Rush, Canada's number one bobsled driver and one of dozens of Christ followers among Olympic athletes. See related video.

“Rush is the real deal,” says Spain.

The light of Christ is bright among the athletes in Vancouver. Following the death of slider Nodar Kumaritashvili this became apparent as chaplains and fellow athletes in the Olympic Village responded to the grief and uncertainty they experienced.

“A lot of coaches and athletes tried to stay focused, and this often meant not talking about it. But many of our athletes were facing strong emotions,” says Spain, who is an official chaplain for the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) at the athletes village in Whistler. “Our job was to listen, but we also offered hope and assurance of something greater than these events.”

Spain was chosen to be a chaplain by the VANOC because of the relationships he already had with the winter athletes he serves in his hometown of Lake Placid, N.Y.

“We’re doing the same kind of things we do in Lake Placid — meeting regularly for one-on-one discipleship, praying together and providing spiritual encouragement,” Spain says.

“Someone told me the other day ‘I think a revival is coming among our athletes,’” says Spain. “I’m praying and hoping that this is true.”

As the Games continue, Spain and his fellow chaplains are showing that sports aren’t just sports. It is a mission field with an easy connection to the spiritual.

“The atmosphere at the Olympics is fantastic,” Spain says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet people and engage people from all over the world. The opportunities for ministry and evangelism are everywhere.”

Single-mindedness, discipline and endurance — all fruits of a soul sold out to Christ — are the keys to success for the best athletes in the world. And the world is waiting. Winter Olympic athletes represent some 80 nations.

“These athletes are returning to their countries in a few days,” Spain says. “My hope is to see them return with a seed to plant.”

2/19/2010 5:06:00 AM by Adam Miller, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Man killed in roof collapse at Clinton church

February 19 2010 by press reports

With crime tape blocking off Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Clinton, officials are looking into the cause of a roof collapse Thursday.

One person was killed and two injured in the incident.

“It’s bad,” said Tony Rackley, chairman of the church’s board of deacons, to a media outlet. “This is really, really bad.”

The church, located at 3790 Faison Highway (N.C. 403), was in the process of building a new sanctuary, according to church members. Aerial views of the site indicated the structure was separate from the main church.

The Clinton Fire Department, the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and Sampson County EMS responded to Mount Vernon shortly before 4:30 p.m. Thursday following a call of a building collapse, according to Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Pope.

Investigators said workers with Clifton Halso Inc. General Contractors out of Chinquapin were putting up trusses when a large section of the structure’s front portion fell on top of them.

One man, a Hispanic male, was pronounced dead at the scene. The man was reportedly walking beneath a section of the rafters when it fell.

Two others were transported to Sampson Regional Medical Center, one of which after the helicopter airlifting him was diverted. The names of the three men are being withheld pending notification of their family members, Pope said.

The extent of the injuries sustained by the other two men were not immediately known.

Department of Labor officials are helping the sheriff’s office process the scene.

Ray Gainey, chairman of the church’s Building and Planning Committee, was also at the scene with Rackley working with investigators to figure out the cause. Rackley said he did not want to speculate as to what caused the collapse, but stated a thorough investigation would be conducted.

Gainey said he was “shocked” by the occurrence. The church had begun construction on the new sanctuary in November, he said.
2/19/2010 3:19:00 AM by press reports | with 0 comments

Detainee asks that people focus on Haitians

February 19 2010 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Baptist volunteer who was jailed in Haiti for nearly three weeks says he hopes people will once again focus on the plight of the citizens of the earthquake-ravaged country.

Jim Allen, one of eight detainees flown back to the United States Wednesday, said in a statement on his church’s website that he thanks “the many people around the world who prayed for me.”

Allen is a member of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas.

“I hope (Wednesday’s) actions will allow everyone to focus again on the dire conditions that remain in Haiti,” Allen said. “People are still suffering and lack basic necessities. Please find it in your hearts, as I did in mine, to find ways to give to those in need. For those whose cases have not been resolved, we will continue to pray for their safe return.”

Two volunteers from the 10-member team remain in a Haitian prison on further investigation: Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, both members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho. Three other members of that church were released Wednesday, as were three members of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. A member of Bethel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., also was freed. Bethel is the only church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Attorney Caleb Stegall speaks on behalf of the eight Baptist volunteers who were released by Haitian authorities Feb. 17, during a brief news conference Feb. 18 at the airport in Kansas City, Mo. Two volunteers continue to be detained in Haiti.

The 10 members were charged with attempting to transport 33 Haitian children into the Dominican Republic without proper documents. The 10 had planned on taking the children to an orphanage Silsby was establishing across the border. The eight volunteers were released after Haitian parents told Judge Bernard Saint-Vil they had freely given their children to the American group. They were released without bond after promising to come back to Haiti if further questions arise, the Associated Press reported.

At Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, associate pastor John Martinez said the news of the detainees’ release was a “big relief.” Martinez has been preaching in absence of pastor Paul Thompson, who was part of the group. Thompson’s son Silas was a member of the group as was church member Steve McMullen.

“We were just so thrilled,” Martinez told Baptist Press. “This is what we’ve been praying for and going before the throne of God for day after day. Our church has been on its knees.”

God used the incident to unify the church and to “grow us and teach us and mature us,” Martinez said. He said the past few weeks could best be described as a “roller coaster” in light of various news outlets that inaccurately reported the detainees would be released.

“Our church is proud of our pastor and of Steve and of Silas,” Martinez said. “We’re proud of why they went. We’re proud of how they behaved while they were there. They certainly had a very visible witness.”

The group went to Haiti hoping to impact perhaps hundreds of people for Christ, Martinez said, but “God chose to have them impact millions.”

As of Thursday the Thompsons and Steve McMullen were still in Kansas, the Associated Press reported. Thompson’s brother-in-law is Drew Culbert, an assistant youth pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., who was part of the group.

Allen — who is Paul Thompson’s cousin — was scheduled to be welcomed home Thursday afternoon at the Amarillo Civic Center during a community celebration. In his statement Allen also thanked Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R.-Texas, for speaking out on his behalf, and for Haitian attorney Louis Gary Lissade and his stateside attorneys.

Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, expressed gratitude for the detainees’ release.

“We are thankful for the release of these eight Baptist volunteers. We are concerned for the health and release of the remaining two volunteers. From the beginning, our hope and prayer for them all has been that their motives would be vindicated and their freedom secured. We continue to pray to that end,” said Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock.

Allen was a last-minute addition to the humanitarian effort and got word of the trip from Thompson. Within 48 hours Allen had all the necessary shots and documentation and joined the group just before they flew out of Miami. The group, under the leadership of Silsby, planned to transport the children to a facility in the Dominican Republic. An old hotel was going to be refurbished and used as an orphanage and Allen was willing to lend his construction and welding skills to the task.

Despite Allen’s ordeal, members of Paramount Baptist Church will be sending a contingency to Haiti by week’s end. Before the quake, a team was scheduled to work on an orphanage and in an AIDS hospital. That work will go on, Paramount associate pastor Lance Herrington said.

The other freed members are Carla Thompson and Nicole and Corinna Lankford of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — With reporting by Bonnie Pritchett, a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
2/19/2010 3:16:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Brit is alone on sled but connected to the faith

February 19 2010 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Adam Pengilly stood at the top of the track, bracing himself. A former bobsledder, he was no stranger to the icy slide and had absorbed its best licks many times. One bobsled crash left him with a hole in his lung. Another one gave him a nasty scar on his back from an ice burn.

Photo by Phil Searle/Digitalscape

Adam Pengilly of Great Britain speeds down the skeleton run in practice for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

But this time, instead of speeding down in a bobsled with a team, he’d be by himself — on his stomach, head first, on a skeleton sled.

“The first run that you ever take is a pretty scary time in your life,” Pengilly said. “And when you know what’s coming, the second one’s even worse.”

The first couple of years of skeleton racing were painful ones for Pengilly, but he remained an optimist, pushing forward and telling himself, “It will get better. It will get better.”

Indeed, it did. Pengilly, of Great Britain, became one of his country’s top skeleton racers and is representing the United Kingdom in the event in the Vancouver Olympics. He competes Feb. 18 and 19, with two runs each day. In some ways, Pengilly’s spiritual journey has mirrored what happened to him in skeleton, with some rough spots along the way. But he now finds himself walking more closely to Christ than ever.

“Adam Pengilly is deeply committed to Christ,” said Derek Spain, pastor of Lake Placid (N.Y.) Baptist Church and a chaplain at the Olympic Village in Whistler, where many of the competitions take place. “He’s a guy that walks with the Lord, reads the Word and spends time in prayer.”

Pengilly’s devotion to the Lord began when he was young. His parents became Christians and were baptized when Pengilly was a boy.

“They explained the gospel to me in a simple manner, relating to my age, but certainly enough to understand sin and repentance and belief in Christ as my Lord and Savior,” Pengilly said. “I asked Mum if I could become a Christian, and that’s how it started, really.”

Photo by Phil Searle/Digitalscape

Adam Pengilly, a Brit who is competing in the skeleton sled event at the Winter Olympics, is described by a chaplain as “a guy that walks with the Lord, reads the Word and spends time in prayer.”

He drifted away from the Lord for a while as a teenager and college student, choosing to live for himself over anyone else. But one night at college he had an awakening of sorts. He had spent a night out with his friends, enjoyed a “good time” and realized the utter futility of it. That, he says, is when he started to look to God again.

“I knew it was the truth and I knew in my heart that it was absolutely right, and so since then it’s been a walk generally in the right direction,” he said.

His faith has grown strong in recent years after he moved to Bath, where he found a good church (an independent Baptist congregation) with solid biblical teaching and a group of young male Christian friends he encourages and is encouraged by.

Along the way, Pengilly got involved with bobsledding. As a track and field athlete in high school, he had a teacher who was a bobsledder and recruited him for the sport. Pengilly coached bobsledding during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City but realized he still wanted to compete.

Competing in bobsledding, however, is difficult, especially in the United Kingdom where the sport is heavily geared toward the military. It’s also expensive. So Pengilly began considering the sister sport of skeleton.

“It was a lot cheaper, a lot more accessible,” he said. “The program was better. I could buy my own sled, throw it in the car and drive around Europe if I wanted to.”

Skeleton racing is certainly intimidating, racing down the track at speeds of nearly 90 miles an hour. But is it more intimidating than bobsled racing?

“It depends who’s driving the bobsled,” Pengilly said.

His competition schedule regularly takes him to Lake Placid, which has one of only two bobsled/luge/skeleton tracks in the United States. That’s where Pengilly got to know Spain, who ministers to many of the athletes training and competing in Lake Placid.

“Every time he comes to Lake Placid he joins us for Bible study, prayer time, worship, whatever he can do,” Spain said of Pengilly. “He is definitely part of our church family when he’s in town.”

Pengilly hasn’t had a great racing season this year, describing it as the worst season of his career. He had knee surgery in the summer and was sidelined when his recovery took longer than expected. The knee trouble flared up again later in the season and hobbled him for nearly a week.

Though his performance has picked up in recent weeks, his best finish so far in the season is still only 10th place in the World Cup, which is a long way from medal contention. But in Vancouver, Pengilly wants only to do his best, and to go about his sport as if he’s working for the Lord and not for men.

“My goal is to go in there and have four strong runs,” he said. “If I do that, I’ll come away happy, whether that puts me fifth or 15th.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
2/19/2010 3:07:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hedrick takes bronze in 1000m

February 19 2010 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

VANCOUVER — A strong final lap allowed U.S. speedskater Chad Hedrick to overcome a slow start and win the bronze medal in the men’s 1000 meters Wednesday at the Winter Olympics.

U.S. teammate Shani Davis won the gold medal with a time of 1:08.94. Hedrick was .38 seconds behind Davis, with a time of 1:09.32. Davis won gold in the 1000 meters in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and is the world record holder in the event.

Photo by David G. McIntyre/Genesis Photos

U.S. speedskater Shani Davis, center, celebrates his gold medal victory with teammate and bronze medalist Chad Hedrick, right, in the men’s 1000-meter competition at the Vancouver Games. Mo Tae-Bum of Korea was the silver medalist. Davis and Hedrick accounted for two of the one-day U.S. record six medals at a Winter Olympics.

Hedrick and Davis accounted for two of six medals won by U.S. athletes on Feb. 17 — America’s highest one-day total for the Winter Olympics.

“My consistency on the laps really brought me into the race where I was able to come out and get a medal,” Hedrick said. “I left it all out there on the ice. I couldn’t be more happy with myself.”

He credited Davis with skating a strong race. “He hasn’t lost a 1000 meters all year,” Hedrick said about Davis. “This guy’s just untouchable in the 1000.”

Davis and Hedrick have mended their relationship, which was strained during the 2006 Olympics in a highly publicized squabble when Hedrick criticized Davis for not participating in the team pursuit event. Davis declined to race with the team to focus on his individual events.

But a lot has changed for Hedrick and his approach to the sport since 2006. Hedrick became a Christian a few months ago and said his conversion has helped him develop a new outlook on life.

Also competing in the 1000 meters was Finland’s Mika Poutala, who finished eighth. Poutala has done some preaching and says he may enter the ministry when his speedskating career is over.

He was pleased with his performance in the race.

“I had a very good start and a good first lap,” Poutala said. “I tried to skate as easy as possible, but very fast. And then I just died in the last lap, because I’m a sprinter, so it’s almost every time like that.”

Before the race, Poutala had to forget about his showing in the 500 meter race Feb. 15, which he led after the first heat but fell to fifth overall after finishing 12th in the second heat.

“In the morning I was still a little bit disappointed about the 500 meter,” Poutala said. “But then when I came here I started to concentrate on this 1,000 meter. When I was on the finish line and they announced my name, then I was totally enjoying speedskating again, because I had a very bad few days. I was so disappointed. I’ve never been that disappointed about sport.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., is covering the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver for Baptist Press.)
2/19/2010 2:59:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Faith made snowboarding ‘more free’

February 18 2010 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

VANCOUVER — Kelly Clark wasn’t about to sit back and let her life fall to pieces. The Olympic athlete should have been excited with the direction her life was taking, but she wasn’t.

So one night, she walked up to a fellow snowboarder’s hotel room and knocked on the door.

“My name’s Kelly,” Clark announced. “I think you might be a Christian, and I think you need to tell me about God.”

That was the start of a five-month journey in 2004 that led Clark, a 2002 Olympic gold medal winner and member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic snowboarding team in Vancouver, from despair and hopelessness to faith and freedom.

“I thought being a Christian was going to church and following rules and all sorts of religious things,” Clark said. “But it’s about having a relationship with Jesus.”

Clark will compete in the women’s halfpipe Feb. 18.

Photo by Katie Perhai

Kelly Clark

Growing up in the mountain town of Mt. Snow, Vt., snowboarding became Clark’s passion early in life. At age 18, she was competing in her first Olympics in Salt Lake City in the women’s halfpipe, garnering the gold medal. In addition to the Olympics, Clark won championships in the U.S. Open and X Games as well.

“I had every successful thing going for me,” Clark said. “I’d won every major snowboard event you could ever dream about winning. I thought that when you are successful, you’re happy. From an outside perspective I was living the dream. I had all the success and all the things you could ever dream about. But I found that it wasn’t very fulfilling.”

During a competition in 2004, Clark sat in her hotel room writing in her journal. If this is what life is, she wrote, if this was everything it had to offer, she didn’t want to do it anymore. She didn’t care if she woke up the next day, and didn’t think anyone else cared.

That’s when an encounter at the competition changed her life. Clark qualified for the finals as she typically did. But when a fellow competitor failed to qualify, Clark overheard a conversation when a friend reassuringly, almost in a joking manner, said, “Hey, it’s all right. God still loves you.”

That statement, made innocuously, had an impact on Clark and began stirring something in her that she couldn’t deny. She went back to her hotel room and opened up the Bible placed there by the Gideons. She started reading but didn’t know where to start and wasn’t sure what she was reading. That’s when she walked down the hall and knocked on her competitor’s door.

After that encounter, Clark spent the next several weeks thinking about the Lord and investigating the claims of Jesus Christ. She eventually concluded that God was indeed there, that He loved her and that He was already active in her life, and she became a follower of Christ, leaving behind the drudgery she had felt in recent years.

“I was getting my self-worth from what I did, and my identity was really wrapped up in snowboarding and the success that it brought me,” Clark said.

But after becoming a Christian, she began learning that she didn’t have to do anything for God to love her or for her life to have purpose.

“It ended up freeing up my snowboarding more so than ever,” she Clark. “I was no longer going from event to event to feel good about myself. I had that apart from what I did. And so my snowboarding has been dramatically impacted. My snowboarding got a lot more free.

“Now I’m able to really enjoy it again.”

(EDITOR’ S NOTE — Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
2/18/2010 3:07:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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