I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (I Cor. 9:24)
Dear NDI Friend and Partner,
If you are like tens of millions of people around the world, you have been watching the “29th Summer Olympics” in Beijing. I was doing a final recon for a Haitian Church building project in Freeport, Bahamas, when they began. The Opening Ceremony was absolutely spectacular! They were truly awesome, stunning, mind-blowing, fantastic, unbelievable and indescribable! There are just not enough adjectives and superlatives to adequately portray the world class show that the Chinese put on! They literally “wowed the world!” Whether you viewed it from the perspective of technology, theatrics, ethnicity, diversity, costuming or pyrotechnics, it surpassed anything the world has yet seen at an Olympic event – or any other event!
The previously hidden Chinese dragon came out in all of his resplendent glory! With over 15,000 actors and performers, no Olympic event in history has even come close to this degree of “pomp and circumstance.”
Their Opening Ceremony was a mixture of ancient and modernity…past and present…the minute and massive…individualism and collectivism…the religious and the secular. With over 90,000 watching live in the Birdnest Stadium – and hundreds of millions watching by TV – it was the most widely view event to date in human history. Literally “all eyes were on China” – which is exactly what they have wanted. As one commentator observed: “China has spent a thousand days preparing for this one day!” Any way you look at it, the “Bamboo Curtain” has fallen allowing the modern world to rush in.
Aside from terrorism and air pollution, the greatest concern for the Chinese leading up to the Olympics was negative international attention over Human Rights. There was special focus on Tibet, Darfur and the persecution of Christians inside China. Thankfully President Bush spoke privately and publicly about these issues – both to Chinese officials and to the media.
As I watched the Opening Ceremony, followed by the “Parade of Nations” with 204 countries represented, I could not help but think of several verses in the book of Revelation. At the consummation of history there will be an even larger gathering representing the greatest ethnic diversity in history. At that time there will not be just 204 nations represented – but rather “…a great multitude which no one can count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” And they will not be circling the Olympic Torch, they will be “…before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes.” And they will not be carrying flags and singing their various “National Anthems.” They will be crying out with a loud voice: “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-10).
At that time, the people of the world will not be focused on great human cities like Beijing, Athens, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, Mecca, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Montreal, Port-au-Prince, Mexico City, Delhi, Seoul, Sydney or New York. There will only be one “Holy City” and it will be the “New Jerusalem” which God will “…bring down out of heaven.” And it will not reflect the “glory of man” but “… the glory of God” (Rev. 21:10). This eternal “City of God” will have supplanted all of the great cities of man. As a result, “The nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24). So if you think the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics were spectacular, God’s Closing Ceremony of history will literally be “out of this world!”
Glory is certainly one of the primary things the Olympics are all about. The glory of breaking the existing World Record in your event – leading you to the “Winners’ Platform.” It is to have the eyes of the world on you for a few brief minutes as your name is announced and you receive your medal and flowers – followed by the raising of your country’s flag, accompanied by your National Anthem. For an athlete, this is the zenith! It’s the ultimate victory! It’s the highest athletic achievement possible. It is the crowning reward of a life of discipline and training. The glory of winning the Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal cannot be surpassed. You just can’t go any higher than this – at least in this life!
As I watched these men and women compete in various competitions—with bodies that are almost perfectly-sculptured and well-honed for their events, I could not help but reflect back upon Adam and Eve. What must those very first male and female bodies have looked like before the fall? Before the rebellion…before sin…before sickness…before broken bones…before torn tendons…before stretch-marks…before death? It is hard for us to imagine the perfection of Adam and Eve’s bodies and minds! Their beauty was indescribable. It perfectly reflected their Creator. But I believe that the incredible bodies of these Olympic athletes gives us a small peek back into the Garden of Eden where we can see pristine man and woman as God originally created him and her. And their almost-perfect-bodies give us a small insight into the capabilities of the future “resurrection body” we Believers will one day receive from God – just like the post resurrection body the Lord Jesus. It will be a perfect body with no limitations. Talk about a mind-blow! Talk about “body beautiful!” Talk about glory!
But as well disciplined and well trained as the Olympic Athletes are, the majority will go home without any medals. They will never step on the Winner’s Platform. They will never hear their name announced. They will have lost their events – some by micro-seconds or millimeters! Some will have experienced falls, spills or stumbles that caused them to lose. Others will have stepped out of bounds, made mistakes or violated rules that disqualified them. But while most of the 10,000 athletes will go home disappointed, they will each have at least made the Olympics. Whether they experienced the “thrill of victory” or the “agony of defeat”, they will have the life-long distinction of being an “Olympian.” They will be a member of the most elite athletic fraternity on earth – the Olympics!
As I was watching the build up for these Summer Olympics, I studied afresh the many athletic metaphors in the Bible. As an “old athlete” myself (football, wrestling and swimming), I have always enjoyed various competitions from my youth until now. And through the years I have enjoyed speaking to young people on athletic subjects like “Winning At The Game of Life” and “Running to Win.” So my latest book is entitled Spiritual Olympics…Running For The Gold.”
I am especially honored to have coach George Williams from St. Augustine University, write an endorsement of this book. He was the “2004 Head Men’s Olympic Coach” that was held in Athens, Greece. He is also at the Olympics in Beijing right now coaching several star athletes on to victory.
“After reading this book, I recommend that each Olympian purchase and read a copy before and during the games because this is truly what the spirit of the Olympics is all about. Dr. Williams explained in the book all of the trials and tribulations that I went through during the two Olympics in which I took part for the USA; Atlanta in 1996 as assistant coach, and Athens in 2004 as the head coach”.
2004 Head Men’s Olympic Track Coach, Athens, Greece
I want to send you a copy of this book for any gift of $10 or more. It will be a timely gift for you to give to any teenager in your home, or to a son, daughter or grandchildren. It will especially be helpful for them as they go back to High School or College this month. It can also be a great book to go through with young people in Sunday School or Bible Study. (For quantities of 10 or more, the price is just $5.00.) So I encourage you to order and read this book yourself – and then invest it in some young person you care about. They are due to arrive from the printer this week – so hopefully we can get them in the mail to you soon after Labor Day.
A final note about this book. I dedicated it to one of our dear partners, Stakwell Yurenimo. He is the Founder and Director of the “Samburu Sports Camp” in northern Kenya. And the proceeds from this book will go to support his ministry.
Keep enjoying these Olympics from Beijing! And keep “Running To Win” in the game of life for the Lord Jesus…
In His Race,
PS: As you receive and read this email, Patt and I will be leaving for several weeks of travel and ministry in Africa. Please print out the following itinerary and post it as a reminder to pray for us on a daily basis – and we will generally be 4 - 7 hours ahead of you here in America.
• Aug. 22-23: Fly from RDU to Accra, Ghana
• Aug. 24: Drive from Accra to Cape Coast to preach
• Aug. 25-26: Preparations and registration for Leadership Conference in Kumasi
• Aug. 27-29: Conference: “Building For The Future”
• Aug. 29: Arrival of VanWingerdens
• Aug. 30-Sept. 2: Work at “Mfensi Center and Farm” with Yaw Asante
• Sept. 2-3: Fly from Accra, Ghana to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Patt will fly home)
• Sept. 3-5: Work at the “Genesis Farm” with Behailu Waldo
• Sept. 5: Fly from Addis to Kampala, Uganda
• Sept. 6: Fly from Kampala to Yei, Sudan
• Sept. 6-10: Work at “Eden Keeper’s Farm” in Yei with Dr. John Nyikako
• Sept. 10: Fly from Yei, Sudan to Kurungu, Kenya
• Sept. 10-11: Work at the “Samburu Sports Camp” with Stakwell Yurenimo
• Sept. 12: Fly to Nairobi and home
• Sept. 13: Arrive back at RDU
Full Article Permalink. Filed under: