I sat at the foot of my father’s hospital bed, listening to the heart monitor, beep…beep…beep. As I stared at the bed, with my family around me, my grandmother stepped in front of me to kiss the forehead of the frail body that lay there. The ever-so-constant beep turned into a solid tone.
My father had been diagnosed with cancer 2 years before. At 11, I didn’t know what cancer was, but I did know it was serious enough to take my dad’s life. Not knowing what else to do, I turned to an unfamiliar God that I had heard so much about.
That evening I began a dialogue with God, asking Him to heal my father. While I didn’t grow up in a church or know much about God, I can remember praying every night, believing my dad would be healed. Unfortunately, on June 14, 1990, he passed away.
Even though I felt God had not answered my prayers, I continued that dialogue with Him for many years, not realizing God had a bigger plan for me. During my high-school years, there was a constant nagging inside of me -- an emptiness that would not go away, no matter how hard I tried to fill it. I had friends, girls, athletic success, and parties; but the more I tried to fill the void, the emptier I became.
During my sophomore year in college, God began to knock a little louder in my life. I played football at the University of Toledo and that’s where I met Gus Yeager, associate staff member with Athletes in Action.
Gus was our team chaplain and he held chapel services every Friday night before our games on Saturday. I began attending those services as a good-luck charm, or maybe even to fulfill some sort of religious requirement. Gus would often stop by and watch our practices during the week. One night he was standing on the side of the field talking with my roommate, who was a Christian. For some reason I could not take my eyes off of them. As they stood talking, with their backs to me, there was a peace about them, something I had never seen in anyone before. I thought to myself, “I want that! That’s what I’ve been searching for! I need to talk to this man about what he has.”
On September 27, 1995, I paid a visit to Gus’ home where he told me about sin and how it separates me from God. He explained that Jesus had died to pay for that sin, so that I could be brought back into a right relationship with God and have eternal life in heaven. He told me that the emptiness I felt inside was my soul wanting to be reunited with God, that I have a heavenly Father who loves me for who I am. He assured me of my eternity in heaven by having a living relationship with Jesus.
We bowed our heads and he led me in prayer, [and I asked Jesus to be] my Lord and Savior. That which I was searching for had been found. The emptiness I felt was not only filled, but overflowing with the ultimate joy, happiness, and peace that has not been matched since.
In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” I have been at the pinnacle of two sports, the NFL and the 2006 Olympics. As a bobsledder, I was ranked #1 in the world and I tell you that nothing can hold a candle to the meaning in my life that comes from my relationship with God. Other things only leave me empty and wanting more. God has given me fulfillment and a purpose, to use my platform to tell others they too can experience such joy, happiness, and peace in their lives.
God used the worst experience in my life -- losing my father -- to bring forth the best experience in my life -- knowing my Heavenly Father. God is the Father I can never lose, who will be with me forever, and truly, unconditionally loves me. He is the Father into whose hands I can lay my life and be at rest.
In Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He has done that for me and I am so grateful to Him for it. I am excited to see how He will continue to work in my life and provide me with the opportunity to tell others about Him.
Read other stories of Olympic athletes.
Athletes in Action, along with several other evangelistic ministries, has put together a team of about 15 chaplains to serve the athletes throughout the Olympic Games.