Children play on the Olympic rings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All photos included in this story were taken during the Rio Olympic Games in August 2016.

Join in The Spirit of Hope During The Olympic Games


Sprinter Jessica Beard had a daily, set routine: “Work as hard as you can; train as hard as you can; even rest as hard as you can when the time calls for it.”

Jessica had competed in multiple world championships for track and field, where she had earned a gold medal and a silver medal. She was looking forward to her first ever Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Athletes from two nations compete in women’s water polo. The United States won the gold medal by defeating Italy 12-5 in the final.

But Jessica and other elite athletes, like many people around the world, encountered an abrupt change in plans when the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. The Olympics were delayed for the first time in nearly 80 years.

“For some athletes, this is very traumatic for them, whether it’s their livelihood, or whether it’s just going to be their first time,” Jessica explained. But as a follower of Christ, Jessica found hope and peace as she trusted in God’s greater plan.

Jodi Hasbrouck (right), an Athletes in Action® affiliate staff member, prays with Olympians from South Africa. AIA was founded in 1966, and representatives regularly attend Olympic Games to support and minister to athletes.

Now, athletes and spectators alike renew their hope for this time-honored global tradition. Followers of Christ can join in the hope and spirit of the Olympics through prayer.

In this together

Amethyst Holmes, a former athlete and the content strategist for Athletes in Action®, the sports outreach of Cru®, said the Olympic Games has always been an opportunity for unity.

“The Olympics [represents] this hope of who we can be as a world,” Amethyst said. But this year, she said, “we’re in this together in a different way. We can relate to one another in a more intimate way because we’ve all had this collective experience.”

“People see athletes as influencers, but we see them as folks needing a relationship with Jesus. We try to help them understand they are more than their performance; you are more than your sport. And there’s more that God has for you. You are enough.”

Amethyst Holmes

In that spirit, various ministry arms of Cru, including Making Your Life Count and AIA, in addition to other partner ministries, such as the YouVersion Bible App, are collaborating to help Christians connect to the games more personally.

Sprinter Natasha Hastings shows off her pins in 2016. Athletes and spectators alike trade them as part of the Olympics experience. In Rio, Athletes in Action® pins were traded as an outreach initiative.

Through prayer initiatives, devotional studies and even direct interaction with athletes like Jessica, the ministry teams hope God will encourage athletes, deepen their faith and bring people to Himself from many nations.

You can take part

Among the opportunities to eternally invest during this Olympic season are eight podinars (interactive digital seminars) produced by Making Your Life Count. The podinars feature Christian Olympians, such as Nick Willis, a New Zealand runner who medaled in Beijing in 2008 and Rio in 2016, and Lilly Lippeatt, a 16-year-old artistic gymnast about to compete in her first Games. In the podinars you can learn about their lives and testimonies. You can receive real-time prayer requests via text message — subscribe by texting 407-214-4900 — as they walk through their Olympic journey this summer.

You can also visit the Athletes in Action Olympics site to subscribe to devotionals, hear from athletes interviewed during the pandemic, and access ministry tools and training items being used around the world during the Tokyo Games.

Athletes in Action® chaplains and staff members from Canada, Ghana and the United States gather during Rio 2016.

And you can join the AIA Prayer Journey (beginning July 23 and running every day through closing ceremonies) to be transported virtually to a new country where you can pray for that nation.

“This is an opportunity to really understand the breadth of God and your global community,” Amethyst said, “and to care for them the way God does. We talk about going to the nations, but right now, the nations are at our fingertips.”

As followers of Christ look forward to athletic triumphs this year, they can remember the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (NIV).

A crowd watches a women’s volleyball match during the Rio Olympic Games. An estimated 500,000 tourists visited Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Games. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, international spectators will not be allowed in Tokyo.

As Jessica said, “I can put my hope in God. He’s the same today, yesterday and forever. That’s where I found comfort. Knowing that there’s more beyond this moment, more beyond this world, it gives me hope. Even if I didn’t do this sport, I still matter to God.”

Join the Games Virtually

Each day of the Tokyo Olympic Games, visit a new country online through the Athletes in Action® Prayer Journey.

Join Us In Prayer
Rebecca Kelsall
Words by

Rebecca Kelsall

Rebecca Kelsall is a journalist with Cru®. She graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in multimedia journalism. She is proudly Hispanic American, a dog-mom, and interested in culture and psychology.

Contact Me
Ted Wilcox
Photos by

Ted Wilcox

Ted loves zigzagging the globe, capturing photos and stories of what God is doing. Originally from California, he serves as a missionary photojournalist with Cru® in Orlando, Florida. Ted also ministers to international scholars who come to Orlando to study.

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