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Advice from a Christian athlete: how knowing Jesus transforms sport

With the Tokyo Olympics getting under way, it’s a good time to think about how our faith and our sports can connect. So we asked OMF worker Hasina Boulter what advice she’d give Christian sports people.

Hasina is well placed to answer. She reached Olympic level swimming – making the pre-team for Madagascar in 2000, but now serves as a swimming teacher with OMF in The Philippines. You can hear more of her fascinating story in our full interview.

1.    Achievement is not identity
‘Our sport or our achievement is not our identity. Our identity is in being the person that God calls us to be. But I had to learn that. I was reminded of this during the pandemic – the Olympics was postponed, there were no galas or competitions, yet life goes on!

‘I think sometimes we have such unmet expectations about life and then we push for goals that are maybe not wholesome. And so those who know Christ can ask him: “should I do this or not?”

‘I’m sure you’ve heard of the movie, Chariots of Fire. Eric Lidell talks about feeling the Lord’s joy as he ran. Since I really came to know Jesus, I can say “may my swimming, be a joy to you, Jesus.” I didn’t know that before. I swam for me. I swam from my coaches, I swam for my country. But now I’m swimming for Jesus, teaching for him.’

2.    Use sports to build bridges
‘Take the sport he has given you as a tool to build bridges between you and non-believers.’ Use the sport to be a bridge with non-believers and find the common ground in there and talk to them and be genuine about your faith. You seek God first and His righteousness and everything will be added. 

Don’t treat people as projects, thinking “Okay, I’m going to meet my friend, I’m going to ‘save’ him.” Instead, let’s just swim together, or let’s do sport together and talk about it and do some life together. Then pray for the Lord’s work in that. Be a true friend and then you can introduce them to your best friend!’

3.    Be a humble competitor
You can still be a humble competitor for Jesus. ‘I had to learn that too!’, Hasina says.

4.    Sport is an international language
‘Even if you don’t know the language of the country you are in, sport can build bridges. That’s because the rules are the same around the world. So that’s what you can use to make your first icebreaker and then the rest can follow. I think people can still have a match without conversation. That is the language to start with. So don’t be discouraged, saying: “But oh, I don’t speak the language”. Just go for it. If he’s calling you, he’s going to equip you for it, too.’

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