FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–His father abandoned him before he was born. His teenage mother married a “dirt-poor” farmer who died tragically just 13 years later.
In athletics, he earned the name “Miler Mings.” In business, he would quickly become one of Dallas’ richest entrepreneurs.
In the early 1970s Sam Mings could be spotted cruising through Dallas in his gold, custom-made El Dorado or playing tennis on his backyard court. He is now preparing to fly to Sydney, Australia, for his fifth consecutive Summer Olympics.
An athlete? A sports fan? A sports agent? No, Mings is a soul-winner, challenging athletes — and anyone else he meets — to trust Christ.
The go-get-’em spirit that helped Mings trade rags for riches has made him one of the most effective chaplains and evangelists in the Olympic community. Lay Witnesses For Christ International, founded by Mings in 1981 and based in North Richland Hills, Texas, includes multiple ministries and volunteer offices in 38 countries.
Through LWFCI, thousands of athletes in 110 nations have professed Christ, including some of the biggest names in Olympic history. For 19 years, LWFCI has ministered at major sporting events by evangelizing through outreaches and rallies, sharing Christ with athletes and helping Christian athletes use their platform for Christ.
Anyone interested in ministering with Mings and LWFCI in Sydney can contact him at (817) 284-3594, [email protected] or P.O. Box 127, Hurst, TX 76053-0127.
Mings helps arrange meetings for the athletes to give testimonies, including “An Evening with the Stars,” an event featuring gold medalists which has been broadcast worldwide.
LWFCI saturates the host city with ministry, manning hospitality stations in the Olympic Village, witnessing door-to-door, leading clinics, visiting hospitals and using talents to draw crowds for gospel presentations.
“I appreciate that you and the team came to WORK,” wrote Phyllis Baker, Baptist minister in Spain, in a letter to Mings after the 1992 Olympics. In addition to daytime duties, volunteers cleaned bathrooms, washed dishes and cooked meals, breaking the stereotype that “Spaniards sometimes have … of Americans coming in flashing money and not doing much real evangelism,” Baker wrote.
LWFCI also sponsors a Right Track Prevention Program, in which athletes warn students about substance abuse, premarital sex and gangs; Stars for Christ, which organizes teams to compete with church and community teams and to evangelize; a speakers bureau; and The Christian Athlete of the Year Award in Texas.
Ministry was the furthest thing from Mings’ mind when, as a landscaping specialist in the 1970s, he would net $20,000 to $30,000 some months.
Born to a 16-year-old girl who was abandoned by the man who got her pregnant, Mings gained a father when his mother married Frank Mings.
Mings grew up loving plants and learning about them on the family farm. He worked summers selling vegetables, developing a strong work ethic. Mings found himself the head of his family at 13, however, when Frank was killed by a drunken driver.
When he heard of his father’s death, Mings, a new runner, bargained with God: “If you bring Daddy home, I’ll run a 4-minute mile.”
Daddy never came home, but Mings earned a track scholarship at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he ran a 4:19 mile, a fast time in the 1950s.
Financial needs at home cut short Mings’ schooling. Back home, he met and married Sharon. He also became a landscaping foreman at Six Flags Over Texas, quickly learning the trade. He used his entrepreneurial prowess to open a business, which soon developed into 10 businesses. Mings was voted the second most promising young Texan. Suddenly, bankruptcy hit, followed by deep depression.
Mings lay day after day by his tennis court, devastated. Finally Sharon admitted to Mings as she stood over his cross-armed body lounging outside, “Honey, I’ve been praying that God gets all your attention.”
With that, Mings read “From Prison to Praise” and learned to pray unceasingly and to give thanks in all situations. Though Mings was a Christian, success had weakened his faith.
Financial devastation, Mings realized, “got me to where I could praise God for everything.” He and Sharon began witnessing to neighbors, sometimes fitting 200 onto their tennis court for a gospel presentation. Sharon fixed hair free for the elderly if she and her husband could share Christ with them. People — lots of people — were saved.
Mings committed himself to full-time ministry, traveling with a ministry that included the late Hal Brooks, pastor of Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth who discipled Mings. While Brooks preached to masses in stadiums, Mings shared Christ in local restaurants, at bars and on planes. People were being saved.
Then he passed out during a flight. Doctors said cholesterol was not breaking down properly in his blood and he had only two weeks to live. A doctor agreed to a last resort: a heart transplant. Meanwhile Mings shared Christ with his nurses, visitors and flower deliverers. Pre-surgery tests, though, revealed a miracle — Mings’ heart was fine.
“God is in the business of restoring people,” Mings said. “He’s not through with me yet or he would’ve taken me.”
Evangelist James Robison asked him in 1980 to speak to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the University of Tennessee. Wearing a $400 suit a man bought him when Mings’ funeral was imminent, he spoke to athletes like Reggie White, later an NFL all-pro defensive end, and Willie Gault, a future Olympian and Chicago Bears wide receiver. Thirty-eight, including Gault, were saved the first day.
Snow forced Mings to stay longer, and more than 100 people were saved on day two. A revival began in track and field. People encouraged Mings to start a ministry, which he did.
With $38 in his pocket, Mings traveled to Baton Rouge for the 1981 NCAA Track and Field Championships. He set up refreshments in a motel room while Gault invited athletes to Bible study. For five nights Mings preached to the athletes jammed into the small room, pointing to each and asking, “Have you invited Jesus in? If you died today, would you go to heaven?” Seventy-eight athletes came to Christ, including Olympic great Carl Lewis.
Mings became a close friend of Lewis, later conducting the “home-going” service for Lewis’ father. Mings attends every major event in which Lewis competes. Lewis is now an LWFCI board member and minister.
“God has no hidden agenda,” Mings said. “Without a broken spirit, we won’t be used mightily. The world needs to see Christians as they really are — it is OK for them to see you hurting and tired. That’s when God works through you in supernatural ways. That is up to you, though. Choose today to not just take up space.”
Mings’ next stop is the Sydney Olympics. And he won’t be there just taking up space. Nor will he be running.
Mings will be witnessing.