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Olympics match Baptist chaplain with Costa Rican skier

TURIN, Italy (BP)–It might not be as widely known as the Jamaican bobsled team, but the Costa Rican cross-country skiing team has been a fixture at the Winter Olympics for more than two decades.

Steve Sellers, a Southern Baptist pastor in Canada, serves as the coach for the lone member of the ski team, Arturo Kinch.

“We came before the Jamaican bobsled team,” Sellers said. “It goes all the way back to 1980 in the Olympics in Lake Placid. So [Kinch] was two Olympics before the Jamaican bobsled team.”

In addition to his role as Kinch’s coach, Sellers also will serve as a chaplain during the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. The Games officially begin tonight with the opening ceremony, with athletes from across the world chasing Olympic gold for the next 16 days.

Sellers hopes some of the athletes may encounter God amid their quest for Olympic glory.

He recalls his experience as Olympic chaplain in 1998, when numerous athletes from Eastern European countries stopped by the chapel center every night for a Bible discussion group.

“All these different athletes were there for the Olympics, but a lot of them were really investigating the Lord,” Sellers said. “It was an exciting time. We’re hoping things like that will materialize again, but only God can make that happen.”

Sellers began serving as a chaplain during the Olympics in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. This year he’s one of 10 chaplains who will staff the chapel center, which serves the two Olympic villages.

As chaplain, he’ll lead Bible studies for those who want to attend, listen to those who want to talk and pray with those who have needs.

“You’ve got to watch your evangelistic practices,” Sellers said. “For me, that’s the idea, but you have to be careful in that setting. The organizers don’t want you out there proselytizing.”

Sellers is pastor of Alpine Christian Ministries church in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. For the past 12 years he’s also served as chaplain for the National Sports Center in Calgary, where athletes from around the world come to train and compete.

That included Kinch, who came to Calgary in 2002 for a competition. A mutual friend put Kinch in touch with Sellers, and the two became friends. Kinch asked Sellers to serve as his coach.

The son of a missionary couple in Costa Rica, Kinch moved to Colorado in 1974 to attend Rockmont College, now Colorado Christian University. His main sport was soccer, but he went out for the ski team to get in shape.

“He really took to it,” Sellers said. “He loved it and was really good at it, so he kept it going.”

This year in Turin will mark the fifth Winter Olympics in which Kinch has competed as a cross-country skier.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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