News Articles

Olympics: USOC volunteers strive to be ‘a light for Jesus’

RIO DE JANEIRO (BP) — Their relationship began because of tragedy, as Craig and Beverly Bohnert each had experienced their share of pain and heartache.

But the Lord used those tragedies to bring them together. And now the Bohnerts, who served as volunteers for the U.S. Olympic Committee this year in Rio, are doing their best to be faithful witnesses for him in the work that God has called them to do.

“As God opens doors, we’re able to minister,” Beverly said. “I’m just asking God to help us be a light. There are a lot of people in this whole arena that don’t know the Lord. It’s just about really trying to be a light for Jesus anywhere we go.”

Craig Bohnert works with the USOC communication efforts, writing news stories and bulletins about Olympic events for the media. Originally from Evansville, Ind., Craig’s interest in the Olympics began when he was a 14-year-old boy watching the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He was working as a student manager for his grade school basketball team at the time.

“I wonder if they need people like student managers,” Craig thought as he watched the Games. “That’s where I initially had that dream grow.”

He began college at Purdue with plans to be a veterinarian before a disaster redirected his course back home to Evansville and into sports communications. His brother Jeff was on scholarship as a student manager in the athletic department at the University of Evansville.

In December of 1977, Jeff was on a plane with the basketball team that crashed upon takeoff, killing all 29 on board. The school transferred Jeff’s scholarship to Craig, who returned home to finish his schooling and to work as a student manager himself.

“Even when he was gone, he opened doors for me,” Craig said of his older brother. “The Lord led me through some really eye-opening experiences in that darkness.”

One of the pieces he wrote for a basic newswriting course caught the attention of the sports information director at Evansville, and he got Craig’s scholarship moved into his office.

That began Craig’s career in sports media that would lead him to work for such organizations as USA Canoe/Kayak, USA Gymnastics, Murray State University and the National Soccer Coaches Association. His work with the USOC began in 1984 in Los Angeles when a friend got him in as a volunteer. He worked with the Olympic movement off-and-on over the years until he started his role as a press officer at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He’s been at every Olympics, summer and winter, since then.

Beverly, meanwhile, grew up in France as the daughter of missionaries.

Her French husband Patrick had dreamed about owning an inn in the United States, and in 2009 he and Beverly purchased the Inn on Crescent Lake in Excelsior Springs, Mo., outside Kansas City. Less than a year later, Patrick died of a heart attack at age 52.

After a period of grieving, and with the help of her daughter, Beverly set up a profile on match.com. That’s how she and Craig met.

“I was still wearing my wedding ring, still suffering the grief of losing my husband,” Beverly said. “We decided then that we would have a journey of memory and thanking God for the memories of the people that were in our lives that he took early.”

While Beverly was a Christian, Craig was not. He had grown up as a Roman Catholic but said he was “seeking spiritually” when he and Beverly met.

“I knew that I had questions,” he said. “As a preacher’s daughter, she had the answers.”

“He knew that I wasn’t going to date somebody that wasn’t a Christian,” Beverly said.

Craig started attending church with Beverly, who eventually led Craig to trust in Christ as his savior.

“I think it’s probably the most beautiful and sincere sinner’s prayer I’d ever heard,” she said. “It was precious. And I knew it wasn’t for me. It was because he really, truly had met Jesus.”

The Bohnerts are now active members of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo. They continue to run the inn for the time being but are exploring the possibility of moving onto something else.

Beverly accompanies Craig to the Olympics, doing her own volunteer work with the USOC. She serves at the USOC welcome desk in the press center, helps transport athletes, keeps food stocked and distributes guest passes.

While Craig volunteers because he loves the Olympics, Beverly’s motivation is a little different.

“The main thing is watching my husband work,” she said. “That’s my favorite thing, just to be with him.”

    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.

    Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›