The Gospel at the Olympics – August 2016

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Gather the Nations

There’s something inherently special and powerful that happens when people from the whole world gather together. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit broke out within the newborn Church and spread through the 3,000 pilgrim-believers that were saved in that day.

The 2016 Olympics just ended this past Sunday, and – with the work Cru’s ministry Athletes in Action (AIA) – the seeds of the Gospel are heading to the world from Rio de Janeiro as well. Using the newly-updated Jesus Film Project app about 100 multilingual staff used a short film, and a series of videos called Struggle and Triumph to share the message of Jesus with Olympic athletes, their families, and fans. Some, like AIA staff member Tim Pitcher, are able to serve even as official chaplains in the Olympic village.

Struggle & Triumph

The film, also given out in DVD form, contains the testimonies of 4 Olympians & Paralympians from the US, Brazil, China, and Kenya. Their stories touch on issues of doubt, failure, idolatry of the sport, rejection, sanctification, blessing, and clear calls to follow Jesus Christ.

I found Li Yan’s story particularly powerful – this is how the lead AIA staff member described it: 

“…an Olympic speed skater and coach from China and just how people initiated her when she was in the US and in Europe and invited her to church, and through that relationship led her to Christ. Now she has an impact on her team, and through her story she’s able to now impact the millions of people from China and those living outside of China who are interested in her story.”

Rio & Beyond

Now that the games are over, people are headed home, but that’s the whole purpose of this project. Pitcher says. “[AIA staff are] here to be able to minister to the athletes from their country or their language group and really try… to be able to meet with them, resource them, so if they go back home, they’re going to have copies of God’s Word that they can get through security and customs that a normal missionary might not.

Praise God that He is using technology, people, sports, film, and His word to bring people to Himself, and to send them out to the world, and – sometimes – back to their home countries.

Pray For

  • The Athletes

    The athletes, families, and friends returning to their homes around the world, that the Gospel will take route

  • Our Family

    Our continued work on our financial support team is going well, but we still have work to go! Pray for Jayson’s two trips, and for the family as he’s away in September & October.

  • Homeschooling

    Fia has started kindergarten as a part of a local homeschool co-op. Pray for her learning, and for Carrie’s new “job” as teacher.

Back in the Office [Video]

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We’re back in Orlando and glad to be. Some updates on our household, what we’ve been up to and what the next few moths hold in store for us.

Please be praying for all of us as I travel by myself a bunch over the next couple months.

The End of the Whelpley Family Tour 2016 [Video]

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Our family’s “East Coast Tour” is coming to an end on Monday, and we’re all looking forward to our own beds. Keep an eye on our Facebook page in the near future. I’m going to try to start doing regular video updates on us, and our work.

A Letter from Carrie: “Theology with skin on”

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I was icing cakes in preparation for a house full of 5 year olds while the news of the shootings in Orlando was coming out a month ago today. Admittedly, it is a challenge to process a massacre of such proportions while up to one’s elbows in pink frosting.

It wasn’t until Sunday evening gathering for dinner and worship with our church family – some of whom live a few blocks from the tragedy – that I started to enter into the grief of our city to let it sink in.

But how can it, really? There’s been so much bad news lately. A friend from our time in DC widowed by a drunk driver, left alone with his 4-year-old son. A young woman gunned down for her professed faith in Jesus following her performance a block from where our church used to meet. Cops outside our front door telling the scared neighbor that laws prevent removal of her unstable roommate without injunction or eviction paperwork – even after a woman just around the corner was murdered in her own driveway last month. Deaths and injustice in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and elsewhere.

It hit me that evening during communion. Body. Blood. The eucharist has never been more visceral to me. We’d spend all day secluded in our idyllic backyard celebrating life with our little lambs, then ventured out to come to terms with 50 senseless slayings in our city. Now, as we sang “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,” I found myself on my knees in tears.

But this is the miracle, isn’t it? The God of the universe put on flesh and walked among us, fragile as the water balloons at Fia’s party. Lived immaculately, died gruesomely, rose victoriously, and delegated the “body” work to us, his Church, until his return.

Google is a modern miracle, right? Whatever information anyone could need, at our fingertips instantly…

“Siri, what is ‘substitutionary atonement?’”


But as Jayson and I have been taking some required seminary courses this summer, I can’t help but think this is why we do this. When our friend down the street told me out of the blue that she had decided to go back to church and agreed to process it over coffee, she was acknowledging what we all know: people don’t just need facts, we need theology with skin on. There is some qualitative difference between mere words on a page and truth spoken by a face, lived out in real time with a counted cost. Since Xander’s birth, it’s become evident to me that my role in this season will revolve primarily around our household rather than campus ministry, to free up Jayson to continue his work with the Jesus Film. I take another step back from the “front lines” of ministry with mixed feelings.

No matter what – wherever we are – true views of God and his word matter much, not only in our daily lives, but in everything we do and bump into, from design decisions with to being good neighbors, to disciplining a stubborn 2-year-old or balancing the household budget.

We appreciate your prayers that our family would – at work, play and all the spaces in between – be good theology with skin on, speaking and fleshing out the bad news about humanity and the good news about Jesus faithfully and fruitfully.

Thanks again for all you do to partner with us in this – it lifts us up more than you know.