C-N Alum Uses Olympics to Share Faith
Their Father’s Business - David Guinn (right) says he is thrilled at the prospect of witnessing during the coming weeks during the upcoming London Olympics. His excitement is tripled by the fact that he will get to minister with his son-in-law, Chris Ramseur and his grandson, also named Chris.
Since graduating from Carson-Newman in 1970, David and Becky (Williams) Guinn have had quite a life together. The Alabama couple’s ministry took an unexpected and very public turn in 2002 when an allergic reaction to the medicine heparin cost Becky both her hands and feet.
The art teacher left the hospital three months later and discovered new ways to work and new ways to tell the old story of redemption and God’s power. Her story, which includes Educator of the Year honors by local, state and national groups, has been told by a host of media outlets, including CBS News.
“Our lives and our ministry have changed completely,” said David. “God has given Becky a wonderful can-do spirit and I thank God that she is an overcomer. Life happens, but this did not surprise God. He was our Lord before, during the valley of the shadow, and He is our Lord now. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
He will seek to bless the Lord and perform Kingdom work for the next several weeks as he travels to London for the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The director of International Sports Chaplains (ISC), David thinks this could be his best summer ever.
Having been an alternate on U.S. wrestling team at both the 1968 Mexico City and 1976 Montreal Games, David understands athletes and what they feel better than most people. Told that some news accounts and old friends note his Olympic career when they mention him, the chaplain chuckled.
“No great story there,” he asserted. “I was an alternate in ’68; got through the trials but lost in the finals. Same situation in ’76. Of course, as years go on – like fishing stories – others remember it with a lot more glory than was really there.”
He was ranked fifth one year, in the world! He collected a slew of titles and recognitions at the state, national and international levels, amassed an amateur record of 177 wins and six losses (a .967 win percentage), and captured 12 major tournament titles. Wrestling was relegated to a club sport near the end of his C-N career, so he became the team’s player-coach of record. “The only way we could compete the next year was as a club (and we) needed a coach. Several of us banded together to get the job done.”
The club excelled. “I guess you work harder when you put your own sweat and blood in it,” said the ISC founder. “Most of my matches and real growth came from open tournaments across the country.”
It was before the existence of rules upon rules, and perhaps the reason there are such rules now. Event organizers recruited elite competitors to tournaments by paying for flights, lodging and meals, “so they could have the best wrestlers and bragging rights,” reasoned David.
At one tourney, the Southern Open, Guinn was C-N’s sole wrestler but benefitted from the fact that several heavyweights from other teams pinned all of his opponents. “I was the only wrestler from Carson-Newman,” he laughed, “and ‘we’ finished third in the tournament team standings.”
He established ISC as a branch of Action Ministries International when he was the college minister at First Baptist Church, Waco. Working to fulfill the group’s mission, “Bring People To Christ… Build Them Up In Christ… and Send Them Out For Christ,” he has served at 16 Olympic Games, and led ISC chaplains to 13 of those.
ISC chaplains raise their own funds and are assigned to “gold, silver and bronze” teams. Divided into the three groups, each of which works between eight and 12 days, the volunteers go to games, interact with fans and witness through conversations or while swapping souvenir Olympic pins. The gold and silver teams will split the Olympics and the bronze crew heads to London in time for the Paralympics at the end of August. While volunteers seek to raise some $3000, David works to garner much more. He says more than $40,000 goes to providing housing.
Arriving several days before the Games open, David leaves three days after the closing ceremony. He looks forward to the end of the two-week event for the opportunity of sharing Christ with athletes and teams that no longer have the stress of prepping for heats, matches or games.
An added value for Guinn will happen when his son-in-law and grandson, both named Chris, arrive on July 26. Even before leaving his Lanett, Alabama home, he is already thanking God for the opportunity to go serve with the pair, as it will make him the senior member of a unique squad. “I do not know of many ministers who have the opportunity to minister side-by-side, three generations,” he said, then exclaimed, “AMEN!”
Like his father-in-law, Chris Ramseur knows serious athletic competition, having lettered as a University of Tennessee linebacker and playing on the 1998 National Championship team. He married Amanda, a 2000 C-N grad.
Having reached out to fans, athletes and locals since the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, David said that each Olympics has a personality all its own. “In Australia, our biggest problem was locating local churches and groups to follow-up for all those Australians who were making decisions for Christ. In China, we were watched, followed, filmed, had emails blocked, herded, isolated, and just overall controlled while the media showed ‘all is well in China,” HA!”
He is always awed as he and fellow chaplains see God work in people’s lives. In Salt Lake City in 2002, father and son youth pastors Mickey and Jonathan Bailey spoke with fans near one of the venues. Mickey listened to a discouraged father describe his struggles with a rebellious and ungrateful son. Twenty feet away from them, a college student told Jonathan how he longed to get away from his family.
Each minister shared the gospel and both men accepted Christ. After a follow-up session, the Baileys got a chance to say goodbye to the fellows with whom they had spoken, and they received a blessing that David says they will never forget. As the new coverts walked away, their eyes met.
“After a few words, they melted into each other’s arms in a forgiving hug,” said David. “Mickey and Jonathan soon found out that they were father and son. Mickey thanked me with tears in his eyes, and said, ‘This is one of the greatest moments of my ministry, to minister with my son and (see) the greatest decision these two will ever make bring harmony and peace into their lives.’”
He hopes his and Becky’s fellow alums will pray for those going to and from London and that the Olympics will be a good opportunity to serve the Lord in act and deed.
He expects it will be golden.