On 11th August a select group of Olympians and sports personalities joined members of North Manchester Seventh day Adventist church in sharing their heartache and pain, joys and tears, faith and belief in achieving their goals.

To open the first event “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” a video message from Audley Harrison, Olympic Gold medallist and former British boxing champion, was played. Audley said “Winning the Olympic gold medal was a combination of hard work and dedication which gave me a personal triumph, all of us have the potential to reach our dreams but you need to be extra determined and faithful to your cause to truly succeed”. Audley went on to say “Faith always plays a part in professional sport; unlike me I would encourage you to listen to your coach Jesus, because your coach’s experience will guide you through”.

The formidable BBC Radio Manchester DJ, Mike Shaft, skilfully probed, cross-examined and scrutinised the driving force behind the successes of our guest sports personalities Geoff Thompson MBE, five time’s World Karate Champion and his wife Jan Thompson, World Games Gold Medallist and UK Karate Champion. How did they arrive at a place where they believed they could touch their dream? Who or what spurred them on? And what did it take to get there, mentally physically and spiritually? Geoff went directly back to his upbringing and paid tribute to his mother as a role model “Sports men and women are not role models, while they may be heroes, parents; they are not qualified to lead your children; that’s your job you are their role models”

Geoff reflected on the values which were instilled in him as a boy “It was the fellowship, love and care of the Stoke Newington brethren and the ‘All London SDA sports days’ which encouraged me, but one member in particularly, brother Pointer, went beyond the call of duty and extended the hand of God in love in a number of practical ways which allowed me to enter the professional sports arena”.

At this year’s official Paralympics Service at Westminster Abby, Geoff explained he was one of the key note speakers, winning his medals were special occasions but the greatest pleasure was to have brother Pointer with him as his guest of honour at the service.

Jan had a Christian upbringing but believes strongly that fair play, equality are missing in society; sports can assist in teaching children some principals but she fears for our youth as there are subtleties which will hold them back, Jan stressed this is where personal integrity is needed. Jan was never placed in a situation where she felt she needed to defend her faith but exercised her faith in a personal way.

A series of tough circumstances led Geoff and others away from the church “God has as sense of humour; I lost my opportunity to enter the Olympics because of my stance over apartheid, my refusal, led my team members to make the same stance eventually we all refuse to attend qualifying competitions for the Olympics in South Africa.

It took some time to recover from this but it didn’t knock me out, God helped me use this disappointment to establish myself as five times world karate Champion without that coveted Olympic medal. I’ve found it’s not attaining the medal itself but the journey you take to get there, it’s the person you become on that journey that makes all the difference, my journey has been similar to the children of Israel; that’s why I say God has a sense of humour. Life’s journey is not straight forward that’s why you need to be prepared and your coach’s experience as Audley said will make all the difference”.

The twists and turns paved the way for a meteoric rise not just thorough the ranks of his chosen sport Geoff changed his track suit to a lounge suit where he established himself as a sports politician and CEO of Youth Charter for Sport.

Geoff and Jan have a passion for young people and have spent twenty five years developing educational and sporting projects in many countries across the world.

Zena Taylor and Clive Palmer led our praise and worship followed by special music from Tyndale Thomas MBE, who encouraged us to allow God to take us through any situation even though the road is tough, and the way is dark. Aden Thomas captured our attention with his hand eye coordination as his agile fingers danced across the keyboard to produce two outstanding pieces of music.

Dr Patrick Herbert closed the evening with an heartening epistle of his own road race “It’s not how you start but where you finish” was his mantra taken from Hebrew 12:1- 3.In life some people can look the part but do not act the part. He gave an analogy of boys and girls at the recent ‘Big 6′ event in Birmingham, many of the young people looked the part of serious sport people but did absolutely nothing on the day, Pastor Herbert outlined a three point strategy for Christians in the race of life;1. Remove yourself, from the distractions of sin which are so inviting don’t even mess with them. 2. Run ……”Let us lay aside every weight distracting us from the running the race set for us” be steadfast you will trip and fall get back up again. 3.

Refocus; train yourself in the word of God for self-defence and discipline. It takes great concentration to focus set specific time aside or devotion and worship with your coach Jesus. “Thy word have I hid in my heart so that I might not sin against thee”. Pastor Herbert emphasised that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted or obstructed by excess weight. What are you carrying in life that you don’t need to, give it to Jesus and leave it with Him.

The event raised £234 for the Moston church Plant. Anyone wishing to support and contribute to our evangelism drive in this unreached area of Manchester you can direct your gifts to the Manchester North Seventh day Adventist Church and your prayers to God for the leading and moving of His Holy Spirit in this area.

The following week, Clive Palmer and Pastor Richard Daley a 2012 Olympic Chaplain and former athlete of distinction, appeared on BBC Radio Manchester with Mike shaft. They spoke of the clear parallels between the Christian race and the preparation and dedication of an athlete with the significant difference being the leading of Christ in once life and the crown of righteousness which will be placed on the head of all who are overcomes in Christ.

Our thanks go to all supporters, those who organised the event, Zena Taylor, and our guests: Tyndale, Aden and Kadria Thomas, Geoff and Jan Thompson and Mike Shaft.

Comments from the Audience

“That was fantastic Geoff Thompson! To be quite honest I’ve never heard of him until tonight, and
believe me I’m going home to Google him, what a guy” Rob Foster

“When I went home on Saturday night I watch the Olympics through different eyes”
Vincent Sibanda

“It was real” Sindiso Mkandla

“I was moved and impressed by the skill of Mikes questioning it seemed so simple but look at the
responses the questions provoked” Patrice Elias

“Mike teased some great personal experiences out of Geoff which connected with my experience
and no doubt others”. Everton Adare

“Totally caught up with the speed and thought processes of Geoff in the answers given”
Basil Lopuzansky

“Very much appreciated all of the guests bearing their souls to keep it real and Mike’s stance over
Easter should teach us much”. Zena Taylor

“Very encourage and my son would like to see them come back.” David Chitokomere

“Very, very knowledgeable individual, a real high calibre event” Dawn McKenzie

“This has been a fascinating experience and a very brave one, a eye opener of en evening for me”
Pastor Patrick Herbert

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