The fatal crash of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old from Georgia, weighed heavily on the opening ceremonies, and chaplains made themselves available to athletes. In a small office in the Olympic Village, Paul Kobylarz leads this year's Christian chaplaincy program, his fifth Olympics to serve as a chaplain.
"There's been a lot of confidence displayed toward us being there as a support to handle the questions that come along with a situation like this—the purpose of life and questions about our mortality," Kobylarz told Christianity Today on Saturday. "We are here to try to answer those questions for the athletes and delegations and to give support in those areas."
Like many of the chaplains, Kobylarz speaks to athletes from personal experience, having spent three years in Sweden playing professional hockey and 20 years working in sports ministry. Working with athletes at the Olympics is different from other kinds of sports ministry, such as acting as a team chaplain for a professional team, said Kobylarz, who recently became the minister of sports outreach at Traders Point Christian Church in Indianapolis.
"If you are an NFL or NHL team chaplain, you are working with one sport and one coach," Kobylarz said. "Here at the Olympics, you are meeting someone new each time. People drop in from all over the world, and you don't know anything about them or their background, maybe very little about their culture."
Kobylarz was responsible for recruiting Protestant chaplains, so he looked for bilingual chaplains who are in full-time ministry, usually in sports ministry. The Olympic chaplains lead devotions, Bible studies, and worship services from morning to evening as part of the multi-faith chaplaincy programs that share ...