December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Facing mounting adversity, a seemingly improbable run to have a chance of making the playoffs and an employment guillotine hanging over their heads on a daily basis, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' God Squad is standing strong.
In fact, the team's 1-8 record has the two dozen or so Christian members of the football club more committed to their faith than ever.
Sure, they get some good-natured ribbing about not praying hard enough or questions whether the Almighty's lines of communications to Investors Group Field have gone down, but they're not wavering from what they believe is God's plan for them.
"I don't think you can pray enough at this point," said Mike Renaud, punter and chapel leader. "We just have to stick with it. Our whole faith-based group is just being relentless, being determined and walking with God through the good and bad. You have to pick each other up when you're down. It's really hard, especially when you're 1-8. It's easy to turn your back on (God) and your teammates and give up, but that's when we have to stick with it even more."
Overseeing the Bombers' religious operations is Lorne Korol, the team's chaplain. He said there are more Bombers in his Bible study group -- about 22 or 23 -- than he has ever had before. In addition to leading a game-day chapel for the team, he'll do the same for the visitors at their hotel. He'll also meet one-on-one with players.
He said professional athletes, just like the regular people who pay to watch them perform, can veer away from God when things are going well. When things hit rock-bottom, however, they come back, often very quickly.
"Not only are the players learning about God and growing spiritually, but they're drawing closer together as a brotherhood. As they draw together, they become one of the core leadership groups of the team," he said.
Korol also performs the same role with the Winnipeg Jets and, until this just-completed baseball season, was the chaplain for the Winnipeg Goldeyes, too.
Football players are much more open about their faith than many other athletes -- hockey players, for example -- largely because it's so ingrained in the U.S., where most football players are developed.
Henoc Muamba, middle linebacker and assistant chapel leader for the Bombers, is proud to say religion has always been a big part of his life. He doesn't believe it makes you a better or worse football player, but it helps keep him grounded and gives him balance not only on the field but in life.
"There are a lot of times when things don't go your way.
You don't get that win or you don't get what you expect to get, but it's how you look at it (that's important). When you know God is still on your side despite what is happening, you can still make it through," he said.
Renaud said he doesn't like to ask God to pick sides and help the Bombers win, but he and his teammates will say it anyway.
"We know He's not going to show favouritism, but it speaks volumes that we want this really badly. Whether it's right or wrong to ask that, it shows commitment from the guys," he said.
"Regardless of the outcome, you always want God in your corner. Sometimes you just have to ask for it."
Some of the go-to verses Bombers chaplain Lorne Korol uses with his players:
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself."
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 A4
Updated on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 7:42 AM CDT:
replaces photo, adds video