To initiate this exciting series Mark and Delma Tronson has reflected on this, their 30th year in Sport and Olympic Ministry. It was two years ago they were in Dallas, Texas to receive an International Award, Olympic Ministry Medal, for their years in this ministry, awarded by Olympian of the Century, Carl Lewis.
"When I was a train driver on the New South Wales Government Railways worshipping at the Port Kembla Baptist Church (Illawarra region) in late '60s and early '70s, I can recall wondering why American sports teams boasted chaplains, but our Australian top sports teams didn't have anything similar," M V Tronson remembered.
At that time, he had absolutely no idea that the Lord would one day call him to initiate such a ministry. He enjoyed sport, excelling in track and field, winning the triple jump in Qld, NSW finalist and the Illawarra sprint and jumps' champion. In field hockey, he was with the NSW training squad, was Illawarra captain and the hockey writer for the Illawarra Mercury.
Moving to Sydney
Moving to Sydney for Theological training at Morling College, he began writing hockey articles for the Daily Telegraph and then The Australian newspaper to 1994, covering several Olympic Games, World Cups and Champions Trophies, and had his first of five hockey books published in 1982.
"That same year I was invited to Hong Kong for an international congress on sports mission, from which a vision to establish a ministry to Australia's professional sports was born," M V Tronson noted.
At the time, he was serving as the 'two days a week' industrial padre at Shell Australia with the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) who saw benefit of his interests and expertise, as sports was becoming a growing Australian industry.
On Mark Tronson's return from Hong Kong, ITIM adopted his vision. The CEO Reverend Kenneth L McDowell coined the phrase the 'Sports and Leisure Ministry' (SLM). Three years late in 2005, ITIM released the Sports and Leisure Ministry to established itself under its own auspices under the umbrella of the Heads of Churches, who each appointed their own representative to a national board.
Over the next 18 years of exponential growth, 150 chaplaincy appointments were made (1982-2000) across the nation in professional sports including the AIS in Canberra.
Olympic official, Kevan Gosper AC, was the Shell Australia chairman in Mark Tronson's 12 year tenure as Shell padre. It was Mr Gosper who invited Mark to the IOC in Lausanne Switzerland in 2000 to assist in the development of an Olympic Villages Religious Services 'protocol of ideas'.
A fresh ministry
In 2000 Heads of Churches released Mark and Delma Tronson to Well-Being Australia. The athlete respite facilities: Basil Sellers Moruya, Basil Sellers Tweed and Basil Sellers Laguna Quays are now a major part of their ministry, along with coaches and athletes as mentors to rural and regional Australia with the Country Town Tour (CTT) ministry.
"A number of other ministries have developed under Well-Being Australia such the art and tourism, an international aspect along with Around the Tables with mission leaders," M V Tronson explained.
His prayer and cricket ministries are also a highlight of his long career. He was chaplain to the Australian team for 17 years until 2000, when in a more relaxing role as chairman of Well-Being Australia, he established the Life After Cricket ministry for retired cricketers. In 2007 he extended his athlete respite facility to encompass 'Cricket family respite' in which his wife Delma also ministers.
Five elderly praying ladies
He unreservedly says that the five elderly praying ladies who have committed themselves every day to prayer for himself and his wife, their four children and their ministry over all these years has been a hallmark of their mission.
Moreover, in all these 30 years they have been funded through sacrificial and gracious gifts in 'faith finance'. Those funds have helped with the finances for their ministries, as well as enabling them to raise and educate their family of four, who are now adults. Mark Tronson says that he and his wife Delma enjoy being grand parents.
"Yes, although we have been in the midst of this remarkable story, the very centre has been Jesus Christ. I recall the Reverend Harry Monro teaching at our inaugural Around the Tables in 2002, 'Never touch the glory, it belongs exclusively to God'," Mark Tronson noted.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html