"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 and the Illawarra sprint and jumps' champion. In field hockey, he was with the NSW training squad, was Illawarra captain and hockey writer for the Illawarra Mercury.
Moving to Sydney for Theological training at Morling College, he began writing hockey articles for the Daily Telegraph and then The Australian newspaper, 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).
Olympic administrator, Kevan Gosper AC, was the Shell Australia chairman in M V 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'.
In 2000 Heads of Churches released Mark and Delma Tronson to Well-Being Australia. The athlete respite facilities, Basil Sellers Moruya and Basil Sellers Tweed 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.
But above all, M V Tronson considers his prayer and cricket ministries are 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.
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 27 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.
M V Tronson proudly says that the two eldest are married, and 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'," M V Tronson noted.