This is my 42nd year in Christian ministry and it's remarkable to look back and rejoice in what the Lord has done in one's life's ministry. In the midst of this have been some amazing people who have been mentors.
This is a tribute to one of these, the Reverend Roger Reid. Roger loved Delma and me in our early years in Christian ministry and it was his wisdom that saw the development and growth of the sports ministry that I founded.
Reverend Roger Reid was the foundation Chairman of the Sports and Leisure Ministry. Five years ago Roger documented for the first time, why way back in 1982, the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) and Heads of Churches supported me, a young Baptist minister, my vision for ministry into professional sport.
At the time, I was the Shell Australia industrial chaplain in Sydney for two days each week. As a senior coordinator of industrial chaplains, Roger and Marion Reid took on a pastoral role to help Delma and me in this new venture.
Reverend Roger Reid, now 88, said that it is important to repeat what was accurately recorded five years ago, the insights of Heads of Churches over that '18 month foundation' period.
Roger Reid's own words:
We saw that Mark knew his way around Australian sport as an athlete, sportswriter and author. He also had a keen-sighted theological understanding and he conveyed the philosophy of chaplaincy as being management-inclusive. In addition, Mark had an ability to see things through regardless of the level of frustration.
We noted that he carried his passion with integrity and that his wife Delma is ideally suited in supporting him through difficulties that accompany such audacious ventures.
It was certainly provident that 'faith finance support' is a normal part of Christian missionary service in Baptist circles, where 'faith' and not 'money' is seen as the critical ingredient. Mark and Delma were well suited to this.
But Heads of Churches also recognised three 'unquantifiable' factors. Firstly, Mark and Delma convey a spirit of expectancy that others eagerly want to embrace. The second consideration was their remarkable family stability. As you observe the way they have overcome Mark's speech impediment and Delma's hearing impairment, you find any encounter with them and their children memorable and delightful.
The third determining factor was intuitive in that 'only God' brings about such a thing as this. Heads of Churches believed that the Spirit of the Lord was initiating a new paradigm of ministry across the nation. There was confidence and excitement that this new venture would 'open up' vision for 'ministry outside the church walls' in many other people across the community landscape.
Roger tells the story of SLM - Sports and Leisure Ministry
The story of the Sports and Leisure Ministry began in 1982 - it was 23 years later the name changed to Sports Chaplaincy Australia 5 years after Mark and Delma had moved on to Well-Being Australia.
In 1982 Mark was invited to an international sports mission conference in Hong Kong. Both his Baptist denomination and ITIM endorsed his attendance, with the longer-term view that he would pursue a ministry among Australian professional sport people.
Upon his return, Mark Tronson submitted his report to the Baptist Union of NSW and the National Board of ITIM in order to set in train this vision. Thereafter Reverend Kenneth L McDowell (ITIM Director), myself (Roger Reid) and Mark visited each of the Heads of Church denominations to establish endorsement protocols.
Each of these Heads of Church denominations subsequently appointed a representative to what Kenneth McDowell termed the "Sports and Leisure Ministry" (SLM), under my care (Roger Reid), and I was appointed as the foundation Chairman. These representatives became accountable to the Heads of Churches.
At the inaugural national board meeting, a gathering of senior churchmen prayed their blessing on Mark Tronson so as to initiate this new work as a 'faith financed mission'. Over the following 18 years SLM grew to 250 part time volunteers of which 150 were chaplains to sports.
In March 2000 Heads of Churches released Mark and Delma Tronson so that they could establish a less demanding ministry (Well-Being Australia), as they continued their well established cricket ministry, Olympic ministry and their respite ministry for Australian Institute of Sport athletes at 'Basil Sellers House' in Moruya.
The year 2000 a milestone
Subsequently, Mark and Delma Tronson have duplicated this respite ministry at Basil Sellers Tweed, and Mark has found his own respite and relaxation in diversifying into an Art ministry, Country Town Tours, a young writers ministry with Christian Today, along with his own daily column and expanded the respite ministry to missionaries and pastors retreat at Laguna Quays on the Whitsundays.
The story of Mark and Delma Tronson that started with SLM all those years ago, still continues into the future in a different format.
It has been noted that people come away from Mark and Delma's pastoral care or conversations over a cuppa, with the conviction that with God, anything can be achieved; and achieved in the joy of the Lord.
Roger Reid concludes
In recalling this history we give credit to God for what He has achieved as His Spirit led Mark and us all into the Sports and Leisure Ministry and its continuing off shoots.
* Mark Tronson says those 18 years - I felt an empowerment by the Spirit of the Lord as I travelled across the nation meeting with professional sport administrations / coaches introducing the value of a local chaplain. The nature of those many singular endeavours left me utterly physically and emotionally exhausted. It was my wife Delma and our four little children softened my many recuperations. Our sport ministry chairmen's over those years in devoted support help up my arms: Roger Reid, Ross Clifford and (the late) Peter Thomson (Tony Blair's friend and chaplain).
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 mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html