Training Ground for the Gospel

Apr 10, 2024

Athletes in Action’s volunteers have enriched their community for over 50 years. David and Vanessa Beard are vital members who embody what it means to serve Christ through sport. Together, they’ve given tirelessly on behalf of AIA, sharing the hope of the gospel with athletes from university to the pros. From over 10 years of ministry with AIA, they see sport as the ideal training ground for the Gospel.

Longing for Community

Dave moved to Edmonton for his freshman year at the University of Alberta. He felt adrift after leaving the comfort and familiarity of family and church. Dave prayed for a solid community to connect with. When one of his football coaches introduced the AIA team—Dave instantly knew it was the community he was looking for.

Dave started attending weekly AIA meetings and soon became a leader. This is where he met Vanessa, who was already a leader on AIA’s Student Athlete Leadership Team (SALT).

Years later, at a mutual friend’s wedding, their friendship grew into something more. Now they’re married with a family of three wonderful children.

David and Vanessa Beard with three boys

An Ideal Training Ground

As Dave and Vanessa reflect on over a decade of ministry with AIA, they see sport as the ideal training ground for the Gospel and sharing Christ’s love. “Sport is the platform that you get to reach into people’s lives,” says Vanessa. “Sport creates a natural relationship. Then you’re able to build on those relationships…and speak into their life and share God’s love.”

Dave got drafted into the Canadian Football League in 2015. He spent nearly a decade as an offensive lineman for the Edmonton Elks and, more recently, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Dave is committed to using this platform to share God’s message. He actively supports the team chaplaincy program, where he engages in everything from weekly Bible studies to team prayers before and after games.

“There’s a bit of a barrier that gets broken down between teams when guys are looking to the cross as opposed to looking across the goal line at each other,” he says. “There’s a very cool relationship that gets established when you’re bonding over Jesus as opposed to the pigskin.”

Finding Identity

Dave and Vanessa have strong connections to AIA and the CFL. Their active participation in four Grey Cup Breakfasts and the preceding Pro Week has been a gift to these communities. The events have been inspiring, bringing together professional athletes, chaplains, local churches, and fans—believers and non-believers alike. Something Dave and Vanessa deeply resonate with. 

“God doesn’t want to be compartmentalized,” Dave says. “Sport is a huge part of a lot of people’s lives… [It’s a place] where we get to experience God’s creation and experience the challenges of our human existence. Sport is incredibly revelatory for our human condition. It lends itself to be a great opportunity to see how and why God is working in our lives.”

Thank you for your partnership in prayer and support. Your commitment allows volunteers like Dave and Vanessa Beard to build community, support God’s mission, and share the good news of God’s love.


Written By: Athletes in Action


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