International Pole-Vaulter Grounds Her Identity In Christ

By Jennifer Penner

No matter who we are or where we come from, we all worship something. It becomes the main thing we live for and base our identity on.

For some, it’s wealth, their job, their family or simply, themselves. For many athletes, it’s their sport.

Twenty-four-year-old university student, Lindsey Bergevin, experienced the overwhelming pressure to excel in track and field for years, until she stopped relying on her sport for a sense of identity and worth, and instead began depending on God.

“I tried to go to church once in awhile, in high school,” Lindsey says, “but

I wasn’t sure what I believed.” Religion and faith in God were not relevant in her life. The world of sport – specifically track and field – was what mattered most to her, and she excelled at high jump.

As a youth, Lindsey was recruited by a local track club after winning multiple competitions and quickly moved up in the sport, at one point becoming the assistant captain of her team. During her second year at the University of Alberta, she discovered Athletes in Action (AIA) on campus and started going to the meetings out of curiosity. “It seemed like an open place where you could ask questions and be yourself,” she says.

Four years ago, Lindsey was one of the top university athletes in Canada to make it to the World University Games (FISU) in Serbia, an international sports competition for students from nearly every country (second only to the Olympics).

With the help of a coach, she trained in high jump for six months while she was there, however, upon returning home, she had to train by herself. “It was then that I hit a plateau,” Lindsey says, “and I almost quit altogether.”

But instead of quitting, Lindsey changed her specialty from high jump to another sport: pole vault. During her training and transition, she learned important lessons about how she viewed herself, and her sport, through the lens of faith. AIA provided the means and support for this transformation. Instead of identifying herself by her sport and the recognition it brought, she learned to ground her identity in God, which freed her from an overwhelming pressure to win and gave her a genuine joy in competing. “It was a blessing… so changing events gave me a chance to start a fresh perspective in sport, and rediscover the joy of it.”

In July 2013, Lindsey qualified again for the FISU Games in Kazan, Russia, this time for pole vault. She competed with 17 other athletes in the sport and placed 10th. As with past FISU Games, AIA was there to support her and other athletes during the competition.

Lindsey is just one of many athletes whose personal and professional lives have been greatly impacted by the ministry and staff of AIA. “I had never heard [an athlete] talk personally about their faith before, that’s what appealed to be about it. That was my first introduction to someone living out their faith.” And, while attending AIA’s National Training Camp, Lindsey also heard and responded to the call to give her sport (and her life) totally to God, without reservation. “That was the moment when I consider myself becoming a Christian,” she says. From then on, she has felt God’s presence and has learned how to invite Him into every area of life.