By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — By his own admission Chip Simmons, Denver Broncos chaplain and president of After the Game Ministries, is a silly guy. But when it comes down to it, prayer is what fuels his life he told those gathered for the National Prayer Luncheon in the Club ballroom March 11.
Simmons spoke about transition and how it is inevitable in both professional sports and in military life, beginning with a bit of his own story.
Simmons, grandson of a Pentecostal preacher, said he left the church when he was about 15 years old.
“I didn’t want anything to do with God,” he said. “But then my life started falling apart, it spiraled out of control.”
His biggest transition came in 1993 when he was working with the Philadelphia Phillies who just defeated the Atlanta Braves for the right to represent the National League in the World Series. He said that, in the midst of the celebratory din, a man came by and whispered in his ear.
“He said, ‘Jesus loves you and wants to do great stuff in your life,’” Simmons said. “I thought he was nuts.”
Not long after the events of that night Simmons was sitting in his room when he recalled the voice of his grandmother reciting a portion of scripture found in Esther 4:14: “… for such a time as this…” Simmons said it was at that moment when he felt God was telling him to get his act together. And a major transition began.
He began attending a Bible study and in one of those meetings a question — if you died tonight would you be ready to meet God — was raised. The rhetorical question was followed by the teacher saying, “if you don’t know you should run to the altar.”
Moments later in the meeting Simmons found himself in a footrace with Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Derrick Oden to get to the altar. Simmons acknowledged Oden’s speed, but added that he was faster that night. After that night his life underwent a transition for the better.
“Not like it was pie in the sky, but different. I know how to deal with life now,” he explained.
In the military, just as in sports, transition is a matter of when, not if transition will happen. The best way to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety often related to transition is to find peace and the best way to do that is through prayer.
“I know you guys go where there is no peace,” Simmons said. “Your peace has to be found (within). If you can’t find peace in here, you’ll never find it out there. Transition is hard, but God said ‘find your peace in me.’”
He said it was while in prayer he got the idea to start After the Game Ministries, a ministry for athletes after they leave professional sports. He said it all comes back to prayer and now the ministry is going strong.
He also expressed his appreciation for those who serve in the military.
“I love this country,” Simmons said. “I thank you for what you do. There are not words enough to thank you.”
Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Boarts, 21st Space Wing chaplain, was pleased with the entire event which involved a number of people coming together to make it happen.
“Chaplain Simmons opened our hearts with levity, while delivering a message reminding us of the importance of prayer and of being part of something larger than ourselves and our immediate circumstances. This is especially important in times of transition,” Boarts said. “It was great seeing so many from Team Peterson coming together in celebration of prayer. We appreciated the support and participation from not only the 21st SW Chapel team, but also the AFSPC and NORAD/NORTHCOM Chapel teams.”
In addition to Simmons, a number of others came together to make the event a success. The U.S. Air Force Academy Band Chamber Ensemble led the audience in singing the National Anthem, followed by the invocation given by Chaplain (Col.) Timothy Butler, Headquarters AFSPC chaplain. Prayer for our nation was led by Chaplain (Maj.) Daniel Forman, 21st SW, while Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Casey, 21st SW, led prayer for AFSPC and deployed personnel. The closing benediction was offered by Navy Chaplain (Capt.) Brenda Bradley-Davila, Command Chaplain for NORAD/NORTHCOM.