The Commonwealth Games 2022, with its medley of unforgettable performances, came to its impressive climax on 8th August 2022. Over 1.5 million spectators watched the various Athletes compete. With 280 events across 20 sports and over 5000 athletes participating, another team gave an extraordinary service that ensured that the games, the spectators, and even the athlete's needs were met.
This group was referred to as "the army of 14,000 volunteers". Pastor Obinnaya Iheoma (known by many as Pastor Obi) was one such volunteer (having numerous strings to his bow, from Pastor to University Chaplain, to Police Chaplain, to Teacher and much more). For this event, his title was Commonwealth Games Chaplain. From the onset of the selection process, he was hand-picked to be part of the group that would select the spiritual volunteers for this great event. From 25,000, he was involved in the interview process, which whittled this extensive number down to 14,000.
Being based at the Commonwealth Games Village, Birmingham University, he was available to both athletes and spectators to assist with their spiritual, mental and physical needs whilst attending the Games. Pastor Obi states that one particular highlight for him was supporting both the winners and the losers who competed in the Commonwealth Games (praying for them before they competed and also praying for them after their event. Celebrating with the winners, and commiserating with those whose event did not go the way they hoped). Pastor Obi recounts, with excitement, how the athletes came together for worship in the Chaplaincy Marquee.
Affirming and publicly appreciating the work of the 14,000 volunteers, a small group from this number – referred to as the Commonwealth Games Collectives – were given the Spirit of Birmingham Award. Pastor Obi was in that group. This took place on Monday 6th March 2023, at a red-carpet event (the Pride of Birmingham Awards Night) held at the Great Hall, Birmingham University, attended by celebrities and community members.
When reflecting on his experience, he said, "I would do it all over again. This time I would encourage more Seventh-day Adventists to get involved. This is an aspect of my ministry I will never forget, as I was able to minister to athletes and community members in fresh and meaningful ways."