By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — A longtime prominent name in the Northwest’s sports community says the local YMCA’s efforts to energetically represent Christ to a spiritually needy area are not unlike the rough and tumble of an athletic contest.
“If Christ is in that (YMCA) name, and in that foundation, we have to get serious, and we have to get ‘dirty’,’’ Neil Lomax told hundreds gathered Oct. 22 at the seventh annual Christian Principles Celebration and Impact Event sponsored by the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette.
Held, fittingly, at the Multnomah Athletic Club, the dinner each year focuses on the intentional efforts the local YMCA is making to re-emphasize the agency’s Christ-centered heritage and purposes. “We’re seeking to really illuminate the ‘C’ in YMCA,” said Bob Reichen, vice president of mission advancement and one of two chaplains within the Portland-Vancouver metro area agency. “And it’s events like this that help to reaffirm that commitment.”
Under the direction of CEO and President Robert Hall, the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette has for several years deliberately put a fresh focus on the historic Christian founderation on which the global YMCA movement was built in the mid-19th century.
Under Reichen’s direction, assisted by Clark County YMCA Chaplain Roger Button, the local YMCA promotes Christian principles for all new staff; provides teaching and modeling tools focusing on personal witness, leadership development and conferences; establishes partnerships with regional churches and other Christian institutions, and more.
Raised in the Portland area, Lomax became an NCAA legend as a standout player at Portland State University; in one game he threw for seven touchdown passes in a single quarter. He then went on to play professionally for the St. Louis and Phoenix Cardinals of the NFL. Retiring from the NFL in 1990, he launched a sports event management company in Portland that he has since sold. He has been active with a wide range of youth outreaches, including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Young Life and Special Olympics of Oregon. He also currently works as a mentor to students at Portland’s Roosevelt High School.
Through it all, it has been “so great to have God as the foundation of my life,” said Lomax, who said he gave his heart to Jesus as a result of attending a Christian camp as a youth.
Lomax said his experience in working with youth has taught him that successful outreach really has a simply formula.
“Do you know what these kids want?” he said. “They just want to be loved.”
Lomax said the YMCA, like the other ministries he mentioned, is “a great cause,” and he commended the local Y for staying true to its Christian roots.
But he told the dinner crowd that keeping the YMCA an effective, spiritually vibrant outreach locally requires the consistent support of many local friends.
“If we’re on God’s team, we’ve got to rally here and get playing,” he said.