Football, Athletes in Action, and Changing Culture on Campus

As we sit across from each other, slurping Pho on drizzly, frozen day, I almost forget to ask Cody Lind the questions I had written down. It’s easy to get sidetracked in conversation with him—his easygoing, extroverted nature makes him an easy person to talk to, which works well in his vocation.

Cody is a Westside-supported missionary working with Athletes in Action. His mission fields are campuses, but more specifically locker rooms, sidelines, and gyms. His unreached people group is university athletes who are constantly training, overwhelmed with school, and don’t have time to meet up for coffee.

Power to Change, the nonprofit organization overseeing Athletes in Action, has this mission statement: “Helping people know Jesus and experience His power to change the world.” At Westside our mission is to “make Jesus known.” Whether it’s Athletes in Action or Westside, Cody has a desire to make Jesus known with whatever platform he’s given.

Cody and AIA

In 2008, Cody moved from Calgary to Burnaby to attend SFU and play varsity football. Having grown up in a Christian home, he was excited to explore his faith independent of his parents. But, like many first-year Christian students, he had trouble doing this and found it difficult meeting other Christian students he could relate to. “You know,” Cody says, “I went out to some Christian groups on campus but I didn’t really feel like I could totally be myself.” Being an athlete was such a big part of his identity and it was hard finding Christian students who shared that same passion. “Sport was who I was but I couldn’t explore that in the context of faith.”

Two years went by and Cody stayed mostly disconnected from any strong Christian community. That was until 2010 when his dad suddenly died. Away from home and without a strong community to support him, Cody was challenged to ask a lot of big questions. What was his purpose? Why was he placed at SFU? He didn’t feel abandoned by God, but he did feel God prodding him to go out and find answers. “At that point there was a sign posted on our locker room door and it said, ‘Come out to this Athletes in Action meeting’.” Cody knew that Athletes in Action had something to do with sports and Christianity; and since that kind of described him, he decided to check it out.

At the meeting, Cody and the AIA leader, Jarret, immediately bonded. Jarret had an athletic background and wanted to meet with Cody one-on-one to help him through some of these big life-questions. “What are the truths? What do I have to acknowledge? What is this worldview that I find myself immersed in?” From this mentorship, Cody found answers to some of these questions and started growing a faith that was independent of his parents.

Shortly after Cody finished his degree he started raising support and joined AIA staff in 2013.

Culture Changer

Cody knows that to be a part of culture-change on campus you need to first be a part of the culture. One of Cody’s roles as AIA staff is serving as SFU football’s chaplain. Being the chaplain and also having such a long history with the team means he’s a part of the makeup of SFU football and a large part of SFU athletics. “I know the coaches, I know the physio staff who are aware of what we do,” Cody says, “I love the fact that God is using my story to bring redemption to the campus.” People know him and know his story and God’s using this to bring change to the culture of SFU.

While one part of Cody’s role is evangelism, the other part of his position is training student leaders to have ministries of their own. “They’re the ones who are in the locker room, on the field, and in the gym with their teammates,” Cody explains. While he is a big part of athletic culture at SFU, he’s not one of their peers. One of the best ways for athletes to come and know Jesus is being talked to by someone who is in the same position as they are. Cody meets with a group of Christian student athletes every week to look in the Word and encourage them in evangelizing with their teammates. They discuss questions like, “How do you share your testimony? What does it mean to be empowered by the Holy Spirit? How do you meet one-on-one with your teammates and talk about the Bible or pray for them?”

When Cody first started attending SFU he had a hard time reconciling his identity as an athlete and his identity as a Christian. One was not necessarily influenced by the other. After being involved with Athletes in Action he’s grown to understand that following Jesus radically impacts every area of your life. He’s been able to share this truth with all the students he works with.

Training Leaders

Having been involved with AIA for a few years, Cody has also taken on the position of training new AIA staff. “My role is coaching, accountability, and I guess friendship too because it’s an opportunity for us to step out of our speciality of being on campus.” One of the largest areas of coaching Cody does is helping new staff raise support. Before anyone can start on staff at AIA they need to go out and raise a minimum amount of funds for themselves.

When Cody first started with AIA, the thought of going out and asking people for money was terrifying. But after a few practice runs, he grew to love the process. “It’s a chance to share the vision, which reignites the fire in my own heart. It’s a chance to involve people.” And with varying levels of support, people are doing a lot more than giving financially. “Some people are just praying, some people just want to make a financial contribution and walk away, some people want to be more involved. Like, ‘I want to cook a meal or what else can I do? I want to mentor somebody.’ In a lot of ways, it’s giving people an opportunity to participate in the gospel.”

Cody also explains how support-raising is a means for sanctification. “It’s really a mirror. You can see what your fears are. Like do I really trust God to provide this? Am I being open-handed with my time?” In helping others raise support, Cody is trying to help them see it for what it is: an opportunity for God to minister to them and the people they’re sitting across from. “It’s always been seen like it’s a necessary evil. Just finish your support raising so you can do the work of the Lord. But this is as much part of our job as meeting with students.” Cody explains, “I want to do a better job of equipping people to have success in this area.”

Expanding to UBC

While there are many stories of God working through Cody there is one in particular that he really enjoys telling. In the last few years, Cody’s seen a need for a Christian presence in the UBC athletics community. About two years ago he was praying and thinking about how he could make connections within UBC. While he had a couple of contacts, he didn’t have anything solid compared to his network at SFU. Around this time he was sitting at Westside on Sunday morning and noticed there was somebody with a UBC Thunderbirds Athletics hoodie in front of him. “I was like, ‘Whaaa?’ ” said Cody, “So I tapped him on the shoulder and was like, ‘Hey, I’m Cody. You don’t know me, I saw that you’re wearing this hoodie. We run a ministry for athletes. Are you interested?’” Not long into their conversation, Cody discovered that his name was John, he was a long-distance runner on UBC’s track team and his parents were facilitators of Child of Mine, a ministry in India that Westside partners with. Originally from Kelowna, John’s parents suggested that he attend Westside while he went to UBC. He took up Cody’s request and quickly became a student leader for AIA within the UBC track team.

Not too long after this, John stood up in front of his track team and said, “Hey, I’m a Christian, I’m part of AIA. If you want to be involved, I would love to follow up individually.” One of John’s teammates, Max, heard John, but didn’t respond right away. Later in the semester, Max approached John and explained that he’d had a dream and felt like he needed to go to church. Without flinching, John invited Max to Westside. On his first Sunday there, Max sat and listened to the message. He became so overwhelmed with the gospel that at response time, Max and John went to the front to pray with one of the couples. One of the people they prayed with was Sheena. Sheena also went to UBC and was involved with AIA when she was on the soccer team. Sheena was able to pray with John and Max and witness Max accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

Cody told me this story with great joy. He wasn’t the main character, he wasn’t even the one that prayed with Max to become a Christian; he was a catalyst in the list of events that would bring someone on the UBC track team to Christ.

Though there’s a small community of Christian student athletes on UBC’s campus, there’s still work to do. “UBC is a hugely unreached campus,” said Cody. AIA’s goal is to have a presence “in every sporting community in Canada”. For Cody, this means seeing more and more student leaders on SFU and UBC campuses.

Cody has plenty of other stories of God moving inside AIA. If you’d like to hear more, Cody would love to meet up for coffee. You can learn more about AIA and get info on what it would look like to support him by reaching out to him at, or get more info at

If you are interested in supporting Cody financially, you can do that on his personal giving page with AIA. 

You can also visit Cody and his wife Caitlin’s blog to keep up with how they’re doing.

See more about Cody on our Local Missionaries page.

Thom Peters attends Westside's downtown Vancouver campus where he and his wife serve as youth leaders.

Categories: Culture,Local Missions,Written