Feb 5, 2008

Patrick Walker: Ministering on the mat

by Thomas Lourdeau
At 6-foot-3 and approximately 285 pounds, Patrick Walker is both an accomplished collegiate wrestler and an intimidating force on the mat. When watching him compete, one would never know that there is a great feeling of unrest just minutes before his matches. “I’m just uneasy,” Walker said as he described his feelings before a match. “I would rather be anywhere except to go out on the wrestling mat and wrestle. It drives me crazy.” It might be easy to view this attitude as one of weakness or cowardice, but beneath those feelings is a proper perspective that drives Walker beyond his personal goals. “What I find myself doing a half an hour before my match is humbling myself before the Lord and renewing my commitment to serving Him,” Walker said. Walker has seen it all. From his days as a high school athlete to four years spent as an Army Ranger, including four separate deployments, he has the benefit of experiences of which most of us can only dream. “I’d say that the military was the avenue that God used to draw me closer to Him,” said Walker, who described how the only book he was allowed to bring was one religious in nature. He chose the Bible and began reading it and attending church. God immediately began working in his life. “I just gained a perspective of the world that as an American or as a college student, you would never understand,” Walker said. Walker talked about how going days without food or taking long hikes with heavy packs helped shape him into the man he is today. He discussed seeing a man have his head run over by a military vehicle and yet make a full recovery. He explained how numerous events could only be explained by the work of God, and how those events have affected him. “Without the military,” he said, “I don’t think I’d be at a Christian school, studying to be a pastor, and I don’t think I’d be this strong in my faith.” When most athletes are asked to recount how they have achieved their success in whatever venue they happen to have, they speak of how hard they have worked, how much they have practiced or how their coaches put together the perfect game plan. While acknowledging those things, Patrick Walker attributes his success to an entirely different source. “At least half the matches that I win are specifically because the Lord does miraculous things out on the mat,” Walker said. Walker is a man described by his coach, Jesse Castro, as someone who is much more concerned about his teammates than himself. “He is at his best when he’s ministering to his team. This is his church,” Castro said, who also spoke of Walker’s leadership. Walker’s leadership, however, is as much focused on the spiritual walk of his teammates as it is on giving advice on the mat. “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but he doesn’t even like wrestling,” Castro said, who says that Walker would much rather spend his time ministering to his teammates. “My goal is not to be a national champion, or an All-American. I really don’t care,” said Walker. “I’ve done more important and harder things in the military, and right now I want to focus on spiritual aspects. I’m here for the specific purpose of making an eternal, spiritual impact on the wrestling team.” Walker has enjoyed a great deal of success this year, and he attributes much of it to his experience in the military. “The military does install a certain measure of self-reliance, self control and taking the initiative to do the right thing,” said Walker. “If you want something bad enough, you will structure your life in order to achieve that goal.” Walker is more interested in the eternal significance of what he does on and off the mat and taking advantage of his opportunities to impact as many people as possible while preparing for his future vocation as a pastor. He knows that after having gone through the military and college life, he will be prepared for whatever else comes his way. “Juggling wrestling, a personal life, academics and everything is by far the hardest thing I’ve done,” said Walker. “Any time, I can look back and say ‘it can’t get any worse than that time in my life.’” Contact Thomas Lourdeau at tlourdeau@liberty.edu.
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