By Darren D. Heusel
Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon prides itself on being a reaching, discipling, sending house of worship impacting generations for Christ here in Canadian Valley.
The uniquely designed, affable church at 620 N. Cemetery Road has been on an upward trajectory of late and at no time was that more evident in Senior Pastor Brian Mills’ young tenure than on Oct. 13, when approximately 400 people showed up for a men’s steak dinner, featuring World Record weightlifter Shane Hamman, of Mustang, as the guest speaker.
Attendees were treated to a 10-ounce ribeye steak, baked potato and all the trimmings, followed by a brief time of worship and an inspirational message by Hamman, a two-time Olympic weightlifter, power lifter and current American record holder in three events (snatch – 435 pounds; clean and jerk – 523 pounds; and total of the two events – 946 pounds).
Hamman, 47, who is sometimes referred to as “the strongest man in America,” said he started lifting weights as a freshman at Mustang High School.
He said he was in the weight room one day and squatted 500 pounds without batting an eye. Several people, who were on hand to witness the feat, came up to him after and said they thought he might have just set a new state record.
Turns out he had indeed just set a new state record…and his weightlifting career was born.
“I asked around and people said you can’t switch from power lifting to weightlifting,” said Hamman, who recalled saying when he was 6 years old he was going to be in the Olympics one day. “So I prayed about it, and six months later I was a National Champion.”
In 2000, Hamman said he needed to lift 17 more pounds than he had ever lifted before to earn a spot on that year’s Olympic team. Prior to his performance, he said he prayed again and ended up making the team.
Hamman finished 10th at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and 7th at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he set four American records, two of which still stand today.
A year after competing in the Games in Athens, Hamman won the National Championship at the Pan American Games and retired soon after.
“Shane is a man’s man, who is all about Jesus,” said Mills, who became the senior pastor at Trinity in June. “Shane is living proof that we can leverage where we are for the gospel and we together as men can lead a life of kingdom influence.”
Hamman, who grew strong lifting large pallets of produce for his father’s fruit market, said he is convinced he was thrust into the spotlight for a reason and that things happened throughout his journey to let him know God is real.
“God was with me every step of the way…through every event…every injury…every victory…every defeat,” he said. “The experience was overwhelming. I went through every emotion you could imagine.”
Aside from his weightlifting prowess, Hamman also plays basketball and golf. Despite his 350-pound frame, he can still hit a golf ball 350 yards, do a standing back flip, and leap vertically three feet.
“I thought having Shane here was really cool,” said Zach Merkl, 41, of Yukon, one of many Trinity members who attended the event. “Anytime you get an opportunity to meet someone who is a worldwide competitor, but also someone who is on fire for the Lord, it’s pretty exciting.
“It’s not every day you get an opportunity to meet Christians who have walked on the world stage like he has.”
Hamman is retired from Olympic weightlifting and sometimes appears as an announcer for NBC during events like the Olympics in 2008 and 2016.
He is now focused on helping others. He gives speeches at various venues about his career and what it took to gain Olympic status.
Hamman recalled one night when he was invited to appear on the Jay Leno show. He said he was told to “stick to the script.” But when Leno started asking him about what kind of guy he was, he said he saw an opportunity and he took it.
“I just told him I love Jesus,” he said.
After that appearance on Leno, Hamman said the “floodgates just opened.” He said he was invited to appear “on night shows, morning shows…dozens and dozens (of shows).”
“I had an opportunity and I took advantage of it,” he said.
During the ’04 Olympics, Hamman said he recorded four commercials for TV, which he said was “unheard of at the time” for most athletes. When he returned from the Olympics and landed in Washington, D.C., he said throngs of people welcomed him home at the airport.
“We all have stuff we’re good at,” he said. “Whether at school, home, work…we all have opportunities to show how much we love Jesus.”
Today, Hamman shares his story whenever and wherever possible. And, he says he tells his children they can do all things through Jesus.
Hamman concluded his message recalling the time he spent while living at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs for seven years.
He said he was three weeks away from competing in the ’99 National Championships when he injured his wrist during training. The doctors told him it would take six weeks before he could begin lifting weights again, so he began to pray.
The day before the National event, Hamman said he was still in a lot of pain and couldn’t hold a broomstick over his head. But, he said he was going to show everyone that God is real and wound up breaking four American records in the competition.
“It took faith,” he said. “It took me believing. When it happened, I was a little surprised. But not really.”
Hamman said there were 34 weightlifters training with him at the Olympic training center and that all of them were amazed he was able to overcome his injury and go on to compete.
“I just told them that Jesus Christ is real and He’s the most important thing in my life,” he said.
By the time Hamman left the Olympic training facility, he said he managed to lead all but one of his fellow weightlifters to Christ.
“The main reason I do what I do now is because I love Jesus,” Hamman said. “I want to tell people about Jesus.”
According to Trinity Associate Pastor Scott Kinney, 17 people made decisions of faith after Hamman finished speaking.