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Weightlifter Kendrick Farris wants to ‘bless the gym’

Kendrick Farris of the United States celebrates after doing a successful lift in the men’s 94kg weightlifting during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Oshawa Sports Centre in Toronto, on July 14, 2015. Photo courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters

(RNS) Kendrick Farris was raised in a Christian family with youth groups, vacation Bible school — the whole thing.

And though he started weightlifting at age 12, it wasn’t until he “turned back to God” after an injury in 2008 that his success took off.

“I’ve really been growing spiritually since then,” he told Athletes in Action, a program of Cru, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be Farris’ third Olympics appearance. His weight class — the highest, at 94 kilos, or about 207 pounds — will compete on Saturday (Aug. 13).

Farris, 29, likes to use the platform his weightlifting success has given him to evangelize. His Team USA profile says the Bible is his favorite book, and he lists “Yahawah” and “Yahawahsha” — two names for God — as well as “Christ” as three of the most influential people in his life, before his mother, his coach and his wife.

“I try to share my faith as much as possible, using this platform that I have as an Olympian,” he told Athletes in Action. “For me, part of that is just being real and showing that faith is a part of me. This is the truth for me.”

Farris has a motto: “Bless the gym.” By gym, he means both the physical building — “I want to bless it with my time, talent and presence,” he told Athletes for Christ — and his own physical body.

“If you believe in the Word of God, your body is the gym,” he said.

Rio is Farris’ third Olympics, but he has never made it to the medals podium. He has been the U.S. national champion twice, came in eighth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finished 10th at the 2012 London Olympics.

Farris has said he believes his faith can help set him on the podium in Rio. He often meditates before a meet and peppers his Facebook page with Bible verses.

“Am I lucky? Far from it,” he posted while training for Rio. “Do I work hard? You already know. Will I be doing anything different this time around? Well you’ll have to keep an eye out for that. All praises to The Most High Most, honor and respect to the future king of the earth, the king of kings!”

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • “Yahawah” (YHVH), “Yahawahshi” (Yehoshua/Yeshua, Joshua/Jesus), “Most High” (El Elyon), and a focus on “Yah” in general are closely associated with the Black Hebrew Israelite tradition, a faith grouping that believes black people are descended from the ancient Israelites. Farris refers to himself as a King of Israel several times on his Facebook page. He also lists his middle name as Yahcob (Yaakov/Jacob) instead of James. In June 2016 he engaged in a lengthy debate with someone about his BHI beliefs. On the other hand, he seems to meld these beliefs with evangelical Christianity, which would be consistent with his upbringing. I bring it up not to criticize his beliefs, but out of a curiosity how he got involved with Cru and Athletes in Action, and what they think of his heterodox beliefs.

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