This article appears in the Fall 2023 issue of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.
Daniel Dias, who was born with a congenital physical disability, was a lover of all sports growing up in Brazil, but after watching the Paralympics for the first time in 2004, he was drawn to swimming and started lessons. He quickly picked it up and found he was drawn to the pool, learning to swim and excelling in just eight lessons.
Just two years later, Dias swam in his first world tournament. He won five medals and made his way to being Brazil’s most decorated Paralympian ever with four gold, three silver and two bronze medals at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Dias has received the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, a record three times, and has established himself as one of the top and most decorated Paralympic swimmers in the world. Dias connected with FCA Brazil Leader Paulo Wescher through a
mutual friend, and they are praying through God’s direction on how to serve together as Dias learns more about how FCA serves coaches and athletes around the world.
Married with three children, Dias devotes his time to his family, swimming and advocating for the all ability world in Brazil and beyond.
How did you start combining your faith with swimming?
I didn’t have any idea about combining sport and faith when I started; in Brazil, they were two separate things. I felt alone for the longest time at big events, not having a church or other Christians around.
I heard about sports ministry in 2010 and understood it was possible to share your faith in sports. I learned it’s not about me: It’s about Jesus. God blessed me with the ability to swim, and I know it’s possible to share my faith with others and what God is doing in my life.
What’s been a challenge you’ve faced that God is helping you overcome?
For athletes with disabilities, it can be hard to understand God’s plan
for our lives, because life can be difficult for us. Today, 15% of the population in the world have a disability of some sort or another. That’s one in seven people. Here in Brazil, those with a disability are 25% of the population, and not even 5% are in the church. The disabilities community needs to understand God loves us and always has a place for us.
What does it mean to compete for a greater purpose?
Now, I understand the power of sports and how it opens doors to share the Gospel with others. It can sometimes be difficult for a pastor or a Christian leader to enter a sports environment and share, but it can be much easier for a Christian athlete like me to do so. I compete with a greater purpose, to glorify God in everything I do, and to do it all with excellence.
How does God meet you in the balance of everything you have going on: being a husband, father, elite swimmer and advocate?
This is the challenge, of course, but Jesus helps me. If God puts me in a certain situation, He will give me the power, knowledge and the wisdom for making a way for balance in my life. I can do my best effort in response, trusting God will guide me.
What’s one thing you want people to know about people with disabilities?
The Bible says we are the image and likeness of God, and we have different characteristics of Him. Some have a disability; some do not. But God sees us the same and has put Himself in all of us. We are all one, under Him.
Photos courtesy of USOC