Alabama, other Baptists prepare for Olympic ministry through Engage Sochicomment (0)
February 28, 2013
Excitement is mounting in the Olympic host city of Sochi, Russia, where the countdown clock in the central square recently displayed only 365 days until the Opening Ceremonies of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games.
Russian dignitaries and Olympic officials celebrated the event in the recently completed Bolshoy Ice Dome in nearby Adler. Several thousand Sochi residents gathered to watch the countdown at one of the live Olympic viewing sites in their city’s downtown area along the coast of the Black Sea.
Olympic officials and Sochi residents were not the only ones in the area watching as the clock clicked down to the one-year mark. Southern Baptists from Oklahoma and Georgia joined International Mission Board (IMB) representatives in the city as preparations for Olympic ministry continue.
The Engage Sochi project is an IMB initiative that mobilizes Southern Baptists to reach the people of Sochi through broad sharing of the gospel and planting of churches before, during and after the Olympics in February 2014 and the Paralympics in March 2014.
The project is a natural fit for national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) because WMU already had a partnership with the city, said Kristy Carr, a member of Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham, and WMU ministry consultant.
In fact, the first official WMU team to work with Engage Sochi leaves for the city March 4. The team is working with International Initiatives to reach out to the city with International Women’s Day (March 8) celebrations.
“It’s a huge outreach opportunity for the women in the area and a far greater celebration in that area than any we would have for Mother’s Day,” Carr said.
If all goes well, another WMU team will go back next March to do the same thing, she said.
While the staff members and volunteers from Oklahoma and Georgia Baptist conventions were in Sochi recently, they joined Engage Sochi project leaders to plan for more than 400 people to share the gospel during the Games.
“I think it is important for conventions to be leading out in Olympic ministry,” said Georgia Baptist Convention staffer Marty Youngblood, who is a veteran of Olympic ministries. “It allows us to reach the world in a much more responsible way, as far as our resources go.”
Unlike other Olympic ministry projects, Engage Sochi focuses on more than broad gospel-sharing. At its core is a strong church-planting component. While volunteers will have the opportunity to share the gospel with those people around the world, the primary focus is to reach individuals who live and work in the Olympic city.
Youngblood said the intentional church planting at an Olympic event makes the project unique. “We are going to be focusing on the people of Sochi,” he said. “Mass evangelism is good. It’s important to focus on the people from around the world. But when we focus on the city and the people of Sochi we leave more of a lasting influence than we usually would during the Olympics.”
With just under a year remaining before the kick-off of the Olympics in Sochi, much of the city and surrounding area is covered in a cloud of construction dust that can be seen from a nearby mountaintop. Just as Russian officials are preparing the city of Sochi to host the Olympics, the Engage Sochi team and scores of volunteers have much to do as well.
Youngblood said he believes all Southern Baptists should be praying in earnest for the Engage Sochi ministry team and logistics coordinators. “This may be one of the most difficult Winter Olympics that I have ever come to know and see as far as logistical planning is concerned.
“I think God is going to do something spectacular here ... maybe even more than anything we have ever experienced in Olympic ministries,” Youngblood said. “I am convinced that this is going to be a time where we see the Lord move in mighty ways in the community of Sochi, with the churches here and with people from around the world.”
While many Baptists in the United States are already deep into the planning of their Olympic ministry trips to Sochi, they and IMB representatives pray that other Southern Baptists will get just as involved in Engage Sochi.
Updates and other information, including video features, can be found at EngageSochi.org or by emailing TellMeMore@EngageSochi.org.
For information about how to join a WMU team traveling to Sochi, email Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org.