Alabamians part of evangelistic outreach, found open spirit among Russianscomment (0)
March 6, 2014
Two Alabama Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) leaders and a jazz band from the University of Mobile (UMobile) were among the hundreds of Christians spreading the gospel in Sochi during the Olympics’ Engage Sochi event.
Andrea Mullins, director of New Hope Publishers, a division of national WMU in Birmingham, led a group of seven WMU-connected women from four states.
“We had a great time, and the Russian people were so warm,” said Mullins, a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham. “Like no other Olympics I’ve been to, there was such a hunger and openness among the Russians. It just blew me away.”
Mullins said the people interacted easily with the Americans visiting Sochi.
“They wanted to talk to us,” she said, noting teachers were encouraging the school children to talk to the Americans so they could practice their English.
“It was fun to watch them approach us and say hello in English but then not know what else to say,” Mullins noted. “I would say ‘My name is Andrea’ in Russian and then they would get excited and we would attempt to talk some more.”
The WMU team interacted with the local people for about a week, Mullins said, noting having two members who are trained in clowning helped draw attention to their group. They also captivated crowds with face painting and balloon art.
“Our clowns drew a crowd, and we would give out pins created by the IMB (International Mission Board) that had the plan of salvation on them in both English and Russian,” she said.
The other Alabama Baptist on the team — Susan Bartholomew, WMU director for Baldwin Baptist Association — also brought Alabama pins and scarves, which were popular among the people, Mullins said.
“It was an amazing ministry trip,” Bartholomew said.
The UMobile jazz band was able to unite its tunes with band members’ desire to invite the world to join in worship to God. As its music drew crowds, band members took breaks to engage spectators in conversations and give away pins.
Marc Hooks, co-director of Engage Sochi, noted that a major part of the Engage Sochi strategy was to use the specialized trading pins that facilitated sharing the gospel.
“The unofficial Olympic spectator sport is pin trading,” Hooks said. “People coming to the Olympics love to trade pins, so we designed a pin that is fun to trade, that people like and that they want, but has elements that allow us to share the gospel.”
Colors on the pin represented key aspects of the plan of salvation — “the same five colors as the Olympic rings,” Hooks said, “so we can tie it all together and share God’s love with the people here.”
Nearly 200 Southern Baptists participated in Engage Sochi. And more than 13,000 Engage Sochi trading pins and gospel tracts were distributed. Three people told of committing their lives to Jesus and more than 130 contacts were made with individuals who wanted to learn more about Him.
The Engage Sochi strategy is more than pins and gospel presentations, Hooks noted. There is a church-planting focus as well.
“Church planting is based on forming relationships. So what our Engage Sochi folks are doing here is the building blocks for new churches to be started,” he said.