Evangelism thrust set for Winter Olympics

1/21/1998By Chris Turner NAGANO, Japan (BP)--The largest team at the 1998 Winter Olympics won't be competing for gold medals. It wants trophies for heaven. More than 350 Christian volunteers and full-time ministers are ready for work when the Olympics begins Feb. 7 in Nagano, Japan. The group includes several Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionaries and 60 Southern Baptist volunteers. The teams will work in coffee houses set up for evangelism, in hotel information booths, as garbage collectors and as chaplains. Christians are to be the only religious group represented by chaplains in Nagano, a city with one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world. "This is a great time for outreach," said Michael Fox, chaplain with Athletes in Action. "We'll be having chaplains here from Russia, Switzerland and Sweden, as well as Canada and the United States since there will be athletes speaking various languages." IMB missionaries see the Olympics as a perfect opportunity for the IMB to work with other Great Commission Christians to bring people worldwide to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Southern Baptist missionaries will cooperate with Campus Crusade for Christ, Athletes in Action, International Bible Society, InterVarsity, Youth With a Mission and the American Bible Society. One approach to reach athletes will be wide distribution of the "Jesus" film in video form. "We've shipped 1,500 'Jesus' videos in multiple languages," Fox added. "We will give the videos to the athletes and officials in their language. Pray for openness on the part of the athletes to hear the gospel." Southern Baptist volunteers from Georgia will be involved in the coffee-house ministries, and in singing and drama performances in the marketplace, said Tony Woods, IMB missionary and head of the Nagano Olympic Evangelism Committee. Tracts using a "More than Gold" theme printed in many languages will be distributed at all locations. Trading pins, always hot collectors' items, will be affixed to cards detailing the plan of salvation in multiple languages. Several evangelical churches in Japan have made their spaces available for special services throughout the Olympics. A World Wide Web site (http://members.aol/nagano98/index-e.htm) will provide Internet users with information about the evangelism effort. "Mega events like the Winter Olympics bring people together that would not normally (come together)," said Mark Snowden, media consultant for the IMB. "The Nagano sports evangelism outreach will serve as a catalyst for evangelism among many people groups for many months and possibly years."

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