Olympics evangelists win hearts

Olympics evangelists win hearts

Christian workers and athletes are lighting a flame in Sydney, Australia.

...Sports fans at the Olympics are hearing about Jesus Christ and many are becoming Christians, ministries say. "From Athletes' Village to Darling Harbour and Circular Quay, hearts are open and responsive to the gospel of Christ," Sam Mings of Lay Witnesses for Christ International said.

...Christian Olympians declare their faith at Eric Liddell Rallies, named for the Christian athlete who refused to run in the Olympics on a Sunday. Among the speakers are nine-time Olympic track gold medalist Carl Lewis, 200-meter track gold winner Joe DeLoach, and two-time gold medalist Chandra Cheeseborough.

...U.S. diving gold medalist Laura Wilkinson thanked God for helping her come back from a broken foot, an injury that had apparently ended her chances of competing. "I thought my dreams were over," she said. "But God works in mysterious ways. There's no way I could be here right now except through Him."

...More than 500 churches from 30 denominations are taking part in various ministries to spectators, according to Quest Australia, an umbrella group representing Sydney churches and ministries. Churches are holding sports clinics for children, community festivals, and creative outreaches in heavily traveled areas of the city, the ministry said. A Baptist church hosts the official Olympic Information Center, where people find out where the events are held and how to get there.

...Hundreds of Christian volunteers are helping put on the games, according to Quest. Many church members are housing families of athletes who can't afford to stay in hotels. Quest ministries have supplied chaplains to work in the Olympic Village and other sites.

...Hundreds of evangelists take to Sydney's streets daily. Workers from Athletes in Action, Action International, Lay Witnesses for Christ International, Youth With a Mission and other groups pass out literature and videos, and ask people if they know about Jesus Christ, according to news reports.

...Almost 200 people became Christians during a pre-Olympic outreach by Lay Witnesses for Christ International. Two hundred and thirty people from 150 U.S. churches took part in the three-day effort as part of Reachout 2000, an Olympic ministry of LWFI and local Anglican, Baptist, and Wesleyan churches.

...Workers with Georgia-based Action International give away Olympic pins with an evangelistic message. The "Jesus Pin" portrays the Olympic torch over a map of Australia with the name "Jesus" on it. Its black border gives way to stripes of red, white, green, and gold representing the steps to become a follower of Christ, the ministry said. Evangelists explain the meaning of the colors, and about 25 percent of those they talk to become Christians, said ministry head David Guinn.

...Christian drama, puppet, and music teams perform for crowds in Sydney Square. St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral has set up three stages for Christian artists to perform evangelistic skits and music, Australia's Religious Media Agency reported. Down among the spectators, Salvation Army workers hand out balloons and refreshments.