Army finds ‘More than Gold’ in Salt Lake
Ministry team from Crestmont College entertains on busy street corner. MTG pins and guides are available for people stopping by.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY KAREN GLEASON –
The Olympic Games are about relationships relationships between athletes, countries, cultures. The Olympic Games are about miracles the miracle of courage and grace under pressure–the miracle of unbelievable victories.
The Salvation Army’s road to Salt Lake City was paved with relationships and miracles: the relationship, through Army coordinator Dan Williams, with the More Than Gold ministry; the relationship, through Salt Lake Corps Officer and Coordinator Major Wayne Froderberg, with the city and its predominantly Mormon culture; the relationship of Salvationists at the Olympics with each person they encountered; and most importantly, the relationship with God, and the trust that the Holy Spirit would lead us in our mission.
The command center
The base for The Salvation Army’s Olympic ministry was the More Than Gold Command Center, located downtown across from Pioneer Park, near the historic Rio Grande Train Station. Many of the city’s homeless frequent this area and take a daily meal in the back of the command center in the community dining room.
The command center itself was a miracle. Up to three weeks before the Olympics, the building housed a Salvation Army thrift store. The plan had long been to use the building as the center, but before that could happen, the Army had to find a new location for the store. Froderberg said, “It was a miracle. We looked for a year and a half to find the new site; three weeks before the Olympics began, we got the call I’d been praying for.” With the help of volunteers, they moved out just in time.
Come in out of the cold
The attached building next to the center, a former location of the community dining room, was modified to become a coffee house/Internet café, and featured a large screen TV. This proved a great place to get warm and to catch up on Olympic standings. After his tour of the Olympic Square hydration stations, Commissioner David Edwards stopped by here and checked his e-mail messages.
In the outside parking lot, a stage was set up for festivals, along with a pin-selling booth; proceeds benefited the Internet café. Performance teams hoped to attract crowds of people passing by to and from Olympic Square.
Each day, the command center buzzed with activity. Teams met in the large front room to organize their day’s activities and to practice musical and dramatic performances. Classes on the Mormon culture, “bridge” training, were held here for all teams. Couches and a TV were available for those on break. A reporter from Texas set up a corner of this room as a broadcast studio, and here conducted his daily afternoon radio show.
Upon arrival, team members were issued official More Than Gold (MTG) gear, including a coat from Marker, an official Olympic sponsor that featured the More Than Gold logo. Team members also received More Than Gold beanies and notebook-sized shoulder bags, since backpacks were not allowed at Olympic sites. And all team members received an ample supply of MTG pins and interactive guides to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Visitors to the Olympics enjoyed checking their e-mail at the Army’s Internet café.
Through the generosity of the Christian community in Salt Lake, Salvationist MTG team members had places to lay their heads at the end of their busy days. Most from the Western Territory stayed at the Salt Lake City Central Corps, thanks to the hospitality of corps officers Captains Alexis and Vera Villanea.
Teams from the Central and Southern Territories, along with the San Francisco Asian American Corps team and the Del Oro Divisional team stayed at the Holladay Baptist Church. Additional facilities were made available at the Salt Lake Adult Rehabilitation Program, through the generosity of Majors Wayne and Trish Froderberg.
Each day 116 Salvation Army MTG team members, separated into 20 teams, went to work at assigned locations near or within Olympic venues. Most staffed the MTG hydration canteens and tents. The hydration of visitors, spectators and volunteers was critical because of the high potential for dehydration due to the combination of cold temperatures, low humidity and high elevation.
With the support of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee and the Coca-Cola Company, Salvation Army volunteers along with Global Outreach volunteers served water at ten different locations, including Soldier Hollow, Snowbasin Ski Area, Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Utah Olympic Park, The Peaks Ice Arena, Utah Olympic Oval, the Medals Plaza, Salt Lake Olympic Square, and the MTG Command Center. Team members distributed boxed meals for the volunteers working at the Olympic Village, home to athletes during the Games.
More than a pin
Part of the Army’s mission at the water stations was sharing the gospel message, the salvation that Jesus offers and his promise of eternal life with God. We had the perfect tool for sharing this good news-the More Than Gold pin, the five-pointed star with each point a different color representing the stages of the journey to salvation. With pin trading such a hot activity, we had something to offer that people wanted; this was not another tract that they would throw away in the closest trash bin. Many people would talk about the meaning of the pin and accept the interactive guide that went with it. Many also expressed their appreciation of the Army’s service and our message of hope. At the Park City hydration station, one person exclaimed “I love Jesus–I can’t wait to share the pin with others!” Nenetzin Reyes, a member of the Southern Territory team, was able to share the pin’s message in Spanish.
Expect the unexpected
Our MTG teams also went for scheduled prayer walks and took part in festival performances. Not everything went as planned, though, which is understandable in such a huge undertaking. During the first week of the Olympics, performances at the MTG Command Center stage were drawing mostly other MTG team members as onlookers. Due to the flow of Olympic pedestrian and bus traffic, that location was not seeing as much spectator traffic as anticipated.
After much prayer and discussion, the MTG staff decided to close that stage down, although the site still offered water and the pin-selling booth. But that didn’t stop our performance teams! As they got a feel for where the action was, they took their shows to the street giving concerts on busy street corners, and attracting many passers-by. One group performed in Pioneer Park, ministering to those walking through or resting there.
It was not all work and no play for team members. Each team had a day off, and after performing housekeeping duties, they could pursue their Olympic dream. Most enjoyed the sights in Olympic Square, went pin trading, and shopped for souvenirs. Some got autographs of past Olympic gold medal winners like Kristi Yamaguchi and Tara Lipinski. Others bought tickets and went to events, including biathlon and hockey, while others tackled a sport themselves, by going skiing.
The Olympic spirit
The XIX Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City were special in many ways. In the aftermath of the tragedy of September 11, this Olympics came to be known as the Healing Games. Even in the midst of intense athletic competition, the participating nations showed their support of us and of the Olympic spirit, which transcends cultural differences.
The Salvation Army, true to its mission, was here to serve, going where the people are, just as Jesus did. As an international church compassionately determined by the love and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Army came to Salt Lake City, motivated to provide a holistic approach to minister to the needs of attendees and participants in the Games. We came to serve water both to the body and the spirit. Immersing ourselves in the Olympic spirit, we offered the More Than Gold message, the ultimate relationship and the ultimate miracle eternal life with God through Jesus the son.
- Approximately 3,500 athletes and officials from about 80 countries participated in the Olympic Winter Games.
- Competition was scheduled for seven sports in 70 medal events.
- An estimated 20,000 volunteers helped stage the Games.
- Salt Lake 2002 marks the 4th time the US has hosted the Winter Games including Lake Placid, NY in 1932 and 1980 and Squaw Valley, CA in 1960.
- A security net costing $320 million protected everyone at the Winter Games.
- The phrase “More Than Gold” has two meanings. To athletes, it represents what they have put into winning a gold medal and all that goes with it. To those who have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, it’s the realization that their faith is worth “more than gold.” (1 Peter 1:7)
- In the Army’s More Than Gold logo, The Salvation Army shield represents soldiers of Christ motivated by the love of God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination. The flame represents the holiness of God and the stars stand for the gospel message — the message of hope through Jesus Christ.
Why did it take two years to prepare for a 17-day event?
After the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, MTG Task Force Coordinator Dan Williams understood the importance of establishing supportive relationships. By setting up the Task Force early, Williams could develop working relationships with the people at the top of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. As the Olympic organization grew, more gatekeepers were added. If Williams had waited until six months before the Games, he never would have reached the decision-makers.
During the Games, Mission/Service Team Coordinator Kevin White and Canteen Coordinator Tom McSherry depended on the relationships that Williams built during those two years.
On behalf of the Army, Williams worked with other churches within the Utah Games Network, spending time in prayer and discussion. He emphasized the importance of putting aside theological differences: “Working together in harmony people will see the power of Jesus through you.”
Williams also prepared the local Salvation Army for the impact of the Games on the community and its services. He helped local leaders catch the vision of MTG, helped them realize the ministry opportunity.
The MTG resources took two years to develop. The pin and the interactive pocket guide took time, and the MTG coat, produced by Marker, was designed 18 months ago and was nine months in production.
Years of prayer supported the MTG preparations, and Williams gave special thanks to Lt. Colonel Mervyn Morelock for coordinating the blanket of prayer.
For Williams, the two-year window was his opportunity for ministry. He asks, “Although it’s not in my contract to help someone move closer to the Savior, isn’t it really part of all of our job descriptions?”
What is it?
What does it mean?
Why are they sharing it?
The pin is quite keen.
There are five colors
In this rainbow snowflake;
I’ve not seen anything like it;
I wonder what’s at stake.
I asked that very question-
You know that I did;
And they answered me quickly
With a story and a bid.
A bid for my attention,
A story reaching out;
At first I didn’t listen,
I didn’t give it much clout.
Then they explained the colors to me:
The gold, red, blue,
Then purple and green;
And how each one
Related to me.
The yellow is life forever
Only offered by you.
The red is your sacrifice
You gave to us too.
The blue brings us hope
The green means we grow
Yes, that we can do
By sharing what we know.
The purple is the darkness
You deliver us from;
We only need ask,
We only need come.
More Than Gold, More Than Gold-
What does it really mean?
It means without you there is nothing,
With you we are clean.
Thank you so much
For your More Than Gold plan;
And for the opportunity
To share with all the land.
By Wendy West