More than Gold
Having just returned from Sydney, I found that Carolyn had been closer to a gold medal than I. Seeing her mom off at LAX, she spied a returning Olympian wearing his gold medal. She went over and congratulated a member of the U.S. baseball team, number 25, pitcher Roy Oswalt. She told Roy the medal was beautiful and he allowed her to hold it in her hands. It’s pure gold. And yes, she got his autograph.
What is a gold medal worth? For some it’s worth 15 minutes of glory. For others, a lifetime of benefits, both tangible and intangible. Only 300 won gold medals, and only 1 in 17 competitors won bronze, silver or gold at Olympics XXVII.
For me, whatever its worth, the race for gold medals had its moments of ecstasy and agony. Two Australian women are examples of this contrast. It was ecstasy for Cathy Freeman, the aboriginal who walked on water before lighting the Olympic flame in the opening ceremonies and then went on to win the Women’s 400m. After winning she said, “To think something like this could happen to a little girl like me.” The Australian press suggested her medal gave Australians pride and would contribute to racial reconciliation.
The agony had to be Australian 20km walker Jane Saville. Walkers must always have one foot on the ground and never two off the ground. Jane will see red for the rest of her life. That was the color of the disqualification disc held up just 120m from the finish and a certain gold medal. Jane said, “Its such a fine line between being the greatest ever and wonderful to being a nobody. I was thinking wow, this is going to be the most awesome experience of my life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Well, believe it or not, I was not in Sydney for the Olympics primarily. I was there to explore the Quest More than Gold Sports Event ministries. This in preparation for our own activities related to the Winter Olympics 2002 in Salt Lake. That event is just over 450 days away.
Over the coming year, you’ll hear more and more about our plans for Salt Lake. Some of what I learned in Sydney is that sports events ministry is a developing ministry. It capitalizes on the “sports mad” mentality of our culture. Those connected to this ministry believe “sports offer the local church the greatest opportunity for world missions with the least amount of money needed to reach the greatest number of people in the shortest period of time.”
What I saw in Sydney was our Army in action and partnership with other churches to maximize event evangelism. They capitalized on what they had learned in Atlanta. For those challenged and interested in ministry in Salt Lake in 2002, there will be opportunities to participate in prayer, home hosting, and mission teams. The mission teams will take on several thrusts, including creative arts teams, festival teams, chaplaincy teams, evangelism teams and service teams, to name a few.
What I witnessed in Sydney was creativity par excellence in terms of event evangelism. I attended one event where Olympians gave their testimonies. Held at the downtown Wesley Mission, the 1100 seat auditorium was filled and they had to use large screens in two additional chapels to accommodate the 1,000-plus others attending. I witnessed hundreds visiting and taking literature from a tent inside the Olympic Village and our Canteens just outside the village. Downtown venues saw crowds of creative and musical arts presentations by Christian artists. Ask me about “face painting,” the “kangaroo,” and the “angel with 10 feet wings,” all creative ways of opening conversation with individuals about the gospel.
The figures aren’t in for Sydney yet, but in Atlanta, one denomination estimated their results as 2,500 people accepted Christ, 2,200 Olympic family members hosted, 3 million pieces of Christian literature distributed, 2,500 youth participated in sports clinics, 500 cultural performances given, 25,000 people attended the foregoing performances, and 5,000 Christians served as volunteers.
It is obvious to me that event evangelism could easily replace open airs as an effective and productive means of proclaiming the gospel in the years ahead. Certainly, if we are truly interested in adopting “new methods and styles of ministry that are productive,” sports events ministry is worthy of further investigation and implementation. It does not have to be limited to Olympics events only. For those interested in further details relating to 2002, contact our Salt Lake More Than Gold coordinator Dan Williams or Kevin White at THQ. Something all of us can do immediately is pray that in Salt Lake the challenges and barriers will fall down and a coherent plan will be implemented in terms of proclaiming Christ.