West’s Team Serves at Olympics
By John Docter –
The West’s Service Corps team joined forces with 14 other Salvation Army teams from around the world to quench the physical and spiritual thirst of the sweltering crowds at the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta.
For up to 10 hours a day, team members passed out free water from 25 disaster relief canteens positioned at 49 locations throughout the city. The Salvation Army worked in conjunction with Coca-Cola, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and 21 local churches and synagogues to provide this much needed service to the crowds of spectators who attended the “hottest games on record.”
Participating along with the West were teams from Russia, the Republic of Georgia, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, and the U.S. Central and Southern territories.
According to accepted candidate and team member Gail Van Nortwick, this summer’s experience helped reveal the true meaning of evangelism. “We’re not just passing out literature and cold water, we’re meeting people’s needs. It provides a reason and opportunity to talk with a stranger and then the Lord does the rest.”
Besides staffing the canteens, the Service Corps teams worked with other downtown churches in a program called “Celebrate Faith and Arts Atlanta” (CF & AA). Coordinated by The Salvation Army, this unique interfaith program turned 21 congregations located along the city’s main pedestrian corridor into hospitality centers where spectators could escape the heat and enjoy a cup of cold water. There, team members entertained and inspired visitors with dance, drama, mime and music and also handed out literature.
On one occasion, the Western and Central territories’ teams worked together to combine the old Army with the new, according to Western team leader Lt. Fred Preston. “The Western dance team performed ”Holy hip hop’ to contemporary Christian music, while the Central team gave a timbrel performance, a vocal solo and a drama focusing on the Army’s birth, work and purpose,” he said. “We also had a great experience working with the team from Argentina,” Preston added. “They love to evangelize.”
Serving at the Olympics has been a tremendous growing opportunity according to Western team member Ken Diep. “The Lord put me into a situation that I am uncomfortable and unfamiliar with and stretched me beyond what I thought I could do,” he said.
While the team’s efforts have proved to be rewarding, the experience was still a challenge. “A lot of people accepted our literature, but still many others did not,” Preston said. “I just pray that the water I gave will serve as a seed planted in someone’s life.”
Van Nortwick added, “People knowing that we traveled across the country or half way around the world to give them a cup of cold water really brought Christ’s love into their own hands.”
The team serving in Atlanta was one of five teams from the Western territory serving around the world this summer. Members of the Atlanta team included Lt. Fred Preston, leader (Phoenix South Mountain), Jennifer Henson (Sun Cities, Ariz.), Gale Van Nortwick (Bellingham, Wash.), Karyn Pittock (Pasadena Tab), Moises Hernandez, Jr. (Phoenix Central) and Ken Diep (S.F. Asian/American).