TURIN, Italy (BP)–A team of 11 women from Woman’s Missionary Union will travel to Italy Feb. 18-26 with the goal of sharing their faith as they interact with people from all over the world at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
The volunteers will partner with More Than Gold, the organization that coordinates evangelical efforts during the games, with most of their work involving street evangelism.
“There are all kinds of activities that go on around the Olympics, so we’ll get in lines and go into the activities and talk to people,” Andrea Mullins, publisher for WMU’s New Hope book division and team leader for the trip, told Baptist Press. “We’ll be doing face painting and balloon art to engage people. I have one friend who sometimes goes as a clown, and we all work around her, networking the crowd that she gathers.”
The women expect to be out on the streets most of the time, walking alongside people and initiating conversations, Mullins said, and one of the easiest ways to start talking is to trade Olympic pins.
“There are millions of Olympic pins, and every Olympic year they come out with specific pins for that year,” she said. “You can go on the website and see some of them. Some of them are very expensive; they have movement and everything else.”
The WMU women from various states will offer to give away More Than Gold pins, which have been used at previous Olympics and are specially designed to foster a presentation of the Gospel.
“We’ll say, ‘I have a pin that represents my organization. I’d like to give it to you.’ Our pins are just beautiful, and no one ever turns them down,” Mullins said. “When we give it to them, we’ll say, ‘Can I tell you what it means and what it stands for?’ And they always say, ‘Sure.’”
Along with the More Than Gold pins, volunteers will distribute Gospel tracts produced specifically for the Olympics, complete with a list of the venues and a place to keep track of the scores and results. Information about some Christian athletes also is included, Mullins said.
“The driving emphasis behind what we do is the theme More Than Gold, so as we share Christ, the way it’s described in the pamphlet is that these gold medalists have discovered there is something worth more than gold, and that is a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ,” she said. “We use that as the little nugget that connects us to the Olympics.”
WMU uses only Olympic-themed witnessing materials when they travel to the Games, Mullins said, and they’re very high quality and attractive so that people will be interested in reading them.
“We will also have New Testaments in both English and Italian, and our tracts are in both English and Italian,” she said. “The Olympics are mostly in English, but sometimes you have the opportunity to engage someone in their native language, and we’re focusing our materials mainly on the Italians.
“There are many volunteers that come that speak other languages and they’re used in different settings. We have some volunteers that are actually in the Olympic Village working with the athletes, and usually they might be chaplains or people with certain language skills,” she added.
This will make Mullins’ fifth Olympic trip and her fourth time to lead a team. She went by herself to the Salt Lake City Olympics and worked alongside other Southern Baptists there.
“The incredible thing about the Olympics is that you actually have an opportunity to share the Gospel with people from all over the world, and because they’re at the Olympics they’re more open,” she said. “You can just walk up and talk to anyone in a way that you’re just not normally free to do…. [A]t the Olympics people want to talk, they want to meet other people. They’re there to engage the experience.”
Another exciting element, Mullins said, is that each time she has taken a team, she has seen how Christians are able to use their gifts for God’s glory.
“I love to lead teams of women because when it’s just women on the team, they are freed up sometimes to do things that they always kind of stand back and let the guys do if men are on the team,” she said. “So women tend to step out and be more bold in sharing their faith and engaging others and doing a variety of things that they may not do sometimes when the guys are along.”
During the trip, the group of 11 will sleep at one of the few churches in the Turin area, Mullins said.
“There are almost no evangelicals in that area of the world,” she noted.
And that’s all the more reason to go.