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Evangelism thrust set for Winter Olympics

NAGANO, Japan (BP)–The largest team at the 1998 Winter
Olympics won’t be competing for gold medals. It wants
trophies for heaven.
More than 350 Christian volunteers and full-time
ministers are ready for work when the Olympics begins Feb. 7
in Nagano, Japan. The group includes several Southern
Baptist International Mission Board missionaries and 60
Southern Baptist volunteers.
The teams will work in coffeehouses set up for
evangelism, in hotel information booths, as garbage
collectors and as chaplains. Christians are to be the only
religious group represented by chaplains in Nagano, a city
with one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world.
“This is a great time for outreach,” said Michael Fox,
chaplain with Athletes in Action. “We’ll be having chaplains
here from Russia, Switzerland and Sweden, as well as Canada
and the United States, since there will be athletes speaking
various languages.”
IMB missionaries see the Olympics as a perfect
opportunity for the IMB to work with other Great Commission
Christians to bring people worldwide to a saving knowledge
of Jesus Christ. Southern Baptist missionaries will
cooperate with Campus Crusade for Christ, Athletes in
Action, International Bible Society, InterVarsity, Youth
With a Mission and the American Bible Society.
One approach to reach athletes will be wide
distribution of the “Jesus” film in video form. “We’ve
shipped 1,500 ‘Jesus’ videos in multiple languages,” Fox
said. “We will give the videos to the athletes and officials
in their language. Pray for openness on the part of the
athletes to hear the gospel.”
Southern Baptist volunteers from Georgia will be
involved in the coffeehouse ministries and in singing and
drama performances in the marketplace, said Tony Woods, IMB
missionary and head of the Nagano Olympic Evangelism
Tracts using a “More than Gold” theme printed in many
languages will be distributed at all locations. Trading
pins, always hot collectors’ items, will be affixed to cards
detailing the plan of salvation in multiple languages.
Several evangelical churches in Japan have made their
spaces available for special services throughout the
Olympics. A World Wide Web site
(http://members.aol/nagano98/index-e.htm) will provide
Internet users with information about the evangelism effort.
“Mega-events like the Winter Olympics bring people
together that would not normally (come together),” said Mark
Snowden, media consultant for the IMB. “The Nagano sports
evangelism outreach will serve as a catalyst for evangelism
among many people groups for many months and possibly