SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Undaunted by freezing cold temperatures and snow-laden skies, Wayne Rosado said the weather wasn’t as strange to him as his southern accent was to visitors at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“How are ya’ll?” he asked a young teen who was warming his hands at one of the many propane-fueled open fireplaces. “Is that warm enough?”
The questions prompted the young man to smile and look up — showing off a dazzling display of collector pins across his ski cap. After engaging in a few moments of small talk, Rosado pulled out a five-color snowflake “More than Gold” pin and a small informational guide — which includes a gospel presentation explaining the significance of each color.
“I have one for you,” Rosado explained, handing over a shiny pin and gospel guide. The boy reached out and took the booklet, tucking it into his backpack before fastening the pin onto the front of his cap.
One of about 1,000 volunteers from 21 states, Rosado, a member of Hillside Baptist Church, Fountain End, S.C., said he hadn’t been in town for 24 hours when he noticed people would stop and stare when he greeted them.
Rosado is part of Global Outreach 2002, a ministry sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board in partnership with state conventions in Utah-Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina, and Woman’s Missionary Union.
Volunteers have arrived by bus, plane and car since Feb. 6 and are housed at local Southern Baptist churches. Working rotating shifts that continue through Feb. 26, they are processed and credentialed by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) to such assignments as high-pedestrian traffic venues to distribute water, hand-warming stations, providing chaplain services for area hotels and resorts and entertainment through creative arts groups.
Beth Ann Williams, NAMB’s Global Outreach coordinator who moved to Salt Lake City from Atlanta in 1999 to pave the way and coordinate the volunteer ministry efforts, said the various sponsoring groups joined together “in the name of Jesus on a dynamic adventure of service and outreach to our community and the world.” Global Outreach also works together with the Salvation Army, Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and other evangelical organizations under the umbrella “More Than Gold.”
“We’ve done something awesome together,” Williams said. “But we don’t need the Olympics to do this. This gives us lots of momentum for the future.”
Williams also is the NAMB liaison to the SLOC’s interfaith roundtable, which encompasses Buddhists, Jews, Evangelicals, Methodists, Mormons and others. The group met together prior to the Olympic games in order to compile a directory of church services in the area and to dialogue about other practical ways to communicate about their services to the Olympic community at large.
Although many of the volunteers were not from the Salt Lake City area churches, Williams said those individuals hosting and housing volunteers have provided much-needed support for the ministry.
“Even though they don’t have a ton of people out on the streets, they’ve really been helping,” Williams said. “I hope they come away with a positive Christian impact.”
Back out on the streets of Park City at one of the skiing venues, Jerlyn Hua said the time in Salt Lake City has been all that and more. Hua, who speaks fluent Chinese, is from McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., where she took part in “Intencity 2002,” an outreach program for students at her church.
Part of the program’s lure, which is based on MTV’s “Road Rules” design, is that students are not typically told where they going to do ministry, Hua said. In the case of the Olympics, however, students were eventually told because the trip required extra planning.
Out in the street in the blinding snow, standing in front of a hand-warmer and waving at passers-by, Hua had only one word to sum up her experience: “Cool!”
For Jennifer Smith, it’s the “international experience … the wide variety of people” at the Olympics that has caught her attention. A member of Southside Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., Smith, standing around a hand-warmer with members of the volunteer SLOC Emergency Hot Chocolate Brigade, joined in when they performed barber-shop-quartet-like diddies.
Ministry is extended not only to people out on the streets. Back in Salt Lake City at Pioneer Park, in front of the Salvation Army building where the More Than Gold headquarters feeds, trains and distributes materials to volunteers, stands a tall, furry moose, dressed in an official blue Olympic fleece vest.
Twenty-something Lucas Humbracht said he didn’t have a problem dressing in the costume to pose with children and others and be part of a ministry group which included those who were chatting with people, creating balloon animals and sharing pins, booklets and gold coins.
Humbracht, a YWAM missionary, said his most memorable witnessing experience came when a guy walked up to him “out of the blue” to ask him what he was doing. After a short exchange, Humbracht said the man eagerly listened as he explained the meaning of the More Than Gold pin.
“We don’t really do a ‘This is how you can do it-101,'” said Humbracht, in explaining his approach on the streets. Though usually simply challenging people to read the witnessing booklet, he occasionally reads through it with them. “It is more like friendship and talking to people.”
Humbracht’s wife, Corin, agreed.
“The big thing here is that some people don’t want to be seen talking with More than Gold volunteers,” she said. “They might be embarrassed or if they are LDS [Mormons] or something, they might want to wait until they have more privacy.”
Many of the volunteers slated to stay in Salt Lake City through Feb. 26 — two days after the closing ceremonies — will be involved in tearing down venue tents and cleaning up the streets.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: FROSTY FOR THE FAITH and WARM GUY.
For a complete listing of all BP Olympic stories, visit: http://www.bpnews.net/bpcollectionnews.asp?ID=18.