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Lay Witnesses for Christ slates 5th Olympics outreach in Sydney

HURST, Texas (BP)–While millions of people will be watching the Olympics on television, scores of Southern Baptists will be among 230 Americans engaged in a massive September evangelistic outreach to Australia. Volunteer laymen and laywomen from more than 150 churches are participating in “Reach Out 2000 Sydney Australia” through Lay Witnesses for Christ International (LWCI).

In cooperation with Australia’s Anglican, Baptist and Wesleyan churches, LWCI volunteers will assist with hosting daily athlete rallies, sports clinics and hospitality centers, as well as distributing tens of thousands of pieces of literature in 29 different languages. Through nightly “Eric Liddell Rallies,” named after Great Britain’s 1924 Olympian who later became a missionary to China, volunteers and athletes will share the gospel message through music, drama and personal testimonies.

More than 400 Olympic athletes are expected to participate in the outreach, including:

— Carl Lewis, nine-time Olympic track gold medallist.

— Joe DeLoach, former 200-meter Olympic world record holder.

— Chandra Cheeseborough, two-time Olympic track gold medallist.

— Richard Bucknor, two-time Olympian for the Jamaican track team.

— Madeline Manning Mims, four-time Olympian, track gold medallist and former world record holder.

“We are overwhelmed by the doors that God has opened to share the good news of Jesus Christ from the heart of Sydney,” said Sam Mings, LCWI founder and president. “We are grateful to the churches in Australia and to the athletes from around the world for their involvement in a mission more valuable than gold. We also give thanks for the hundreds of Christians who are sacrificing their personal time and finances to share the unconditional love and everlasting hope of Christ.”

“Reach Out 2000 Sydney Australia” follows similar successful Olympic evangelistic and ministry efforts by LWCI in Los Angeles in 1984, Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996.

Founded in 1981 by Mings, a former athlete and businessman, and his wife, Sharon, Lay Witnesses for Christ International, based in Hurst, Texas, has volunteer satellite offices in 138 countries.

In addition to its athlete rallies, hospitality centers and one-on-one evangelism during Olympic events, LWCI sponsors a “Right Track” drug and alcohol prevention program to help youth avoid the dangers of substance abuse and gangs; “Stars for Christ,” an evangelical outreach through organized athletic teams; a speakers bureau; and the annual Christian Athlete of the Year Awards.

In the past two decades, LWCI workers have had the opportunity to lead more than 20,000 athletes from 140 nations to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Seeds for LWCI were planted in 1976 in the Mings’ backyard, where they and their three children, Tammy, Teena and Bo, shared the gospel to hundreds of neighborhood youth.

Mings’ ministry to athletes began in 1980, when he was asked to speak to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting at the University of Tennessee. More than 100 people prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, including Willie Gault, who now serves on the LWCI board of directors. In 1981, at Gault’s urging, Mings and his son, Bo, traveled to the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Baton Rouge, La., to minister to athletes. Many trusted in Christ, including Stanley Floyd, Carl Lewis and Herschel Walker. Later that year, the ministry held its first “Three Hours with the Stars” in Houston.

The 23rd Olympiad in Los Angeles marked the first opportunity for LWCI to minister to athletes and spectators at the Olympics. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, LWCI’s “Evening with the Olympians” was staged in the sanctuary of the world’s largest church (Yoido Full Gospel). Media experts estimated that 200 million people worldwide saw portions of the testimonies from the meetings.

LWCI athletes have shared their testimonies with the world at more than 40 major sporting events, including the Olympics, U.S. Olympic trials, NCAA Championships, Pan American Games, Goodwill Games and World Cup Championships.

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