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Olympics give men’s group ministry moment

SOCHI (BP) — Trembling, a Russian teenager made his way down the aisle of a Russian Baptist Church to respond to the Gospel message proclaimed through the music of the Singing Men of Oklahoma and an invitation by Russian and American pastors.

“What struck me,” said Ken Bartholomew, member of the Singing Men of Oklahoma, “I couldn’t see him well from where I was, but I could hear him sobbing. That seemed just a genuine, heartfelt repentance, and he wanted to give his life to the Lord. It was a remarkable experience just to be there and be a part of that.”

Apart from the church concert, the Singing Men, made up of more than 80 members, split into four groups and went throughout Sochi, sporadically harmonizing old Gospel tunes and their state song “Oklahoma.”

As crowds gathered and two or three songs were sung, the Singing Men would meet those in the crowd, get to know them, exchange contact details and hand out Engage Sochi pins. Engage Sochi is an effort driven by Southern Baptists seeking to make a positive impact for Christ during the Olympic Games.

“They did exactly what we asked them to do, and that was to come, break up into small groups, use their music to draw a crowd and use that to engage people,” Marc Hooks, co-director of Engage Sochi, said. “They really did make relationships, and that’s what they were here to do.”

The Singing Men weren’t confined to a stage, providing them several opportunities to sing along walkways and as they traveled on trains and buses from one part of Sochi to another.

“There were 25 to 30 of them all on one car of the train, so they started singing and … the atmosphere of the train changed instantly,” said Hooks, retelling one of the Oklahomans’ many experiences.

“It was like a party afterwards. Then, they were able to share the Gospel pins and Russians were giving them hats and all sorts of stuff. By the end of the whole thing, people were coming from other parts of the train to get one of their pins. So, rather than trying to give pins away, people were coming to them asking for them.”

Since the opening of the Olympics, the openness of Russians has been remarkable to Hooks, who has ministered in Russia for seven years, and spent the last four years preparing to come to the Sochi Olympics.

“Sochi today, since the Olympics started, is 180 degrees different than Sochi in January 2010,” Hooks said. “Never have I seen Russians so open. This openness has led to opportunities for relationships which leads to opportunities to share the Gospel.”

Prayer request

Pray for the young man who chose to follow Christ after a performance of the Singing Men of Oklahoma. Pray for other believers who will come alongside this new Christian and disciple him.

Sochi Olympics updates

For daily photos, quotes and prayer requests about Olympic ministries during the Games, visit commissionstories.com/Sochi Olympics. Also: A BP reporter spends a day hanging out with the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia: commissionstories.com/Singing Churchmen.
William Bagsby is an IMB writer based in London. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • William Bagsby