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Olympics volunteers proclaim Christ from ‘Tent City’ base

WINDSOR, Australia (BP)–Fourteen nations, plus Aussies from all parts of the country, are represented at Windsor District Baptist Church’s sprawling “Tent City” Olympic village in Windsor, Australia, just an hour from Sydney’s bustling Olympic scene.

The volunteers hail from the United States, Canada, England, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, Japan as well as such Asian neighbors as New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.

Bill Whelan, a deacon at Windsor Baptist Church, said that at the project’s onset he had no idea Tent City would bring so much of the world to his doorstep.

“The most exciting thing has been seeing groups of international Christians proclaiming one Lord and one Savior, evangelizing together — shoulder-to-shoulder evangelism,” Whelan said. “That’s us proclaiming to the world that we are one. And all those groups are having a profound effect on Australia.”

Not only have the international groups reached international Olympic visitors, but Whelan said they’ve made a sizeable impact on the Aussies themselves.

“We are seeing Australians with no reservations committing their lives to Jesus Christ, and that has had a profound impact on everyone,” he said. “That’s so important because there is no other way. You can’t educate people into the kingdom of God. You can’t culturally accept them, manipulate them or buy them into the kingdom of God. It’s our challenge [to tell them that].”

And Australians — with barely 3 percent of them evangelical Christians — are in dire need of someone to tell them.

“The continent of Australia has never experienced a major revival, and it’s the last continent,” he said.

Whelan’s prayer is that Australia will be the next.

Some of Tent City’s international volunteers include 62 members of Indonesia Global Outreach, an interdenominational Christian ministry team specializing in traditional Indonesian song and dance. Batara and Esther Sihombing, national directors of Indonesia Global Outreach, said they have been preparing for the Olympics for more than a year.

They sing and dance in various venues throughout Sydney, on the streets and in churches. Their glittering costumes and lush vocals attract constant attention, and they hope their Christian message comes across to their audience.

“Our mission in coming here is that we want to bless Australia,” said Esther Sihombing. “We want to reach the unreached here. People are always asking us, ‘Why did you spend so much money to come here when Indonesia is in economic crisis?’ It’s because we want to bless Australia and the other nations. And we want to encourage them to pray for our country.”

Sihombing said their work in Indonesia — the largest Muslim country in the world — is often risky, but worth the effort.

“We just use our music to reach the lost,” she said. “We ask to see God’s work among the people, and although we may not see it directly, we know he is working.”

Hickson Lome, team leader of six Papua New Guineans, spent the day sharing the gospel on the streets of Sydney. And on the train on the way back to Windsor he met a man he knew needed help — “just by the look on his face,” he said.

“I’m a drug dealer,” the man told Lome. “I don’t know how I can get out of this situation. I’ve been in jail so many times, and every time I come out I start doing drugs again.”

“There is one man that will change you,” Lome said. “His name is Jesus Christ.”

Lome shared what Jesus had done in his life and explained to the man how to invite the Lord into his life. The man’s eyes filled with tears as they bowed their heads on the crowded bus to pray.

“Now I know who will change me,” he said. “Jesus can do it.”

Whelan wants to see that change touch all of Australia and make a dent in the 97 percent of its people who have never made a commitment to Jesus Christ.

“This is a group of Christians that is one in the Lord and one in the desire to touch Australia,” Whelan said. “And it’s working.”

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  • Jenny Rogers