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Salt Lake City host churches facilitate volunteers’ witness

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Reflecting the snow accenting the 2002 Winter Olympics outside, hundreds of shiny white eggs lined the countertops at Mountain View Baptist Church in Salt Lake City. Concerned less about the hype of the games, but more about feeding volunteers who converged from around the country to sleep at their church in February, Mountain View members flipped, scrambled and boiled eggs nonstop every morning.

Local church members and others stepped up to house and feed nearly 1,000 volunteers from 21 states, reported Global Outreach 2002 housing and logistics coordinator Todd Swanson, a Mission Service Corps volunteer with a 22-month assignment from the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board to oversee support in Salt Lake City for volunteers ministering during the Olympics.

Swanson, whose home church is Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., is part of Global Outreach 2002, a ministry sponsored by NAMB in partnership with state conventions in Utah-Idaho, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina and Woman’s Missionary Union.

Ten area churches, plus one on standby — all with easy access to city buses and light rail leading into the city — housed individuals for up to four weeks, some providing food and comfort items typically packed in by the volunteer groups themselves.

“Volunteers are on the front lines and we are back here making sure they have all they need to do ministry,” said Swanson, who said it would have been a “logistics nightmare” to try and keep them in individual homes because of transportation and other issues.

“The response from the churches has been excellent,” Swanson said. “This alleviated problems and allowed [the volunteers] to concentrate more on getting out and doing the ministry.”

Early on, there was a concern the churches would not have enough showers on hand. Swanson said the need was alleviated when several Southern Baptist Disaster Relief portable shower units were sent in after NAMB received a request for the equipment to be on standby in case of natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Donna Fynbo, church secretary at First Southern Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, said the shower unit there has been available for more than 120 volunteers who had stayed at the church. She was coordinating housing at the church, while associate pastor Jason McNair supervised a “More Than Gold” outreach venue for volunteers, many of whom are working with Global Outreach 2002.

The special units, assembled in Georgia, each held six showers, separated into two compartments of three showers each, with one side for men and one for women. The unit also houses two 90-gallon propane water tanks and a washer and dryer.

The biggest problem involving the shower units in Salt Lake City was the freezing temperatures. Thawing out pipes with heat lamps and hot water became a regular solution.

Pansy and Jim Lott were among the volunteers responsible for a total of three shower units operating during the games — one at First Southern, another at the Salvation Army church and a third at First Baptist Church in Layton, Utah. The Lotts, members of Salem Baptist Church, Sylvester, Ga., are regular disaster relief volunteers.

“We try to open the showers to meet the needs of the workers,” said Jim Lott. “We fit our schedule around their schedule.”

Pearl and Dennis Setzer, former long-haul truckers from Friendship Baptist Church, Hudson, N.C., helped to haul the units from Georgia to Salt Lake City. From there they will go to the Puget Sound area of Washington for use by volunteers in the Embracing Seattle church planting and evangelism effort.

Justin Verburg, a member of Antioch Bible Church in Washington, said he was impressed with how the shower unit volunteers “go above and beyond. One of the things that’s exciting is to see the team working together.

“Everyone has a different role and some people go unnoticed, but they’re serving Christ too,” the 23-year-old Verburg said.

Daniel Mamatela, pastor of Millcreek Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, knows firsthand about the sacrifice his and other church members have made to make sure the volunteers’ shower and other needs were taken care of.

At the advice of Global Outreach 2002 administrators, Mamatela said the church budgeted funds to build two new showers. When funds ran short, a member from nearby Holladay Baptist Church in Salt Lake City donated the money to finish the project.

Hosting volunteers who slept on air and foam mattresses in classroom, basement and sanctuary spaces, Mamatela said church members there had been looking forward to this ministry for more than a year.

“I saw how lives were changed and people cried when witnessing,” Mamatela said. “People came to see Olympics and ended up wanting to learn more about the Lord.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SHOWERS FOR OLYMPICS VOLS and SHOWER SUPPORT.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan