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Sports teams in South Africa gain 400 new recruits for Christ

HURST, Texas (BP)–When Olympic athletes go for gold, Sam Mings aims for glory.
He seeks glory not for himself nor for his country, but for Christ.
Mings heads Lay Witnesses for Christ International, a ministry he founded two decades ago. His goal is to lead athletes to faith in Jesus Christ and to help them use their visibility to share the Christian message with admiring fans.
Friends called him “Miler Mings” when he ran track in suburban Fort Worth, Texas, in the 1950s. But now he’s running a marathon — trying to recruit 2,500 to 3,500 Baptists to participate in “Reach-Out 2000,” a ministry to the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Sept. 15-Oct. 1, 2000.
“We have a chance to touch the world and to evangelize Australia,” declared Mings, a member of North Richland Hills Baptist Church and a mile-a-minute talker who waves his arms in excitement as he describes the opportunities associated with his evangelistic mission.
“We need God to touch the hearts of athletes and fans from around the world and also to touch the hearts of Australians,” he said. “Australia is a non-Christian nation. Less than 4 percent of Australians are Christians.
“But Australians love sports. Forty percent of Australians worship sports.”
That’s an attitude Mings has seen countless times as he’s traveled the globe providing ministry at sporting venues.
Lay Witnesses for Christ has ministered at four Olympics — Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta — as well as numerous track-and-field championships and other sports events.
The organization works in two primary spheres: One set of ministries serves the athletes, seeking to lead them to Christ and encouraging Christian athletes to live out their faith. The other capitalizes on sports fervor, showcasing the testimonies of Christian athletes who tell fans that their relationships with Christ are more valuable than gold medals.
Lay Witnesses for Christ has attracted a pantheon of Olympic stars. Foremost is Carl Lewis, the sprinter/long-jumper who dominated the Summer Olympics for years.
Mings also has worked with track stars such as world-record setters Leroy Burrell and Florence Griffith Joyner, swimmers such as Olympic gold medalist Josh Davis and thousands more athletes in various sports.
During the Olympics, Mings’ organization has produced local “More Than Gold” rallies and televised “Evening with the Olympians” media galas, which have been broadcast around the world.
“We think ‘multiplication,'” Mings said of the media-saturated ministries connected with the Olympics. “These athletes are covered by the media from around the world. If we can encourage an athlete to say, ‘I’m running for the Lord,’ stop to pray on the track after a race or wear a Christian T-shirt, that message will be shown around the world.
“God has given these athletes a platform to speak his name.”
Mings will work with Lewis and other world-class athletes in Sydney during Reach-Out 2000, but he’s recruiting an army of Baptist volunteers to fill out the rest of the ministry.
“We need people uniquely gifted in any way,” he said. “We can use mimes, puppeteers and singers, as well as people to share their faith one-on-one, distribute literature and work with athletes. We need doctors and nurses and people with the gift for hospitality who can make athletes feel welcome.”
Some volunteers will go door-to-door with Christian athletes, telling Australians about Jesus. Others will minister to non-Christian athletes.
Christian athletes also will lead clinics and demonstrations, visit hospitals and “draw crowds” for volunteers who share their faith, he said.
Beyond skills, “We need people who are prayed up and ready to make a difference” in people’s lives, he stressed. The ministry needs volunteers of all ages, as well as ethnic diversity. A large contingent of volunteers is expected to comprise what Mings calls the “God Squad,” senior citizens who travel around the world and pitch in wherever they’re needed.
Participation will cost about $2,500, Mings said. That amount includes airfare, two meals per day, housing and uniform shirts.
Because of the cost, he urged churches and other groups to consider sponsoring volunteers who can join the ministry.
For a volunteer application or more information, contact Reach-Out 2000 at P.O. Box 127, Hurst, Texas 76053-0127; phone , (817) 284-3594; or e-mail, [email protected].

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  • Heidi Soderstrom