Over two thousand volunteers have paid their own way to help churches serve their communities and international visitors during the 2012 Games. They represent over 40 countries including Ghana, South Korea, Russia and India.
However, what these mission volunteers will not be doing is pushing their beliefs down people’s throats or thrusting pamphlets into their hands. This is the assurance of Jon Burns, the UK Director of More Than Gold, the inter-church agency that is coordinating all this activity.
Burns says, "We’re determined not to force feed people our beliefs – despite how passionately we hold them. We’ve seen bad examples where litter bins are full of religious literature that has been given to people who don’t really want it."
"Instead," Jon assures, "we want our international volunteers to serve people and to engage with them – just as Jesus did."
The fact that this is more than just talk can be seen by all those serving on mission teams with More Than Gold being expected to sign an agreement on how they will behave. With "no mass distribution of Bibles or religious literature". And a commitment always to "Treat all members of the public with dignity and courtesy – never preaching at them but always seeking to serve, welcome, engage and converse".
A second wave of the international volunteers has just arrived in the UK. Rather then harassing bystanders they will be pitching in to help churches run children’s clubs, big screen community festivals, sports clinics and more. And also sharing the faith that motivates them with all who might be interested.
Some of these volunteers bring specialist skills, like the four from South Carolina who use basketball to build bridges. Sherri Oldevak is one of them and says, "We pull people from the audience to interact with us as we spin six basketballs on our fingers and toes at the same time. When you spin a basketball, people are intrigued by what you’re doing and ask questions. This is our link to share the Gospel."
Howard Moore, from Toronto Canada, is one of a 38-member team that will be helping a church organise a holiday club and a café. And also meeting and greeting the families of athletes being given free bed and breakfast so they can afford to see their loved ones take part.
Howard said, "We are here to serve the churches as they share the love of Jesus with those around them."
The first wave of international volunteers arrived as the 2012 Olympics began. They helped churches such as Frampton Park Baptist with sports and community outreach, hosted ‘Fire and Fragrance’ – a Garden Café in Newham, helped Manor Park Methodist plan a holiday club and supported a youth café with Bow Baptist Church.
A major contributor to the volunteer programme is the international agency Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Yan Nicholls, from their Forever team, says, "Some of our volunteers are from countries where the Christian gospel was first heard thanks to people from the UK. And many have said they feel, by volunteering, this is a way of giving something back. And they really have, serving local communities and local people, working tirelessly alongside local churches."
Mission volunteers sign code of conduct at Olympics
Published 06 August 2012 | More Than Gold