Greater than gold: Witnessing Christ in Beijing
|PIC1|At every Olympic Games since 1984, the 'Evening with the Stars' evangelistic event has rallied Christian competitors, spectators and locals in an act of Christian witness to celebrate the ultimate victor: Jesus Christ.
Dr Sam Mings founded the initiative nearly 25 years ago at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. At this year's Olympics in Beijing, China, he is leading the outreach initiative RT2008BM (Right Track 2008 Beijing Mission) in what will be his seventh Olympics outreach.
Each year, Christians in the host city play a vital role in putting the event together and so the tradition continues in Beijing, where expats church the Beijing International Christian Fellowship are key organisers of the main event, the 'More Than Gold Evening with the Stars'. The event takes place within wider evangelistic efforts over the Olympics under the clarion banner, 'What we're about is worth more than gold'.
The outreach event and service will be joined by one of the greatest Olympians of the century, US sprinter and committed Christian Carl Lewis when it takes place at Beijing's 1,800 capacity 21st Century theatre on Sunday.
At a time when persecution watchdogs are warning of greater persecution over the period of the Olympics, a huge banner promoting the RT2008BM event drapes the front of the theatre, located in the heart of downtown Beijing.
"To organise such an evangelistic rally within the midst of an Olympic festival, to arrange for athletes to come and speak in the middle of their contests, to prepare the promotional materials, advertising paraphernalia and to motivate the local Christian community to get on board, is a marvel beyond words," says Mark Tronson, Baptist minister and International Prayer Network director for RT2008BM.
Dr Mings and Tronson anticipate that the turnout of athletes and locals will surpass any previous outreach event in an Olympic host city.
"This will be incredibly significant in China, a communist country; something like this has simply never previously been dreamed of," says Dr Mings.
"The Olympians sharing their 'power and inspiration source' must be unprecedented.
"Even more impressive is that the message will go out from the host city to the world. The situation is unparalleled."
Adds Tronson, "This is what has been achieved since 1984. Each host city's evangelical community has mobilised behind this remarkable outreach."
The Beijing International Christian Fellowship serves as a worship centre for expats, with members from no less than 70 nations. Its international make-up is the basis for its permission from authorities to function openly as a Christian church in China, where religious freedom is curtailed by the communist government.
"Once again the Lord had established a situation whereby the RT2008BM might function during the Beijing Olympics," notes Mark.
The 'Evening with the Stars' event will kick off with a 'Parade of the Stars', in which the Christian Olympians will be greeted by Carl Lewis, Dr Mings and the pastor of the Beijing International Christian Fellowship, Jon Davis.
For Dr Mings, though, the stars are there for one purpose and one purpose only.
"It will be a historic moment to remember forever in the glorifying of the Lord Jesus Christ."