YWAM’s massive undertaking won’t be over when the Olympics end on Aug. 12. It has spent several months working with local churches to ensure that local residents impacted by the outreaches will be part of a bigger, life-changing picture.
“We believe that God wants to bring revival in the U.K.,” Weightman explains. “We want to see our short-term outreach efforts working alongside the long-term efforts of local churches ... and to see long-term YWAM teams established in all the Olympic host cities to partner with all that God is doing in those cities.”
This is also the purpose behind ministry efforts led by Lay Witnesses for Christ International (LWCI). Rob Rees, the organization’s U.K. managing director for Summer Olympic Outreach, is one of the 19 invited international chaplains. Like Mims, he will work inside the Olympic Village and throughout the various venues.
LWCI is heading up a collaborative effort called “More Than Gold” with several U.K. churches. Rees is excited to see what God has planned for the local fans and the spectators attending from other nations.
“Obviously there will be far more opportunities than at the Beijing games,” he says. “Our expectations are high regarding each endeavor to reach both athletes and overseas visitors with the gospel.”
Praying to Make an Impact
Mims also plans to work with LWCI. She has partnered with the group at previous Olympics, including for its “Night of Champions” event, coordinated by LWCI President Sam Mings. It includes testimonies from athletes and performances from musical guests.
“My first ministry and my first responsibility is to the athletes in the village, but I do try to ... do some outreach,” Mims says, “especially if there are some athletes that want to do some community outreach.”
One way Mims likes to do this is by locating area prisons in the host cities and taking some of the Christian athletes with her to minister to the inmates with music and God’s Word.
“The prisons are usually overlooked,” she says. “They have no access whatsoever to the Olympic Games. This is a great opportunity to mentor some of the Christian athletes that would like to be a light and an inspiration. It’s something that [for inmates] is totally unexpected.”
Mims believes one of the best ways athletes can influence the world for Christ is with those brief moments on camera, when they’re either competing or giving interviews. A group of trusted believers continually prays with her for the influence of these Olympians, who have been blessed with a sizeable platform.
“They have this moment in time, standing on a field or on a track or in a pool or in a ring,” she says. “The world is watching everything they do. How do they respond to winning or losing, doing their best or not doing their best? I’ve been praying for those who are in the body of Christ—that the light of God would just shine through them.”
Mims also prays for the media so they might ask questions that will give these athletes a chance to respond in a way that glorifies God. She is reminded of the first post-race interview she gave after her history-making run in 1968.
“I know the Holy Spirit must have led this reporter to ask this question because I’d never heard it before,” Mims says.
After the landmark victory, the reporter asked “Who do you give the glory to?”
“I just looked at him,” she says. “You have to realize that this is coming at a time when no athletes were sharing their faith on television. So I said: ‘I’m running for Jesus. That’s who all the glory goes to.’
“He looked at me really strange and said, ‘We’re not talking religion here.’ And I said: ‘I’m not either. I’m just trying to answer your question.’ And he turned to the camera and said, ‘We’ll be right back after these messages.’”
Mims laughs at the memory, but she’s quickly sobered by the thought that her brief response went across the world. Years later she met people from the former Yugoslavia who remembered the interview and were taken aback at her open statement of faith in Christ.
American gymnast Jonathan Horton mirrors Mims’ sentiment. After winning silver and bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games, he hopes to make the 2012 team and use whatever spotlight he might enjoy as a vehicle to be a witness to nonbelievers around the world.
“That’s always been my prayer,” Horton says. “I pray every night ... that He takes the platform He’s given me and uses me—speaks through me, not only through my words but through my actions as an athlete.”
Horton attends Second Baptist Church in Houston and recalls a message from his pastor, Ed Young, that challenged him to be more proactive as an outspoken Christian athlete: “He asked the question, ‘When is it right to hide your faith, and when is it right to show your faith?’ He told us that when you feel like hiding it, you need to show it, and when you feel like you’re being prideful and you want to show it, hide it.
“It would be really easy when you’re on live TV and the whole world is watching you to want to hide your faith. You want to avoid the persecution that the world is going to give you for it. But it’s in that moment when I really need to show it. That’s when I need to use my platform as a gymnast to show what the Lord has done for me.”
Chad Bonham is a veteran journalist and author based in Broken Arrow, Okla. His latest book, Glory of the Games, takes a look at biblical principles through the stories of current and former Olympic athletes.
To read about other Christian ministries and athletes at the Games click here.
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