When the 2010 Winter Olympics opens this weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, members of Community of Hope, a Grace Brethren church in nearby Surrey, will be there. They have partnered with More Than Gold, a consortium of faith-based organizations, to offer the radical hospitality of Christ during the two-week long event.
While members of Community of Hope have volunteered for a variety of roles, the young congregation will be most visible handing out coffee or hot chocolate at the 29th Avenue Skytrain station on February 17 and 24.
The Skytrain rapid transit system serves the city of Vancouver. “It is expected that the system will be so heavily used during the games that they are expecting wait times of up to an hour,” says Shane Edwards, church planting intern at the church, who is coordinating the congregation’s efforts. “Hence, the Olympic organizers are very supportive of the churches coming alongside and providing services and engagement to waiting passengers.”
In addition to free hot drinks, church members will have special items to distribute, such as pocket guides with directions to venues or printed testimonies of Christian athletes.
“We will also have other materials encouraging people to engage with spiritual questions without getting aggressive,” Shane adds. “The organizers of these things around Olympics have found it is better not to get aggressive with tracts and Bibles as it creates negative backlash.”
Shane stresses that their purpose is first and foremost to serve the world with love, joy and compassion and in so doing cause those who see us to “glorify our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12) .
They also hope to encourage people to considering God and the claims of Christ in a non-confrontational way. “They are here for the Games, not to have a spiritual experience,” he acknowledges, “but if they come away from the Games with a greater sense of God and their need for Him, we have done our job.