Belarus (MNN) — As the 2014 World Hockey Championships wrap up this week in Belarus, so do evangelistic outreach efforts. Russian Ministries School Without Walls (SWW) students have been teaming up with churches in Belarus this month to share the Gospel with hockey fans.
Taking place in Minsk, Belarus, from May 9-25, the 2014 World Hockey Championships have attracted 16 competing teams from North America, Europe, and the former Soviet Union — as well as over 400,000 spectators. That puts this year’s competition in the running for a new attendance record, according to International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) officials.
“We have broadcasters for 150 countries and territories,” one IIHF official stated yesterday. “For the first time, we expect a cumulated audience of bigger than one billion.”
The IIHF’s World Championships have a long legacy: the first tournament, among European teams only, was held two years after the group’s founding in 1910. A decade later, the group had expanded their play beyond Europe, and the first competition with North American participation was held during the 1920 Olympic Summer Games.
Fast-forward a century, and fans are in for more than just a good game of hockey.
Religious freedom is highly-restricted in the host country of Belarus, and many people are unaware of Christ as a result. Establishing new churches is “virtually impossible,” and government-inflicted punishment for public religious participation makes it very difficult to share the Gospel.
Despite security risks, SWW students and churches are capitalizing on the chance to reach thousands of people streaming into Minsk to watch the 2014 World Hockey Championships. Because young people in Belarus are the most open to the Gospel, Russian Ministries is partnering with One Hope to print and distribute 250,000 copies of A Giant Who is Strong in Spirit magazine, which is geared toward young people.
About 50,000 magazines were already distributed by young leaders from Baptist, Pentecostal, and Charismatic churches at the beginning of the Championship. They are planning to distribute 100,000 more magazines at universities, on the streets, and in fan-zones among young people as the Championship continues in Minsk.
In an effort to expand the impact of this outreach, SWW students will be distributing another 100,000 copies of the magazine during evangelistic meetings throughout Belarus until the end of 2014. As these young people strive to reach their nation for the Lord, pray that God would be at work in Belarus and that global prayer warriors would not abandon this nation in need.