Warm weather good and bad at Winter Olympics

Spring-like conditions at the Winter Olympics.

Spring-like conditions at the Winter Olympics.

Russia (MNN) — Spring-like temperatures in Sochi, Russia are causing concern for Olympians at the Winter Olympics, but it’s providing great opportunities to share Christ. According to organizers, many are open to learning about their local evangelical church and what they believe. Additionally, heightened security and uncertainty about terrorism may be another reason why spectators are open to the Gospel.

MNN’s Greg Yoder is embedded with ministry teams in Sochi, Russia. SOAR International is supporting Russia Inland, a national church consortium, who’s hosting Yoder and 40 others.

Russia Inland has established two “Fan Zone” tents in two areas around the Winter Olympics. The first is in the City Center. The other is near the ski events in Rosa Khutor. People visit the tents for the free tea, coffee, and an opportunity to watch Olympic events on big screen TVs. What they get out of their visit is contagious.

SOAR was asked to send a team of Americans to Sochi to give the tents an international feel. The team of Americans and Russia provide puppet shows, do face painting, crafts, and games for the kids. Adults visiting the tent get a listening ear and an opportunity to pray for those who are visiting. They experience love that can only be found in Christ alone.

How do the Americans feel about that? Melisa Frates says, “I just want to be here to show the kind of unconditional love I was shown by my mentor. That kind of love is infectious. If I can do that, those I interact with will want to know Jesus.”

So far, hundreds of people have visited the tents, especially in Sochi. It’s in a high-traffic area, and the large-looking facility attracts people of all ages.

Richard Page and Greg Yoder at the train station in Sochi.

Richard Page and Greg Yoder at the train station in Sochi.

SOAR’s Richard Page describes what happens each day at the “Fun Zones.” They have “balloon animals, face painting, and bubbles, and we have a photo booth. People’s pictures are taken in front of a green screen and then superimposed as a snow boarder or a hockey player. That’s been very popular. We have puppet shows going.”

Have people come to Christ? Page says it’s laying the ground work. “Believe it or not there are still people who believe that evangelicals drink the blood of babies and things like that. This is changing their perspective.”

It’s also been an introduction to the local community. “A lot of people didn’t even know the church was there,” says Page, “so it’s really opening doors. We’re sharing the gospel through little pins with the wordless book on it and sharing the Gospel one-on-one [through] any means that we can.”

Fan Zone at the Mountain Cluster of Sochi, Russia.

Fan Zone at the Mountain Cluster of Sochi, Russia.

John Rysdyk, a member of the team and pastor of Soldotna Bible Chapel, says this has been ground-breaking for the local church because “if there comes a time of struggle or trial in their lives they’ll turn to the church for some help. It’s just been a huge blessing for the church.”

Through February 21, MNN will have special reports about this cooperative outreach campaign. Greg Yoder will focus on special stories that surface from the tents and tell you about the cooperation between ministries.

If you’d like to have your questions answered, post them in the comments section. Yoder will answer them as soon as he has internet connection.