DURING the past few days, The Salvation Army's Olympic Outreach Team in Sochi has experienced some amazing ministry opportunities. A significant but negative reality of global sporting events is that the influx of people from around the world is often accompanied by a rise in the incidents of sexual and human trafficking. In an effort to raise awareness of the issue team members have been distributing anti-human trafficking material throughout the downtown area of Sochi.
The pamphlet, prepared by A21 states that 'every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking' and reveals that the average age of a trafficked victim is just 12 years. Lieut-Colonel Wendy Walters (Territorial Secretary for Women's Ministries, Eastern Europe Territory) reports: 'This is a very real issue in our part of the world. The team hopes to raise awareness and perhaps save just one person from being caught in this terrible trap.'
The Olympic Outreach team members believe they are sharing in an important and significant ministry in Sochi. The following team member comments reflect their Olympic outreach journey:
Kira: 'As we walked through the Olympic Park, people would ask us about different pins we were wearing ... this gave us an opening to share about Jesus. I also found that as I stood in line to enter different buildings (sometimes for an hour or more) this was a great time to talk about why we were there.'
Anastasia: 'It started with a simple question: "Where are you from?" Conversations began and we were able to talk to people about why we were in Sochi.'
Andrei: 'As we travel from place to place on the bus or train two of us will have a conversation loud enough for those sitting close to us to hear, sharing about the difference Jesus makes in our lives. One day we were walking past McDonald's and there was a group of Americans singing Christian songs (trying to sing in Russian). When we joined them, singing in our native language, the people around stopped to listen and couldn't believe that a group of people simply walking past could join this group of foreigners and sing about Jesus.'
Maxim: 'Sometimes we would share some Christian poems with each other as we travelled on public transport. We know that our culture loves hearing good poems and we found they would listen and this gave us opportunity to speak of Jesus.'
Julia: 'One-on-one conversations as we have moved around the Olympic Park, using our pamphlet "Salvation", have helped me speak about salvation.'
On Wednesday, Lieut-Colonel Rodney Walters (Chief Secretary, Eastern European Territory) conducted several media interviews with local and international outlets, raising awareness of The Salvation Army's involvement as a church partner in the Olympic outreach movement. All members of the team have spoken of the spirit of unity that has been felt as they have partnered with local evangelical churches and networks in the 'Fun Zone' which has been set up at a church in Sochi.
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games runs until 23 February, although the Salvation Army team concludes its part in the outreach programme on the 13th.
Report by Lieut-Colonel Wendy Walters