By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
VANCOUVER, B.C.—Mid-Maryland Association went for the gold last month – actually, “More than Gold.” The eleven-man team joined other church groups and faith-based organizations in an ecumenical outreach, partnering with the “More Than Gold” organization and with the Salvation Army to “extend the radical hospitality of Christ.”
The Mid-Marylanders were stationed outside of the figure skating arena in the evenings where team members served hot cocoa and engaged passers- by in conversations. They also gave away free New Testaments and very popular star-shaped multi-colored commemorative “More than Gold” pins.
Joel Rainey, Mid-Maryland Association director of missions, led the team, comprised of a diverse group of Christians from four Mid-Maryland churches that had never worked together before. Rainey said it was evident that God formed the teams.
“They worked masterfully together. I can’t speak highly enough about their flexibility and the way God worked through them,” Rainey said.
“… our team was known as part of the ‘hot chocolate’ people,” Rebecca Miller said. Miller and her husband, Dan, who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary on the trip, are members of Friendship Church. “People were grateful for a hot cup of something to drink while waiting in the rain for long lines of buses, trains and taxis. We were also able to share nightly with the bus drivers and taxi drivers, as they repeatedly lined up hours before the end of the event to ensure rides and fares for the night. It was exciting to see relationships and friendships formed from just a cup of hot chocolate and kindly spoken words. These short conversations led to opportunities for many of our mission team members to share Christ,” Rebecca said.
Shelba Uhrin told of one of those opportunities when the Holy Spirit led the group to pray with a young Olympic event worker. “It was amazing to see a man with a back pack of hot chocolate praying with this boy on the side of the road,” Uhrin said. That young man made a confession of faith.
The commemorative pins were a big hit. “Whether we were traveling on the train, by bus, walking downtown or eating lunch, we had many opportunities to explain the colors of the pin, leading people to the clear message of being a Christian. More than ten thousand Olympic pins were given away during the Olympic Games by the more than 1,000 “More Than Gold” volunteers. These pins were taken home by people around the globe,” Rebecca said.
Northwest Church member, Charlie Strickland, had a chance to share with a Romanian man while riding on a sky train. “I did not know what I was going to say, but God provided me with the words I needed to share. I explained to the man how much God loved him, quoting John 3:16. I gave him a lapel pin, tract and a New Testament, and the look of excitement on his face and his reaction was a great encouragement to me. I pray that he will read the materials and come to know the Lord,” Strickland said.
The trip was Mary Jane Wright’s first step into short-term mission work and was life changing. Wright is also a member of Friendship Church.
“I took a step of faith doing it,” Wright said. “My husband passed away in June and I was in church the following Sunday. I saw the information about the mission trip to Vancouver and didn’t realize it was for the Olympics and not for our immediate church.”
Wright didn’t back down, though as the trip got closer, she began to have some doubts.
“I’m 70 years old. I hoped my body would hold together,” she admitted. But her fears were groundless. “It was amazing. Having an intense week of living with Christians…it was a beautiful thing,” she said.
Wright shared with two Russian women on a sky train. She gave them the “More than Gold” pins, told them why the group was there and encouraged the women to read the information about Jesus on the back of the card. Wright told the women she would be by the coliseum in the evening thinking she’d never see them again but she was wrong.
“They came across the parking lot with their arms open and hugged me. That pin is going to Russia! I can’t get them out of my mind. I pray for them every day,” she said. “It was one experience after another. The whole world was there.”
Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Rainey explained. People celebrate their ethnicities and live harmoniously. And they’re more open than in most cities, he said.
Our group had hundreds of conversations with people,” he said. And those seeds planted have the potential to go around the whole world.