By Paul Hobson — 2K Plus International Sports Media
‘God loves you, he cares about your life – this is the Christian message.’ Evangelist Roger Murphy of Through Faith Missions is speaking through a microphone to a growing crowd of people just around the corner from the Olympic Stadium.
It’s in the churchyard of St John’s, Stratford, a place through which many people pass as they make their way to either to the Olympic Park, the Westgate Shopping Centre or Stratford’s increasingly busy transport hub. It’s powerful and heartfelt, and just three days after the Olympics have begun already 100 people have made commitments to Jesus here.
St John’s, which has stood at the centre of Stratford since 1834, is playing a key role in a co-ordinated effort by all of Stratford’s churches to welcome the world for the 2012 Olympics. It is running a programme of activities and entertainment each day from 12 noon in its grounds.
Preceding Roger was an entertaining and energetic routine from Sylvain Ramseier, a 17 year old Christian acrobat from Switzerland. The Christian entertainers are drawn from around the world (they also include a Brazilian street dance group and urban dance from France), and have been sourced with the help of More Than Gold. There is also table tennis, face painting, puppet shows, classical music concerts in the church and free refreshments.
Peppered throughout are evangelistic messages of the kind Roger has just given, and opportunities to make a commitment. Volunteers are on hand to direct people to local churches, wherever they are from.
‘Jesus told us to go into the world, now the world is coming to us,’ said vicar of St John’s the Revd David Richards, who has been preparing for the Olympics since London won the bid in 2005.
‘We have always had an open door to the local community and to passers-by, now our members are ready to welcome the world and share our faith with anyone and everyone.’
In all around 20 Stratford churches are working under the Ultimate Gold programme to welcome visitors. Through Faith Missions, Open Air Campaigners, Youth with a Mission and Share Jesus International are also involved.
Central Baptist Church just up the road are running daily ‘Cake and Controversy’ sessions, where a slice of cake is dished up alongside a tasty discussion. African drumming, dance and storytelling is planned at Ithaca House.
Pastor Simon Clinton, minister of Highway Church and convenor of Stratford Churches, said, ‘It’s thrilling to work together as one church to put on our Ultimate Gold festival.
‘Our desire is to contagiously and compassionately demonstrate and communicate the love of God to our local community and the visiting world throughout the Games.’