Lead Stories

Saving souls in Sochi

"Saving souls in Sochi" Continued...

Engage Sochi has worked with Central Baptist Church of Sochi to cultivate a local team years in advance to continue making disciples years after the games end. Engage Sochi already had a house church in Sochi and a Bible study in the mountain community last year. “I think that God has brought these events to Sochi to allow the people in our city to be more open,” pastor Danil Pankratov said while learning and training at the 2012 London games. “As the church, we have to get on our feet.”

Taking what they learned in London, local Russians and volunteers from the United States have branched out throughout the city, even into residential neighborhoods. While the U.S. warned American athletes to tone down their gear outside Olympic venues for safety reasons, Engage Sochi volunteers have found an opportunity: International media and fans view American-sightings as part of the Olympic experience. “When we get back, we are going to become nobodies again,” a volunteer jested.

In high-traffic areas, they’re using flash mob-like methods to draw crowds, such as breaking out in “Oklahoma.” Then they can interact one-on-one, handing out Olympic pins and telling the story of the “Wordless Book,” in which colors represent parts of the gospel—this time with the colors of the five Olympic rings.

“Oklahoma” may not echo forever on the streets of Sochi, but Sochi’s believers are taking advantage of the opportunity afforded them. Some are already looking forward to the Paralympics, the first Formula One Grand Prix in October, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“The Lord just seems to have opened up this door to Sochi,” SOAR’s Barclay said, “and we’re just waiting to see where that goes and what other doors he opens up.”

Andrew Branch
Andrew Branch

Andrew is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. He was homeschooled for 12 years and recently graduated from N.C. State University. He writes about sports and poverty for WORLD. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewABranch.

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