Russian Salvationists Ready for Outreach at 2014 Winter Olympics

published on 3 Feb 2014

With  more than 200,000 people expected to descend on the city of Sochi, in southern Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics, The Salvation Army's Eastern Europe Territory has put together a team of officers and soldiers to take part in outreach ministry. The 10 team members – from across Russia – will be based in the Olympic host city of Sochi, but will also have a presence in the mountain town of Krasnapolyna, where some of the events are taking place. They will be joined for three days by Chief Secretary Lieut-Colonel Rodney Walters and Lieut-Colonel Wendy Walters (Territorial Secretary for Women's Ministries and Territorial Programme Secretary).

Lieut-Colonel Wendy Walters explains that, because there is currently no Salvation Army presence in Sochi, the team members will link up with local churches, as part of the More Precious than Gold programme (the Russian version of More than Gold). Team members have been chosen not because of their particular interest in sport, she says, but because of their 'heart for evangelism'.

In Sochi, FunZones will be set up around the property of a Protestant church. There will be a large screen to show the day's events, games organised for children and other activities for youths and adults. The colonel says: 'Our Salvation Army team will provide tea and coffee at these locations as well as supporting with translation when needed. The local authorities have placed restrictions on the distribution of material in any location apart from the property of the church, but we do have information that we can share when approached by members of the public.'

She continues: 'We have purchased disposable cups with the Salvation Army Red Shield (in Russian) visible, as well as small packets of tissues – again with the Red Shield and Salvation Army web address – that can be freely handed out in the streets and small cards with a calendar on one side and information about The Salvation Army on the other. We have also formed links with A21, an anti-trafficking organisation, which is providing material that can be given out from the church property.'

The team will be around for the first week of the games, arriving on Thursday 6 February – the day before the opening ceremony – and finishing on the 13th, when other people will arrive as part of More Precious than Gold. Team members should be easy to recognise in their Salvation Army-branded winter jackets.

Lieut-Colonel Walters says she expects that many of the visitors from around the world who are expected to attend the games will know The Salvation Army from their home countries. She adds: 'We believe this is a good way to let the world know that The Salvation Army is operating in Eastern Europe. We see it as a good outreach opportunity but also a major awareness-raising opportunity for The Salvation Army in this part of the world.'