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December 31, 2000: California church trailblazer for city's revitalization

December 24, 2000: New Jersey township retracts impediment to A/G congregation

December 10, 2000: Christmas stocking project brings hope, gifts to needy kids

November 26, 2000: A/G church looks to second half-century with founding pastor

November 19, 2000: Quest for souls occupies Christians during Olympics

November 12, 2000: Three ministers reaching their world

October 29, 2000: A/G Minister to ride to each state capitol, pray for nation

October 22, 2000: Art academy connects students with Creator

October 15, 2000: Columbine survivors share testimonies, hundreds respond

October 8, 2000: Graham conducts final evangelism conference

September 24, 2000: Independent congregation receives help from Lousiana A/G church

September 17, 2000: California ministry team breaking strongholds

August 27, 2000: Bold outreach touches hurting in Allentown

August 20, 2000: Baptist church gives A/G congregation its facility

August 13, 2000: Climbers conquer Kilimanjaro, help A/G

July 30, 2000: Chicago church, city partner to improve lives of women, children

July 9, 2000: New Mexico fires damage A/G families’ homes

June 25, 2000: God moves in Mississippi high school assembly

June 18, 2000: California skate park becomes 'teen church'

June 11, 2000: Convoy and partners team up to reach poor

May 28, 2000: Tornado damages A/G church in Texas

May 21, 2000: National Prayer Center ministry expands reach

May 14, 2000: Adventure, ministry on Pathfinder missions

April 30, 2000: Church reaching deaf students in Louisiana

April 23, 2000: 40-day fasts unite, renew A/G churches

April 9, 2000: Colorado church booms with bilingual services

March 26, 2000: Cell groups strengthen California youth group

March 19, 2000: Michigan church bounces back from brink of closing

March 12, 2000: A/G man holds world arm-wrestling title

February 27, 2000: A/G minister helps others get their wings

February 20, 2000: Former editor with Christ


Quest for souls occupies Christians during Olympics

(November 19, 2000)

The Olympics in Sydney represented much more than a showcase for the world’s greatest athletes. Christians from around the world came to Australia to share their faith among the throngs of international spectators. Their message was augmented by the public testimony of key Olympians.

(from left) Nicki Impastato, Robbie Nichols, Jamie Howell and Lindsay Bowen ministered in Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia.

Behind the glamour of the summer Olympic celebration, residents of Sydney grapple with a host of spiritual needs. Prostitution is legal; drug use is openly tolerated; homosexuality is publicly displayed. By some estimates, more than 90 percent of Australians are non-Christians. The nation has never experienced a major revival; during its early history it served as a penal colony of the British Empire.

The Games created an unprecedented opportunity to share the gospel. Quest Australia, an Olympics-sanctioned umbrella group representing Sydney congregations and ministries, reported that 500 regional churches from 30 denominations took part in ministry to spectators. Quest chaplains offered counsel at the Olympic Village and other venues. One Baptist church hosted the official Olympic Information Center, where people could learn the location of events. Christian families opened their homes to families of athletes who couldn’t afford to stay in hotels. Windsor District Baptist Church set up a sprawling "tent city," where Christian volunteers lived during weeks of ministry across the region.

Bill Whelan, a Windsor deacon, saw the tent city project as a powerful example of Christian unity. Representatives from 14 nations lived and worked with Christians gathered from across Australia to take part in what Whelan called "shoulder-to-shoulder" evangelism.

International ministry teams spread out across the area to present the gospel. Youth With A Mission, Athletes in Action, Action International and Lay Witnesses for Christ were among the outreach organizations distributing literature and evangelizing among throngs of Olympic visitors and Sydney residents.

Former Olympic athletes shared their Christian testimonies with crowds at several Eric Liddell rallies, named for the athlete immortalized for modern audiences in the feature film Chariots of Fire. Nine-time Olympic track gold medalist Carl Lewis, 200-meter track gold medalist Joe DeLoach and double gold medalist Chandra Cheeseborough spoke. DeLoach, who set an Olympic record in Seoul in 1988, gave up his job as a computer systems engineer in Houston to come to Sydney with Lay Witnesses for Christ.

Angela Beam, a 16-year-old favored contender for a U.S. gymnastics gold medal, injured herself in July. Beam still made the trip to Sydney with the purpose of sharing her testimony. Instead of traveling with the U.S. gymnastics team, she joined a 230-member American group from Lay Witnesses for Christ. "The opportunity to minister in Sydney through sports clinics and Olympian rallies is the most fulfilling thing that I can imagine," she told Charisma News Service. "Seeing people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ is more valuable than any medal I ever could have won."

Competing Olympian believers also proclaimed their faith. U.S. athlete Sheila Taormina finished sixth in the women’s triathlon. Her fame as a medal winner in Atlanta gave her numerous opportunities to talk about her faith. U.S. diver Laura Wilkinson took gold after sustaining a broken foot. She wore a special shoe when climbing to the 10-meter platform for each dive. Wilkinson thanked God for helping her overcome her injury and quoted Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ." South African swimmer and world-record holder Penny Heyns failed to make it to the finals in her 200-meter specialty, but said the outcome was in the Lord’s hands. She has announced plans to become a missionary.

The Assemblies of God was indirectly represented in this year’s Games by Katarzyna Dydek, a member of the Polish women’s basketball team. Dydek played for the Fellowship’s Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., for three years. Assemblies of God youth joined the outreach effort in Sydney through Shake the Nations, an A/G-endorsed international youth ministry.

Nicki Impastato, missions assistant for Shake the Nations, led the 13-member team that ranged in age from 15 to 25.

"You could just sit on the train and start talking to people," Impastato said. "The Australians’ friendliness really stood out. We would explain that we were working with Quest and that we were from Assemblies of God churches in the States and that we were there to share the love of Jesus."

The team was also active in literature distribution and street ministry.

One young man, Martin, accepted a tract then asked if he could talk with team member Robbie Nichols, youth pastor from Friendship Assembly in Marietta, Ga. They spent 90 minutes together in a nearby coffee shop. Martin accepted Christ at the end of their conversation.

"I woke up this morning and asked God to bring someone my way today," he told Nichols, "and I know that you’re the answer."

"We saw him a few more times on the street," Impastato says, "and he was just so full of joy and thankfulness that we had come along."

— Scott Harrup with wire reports



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