SOCHI, Russia (BP) -- Amid tight security, the 2014 Winter Olympics commenced with impressive opening ceremonies, while Baptist volunteers from across the United States arrived to be part of the international festivities.
Inside Sochi's "ring of steel," consisting of 40,000 armed Russian troops, anti-aircraft weapons and a myriad of military surveillance tactics, the five Olympic rings welcomed thousands of athletes, fans, diplomats and dignitaries to the Sochi Games.
President Vladimir Putin ushered in the Games during the opening ceremonies at Fisht Olympic Stadium -- stirring a sense of competition, camaraderie and inspiration.
Among those present is a select group partnering under the name Engage Sochi. Their purpose is simple: to make a difference for Christ before, during and after the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Southern Baptist volunteers journeyed thousands of miles despite persistent media attention to fears of terrorist threats.
Engage Sochi is a network of Southern Baptists seeking to create opportunities for meaningful conversations with those living and working in Sochi or who are attending the Games. Volunteers hail from across the United States, including Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, Georgia and Alabama.
Scheduled to perform are the Singing Men of Oklahoma, Woman's Missionary Union drama teams and ministry teams from Missouri and Colorado intent on sharing the love of Christ.
Volunteers engage people throughout the community, walking in the knowledge that thousands around the world are praying for them and for Sochi during the coming weeks.
"Never in our lives have we felt the prayers of people so tangibly," one volunteer said. "Even tonight, a casual conversation on the train turned into a person helping us, and a really good local contact was made."
As people respond and ask questions, steps are taken to ensure that once they return home, they are connected with a local community of believers, regardless of where they live throughout the world.
To stay connected with Engage Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, visit the Facebook page for the outreach, Facebook.com/EngageSochi
and use its hashtag for the games -- #pray4sochi. Engage Sochi prayer request
The North Caucasus region of Russia, in which Sochi sits, has long suffered from political unrest. Evangelical churches in the region work hard to reach people with the good news that turning to Jesus Christ offers eternal hope -- hope that cannot be found in any political dogma. Pray for the pastors and members of these churches to have boldness and stamina as they reach out to those around them.
Previous Baptist Press articles about Southern Baptists' outreach efforts at the Winter Olympics include:
-- Winter Olympics outreach ready
, a Q&A with Marc Ira Hooks, one of International Mission Board's main strategists for the Sochi Olympics.
-- New tool opens door to more Olympic ministry
, about a resource kit called "Engage Your Community," prepared by the IMB's Engage Sochi team. The kit helps Christians use the Olympic Games as a way to share the Gospel regardless of their location.
-- Olympics outreach bolstered by theme song
. Jeff Bourque, a songwriter and worship leader from Nashville, wrote the theme song for the Engage Sochi project, "Where the Sea Meets the Snow."
Evelyn Adamson is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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