Seminarians and students at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) have been praying for the best as twenty of their fellow scholars ventured out to Athens for some “intensive fishing” during the Olympics. The team, which set out last week for their 12-day evangelistic effort, will report to the seminary live via video feed during the NOBTS’ first chapel service today, August 19, 2004.
“Though it probably will not be highlighted on ESPN or Sports Center, our NOBTS Olympic team members will enter a playing field where the benefits of their training meet the challenges of our world face to face. Our prayer is that while heaven watches we will leave a mark on history that will last for eternity,” said Endel Lee, leader of the sports-based ministry group.
According to Lee, the team hopes to act as the Apostle Paul of this era, using the language of sports to reach out to the unreached.
“The Olympics is a global event with sports as its common language. Our students will use that language as a starting point to help people understand their need for Christ,” continued Lee.
According to the new report by NOBTS-related Baptist Press, the group consists of six graduate students, six undergraduate students, six students auditing courses at NOBTS and two professors.
Their main plan of outreach is to teach basic skills in American sports such as baseball and basketball, and to draw large crowds by playing games like Ultimate Frisbee in prime locations throughout the city.
“With 4 million residents and an influx of Olympic visitors in Athens, the team will have ample opportunities to share the Gospel,” the BP stated.
Tony Merida, one of the students on the trip explained, “doing missions in Greece is ‘intense fishing.’”
“Multitudes of the peoples from around the world will be in one place. Our task is to tell them of the one way: Christ alone,” said Merida.
According to Merida, prayer and the Holy Spirit has been a key part of the outreach.
“It’s simple. It’s focused. It’s impossible –- apart from the transforming work of the Holy Spirit,” Merida said. “Thus our hope of success is not in strategy or our personality, but in the same Holy Spirit that worked in the life of the Eunich when he was told about the crucified Messiah. It is that end for which we pray.”
Aside from Lee - the assistant professor of preaching and pastoral ministry at NOBTS’ undergraduate studies program, Dr. Allen Jackson - the associate professor of youth education at NOBTS, planned the trip.
The International Sports Federation helped Lee and Jackson train students on how to reach out with sport-based ministries. As part of the training, students spent time sharing the gospel with strangers in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
“During a training exercise in the French Quarter last May, our students got a feel for what it is like to approach someone on the street and initiate a conversation that could lead to a Gospel presentation,” Lee said. “These students will have countless chances to develop this skill in an international setting where millions pour into Athens to see the Olympic Games.”
According to Lee, the training began in March, and the process has been no vacation for the students, all of whom had to cover their own transportation and lodging costs. Additionally, there have been many security issues and barriers to overcome in partaking in the outreach.
“Compared to Sydney, personal safety has become a much greater concern due to the changes in our environment since 9/11,” said Lee, who led a similar outreach four years ago at the Sydney Olympics. “We will have to be more alert and more patient as we participate in the Greece games.”
For more information on the NOBTS or on the mission trip, please visit: http://www.nobts.edu/. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention.