November 23, 2009
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Vancouver and
Whistler from Feb. 12 to 28.The 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be
held in Vancouver and Whistler from Feb. 12 to 28. (CBC)Billy
Graham rapid response teams are among dozens of outreach efforts
that Metro Vancouver's Christian groups are putting together for
the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The volunteer teams organized by followers of the U.S. evangelist
aim to provide support to people in crisis when the Games open in
Vancouver and Whistler in February, says Abbotsford-based
co-ordinator Melanie Neufeld.
"We just want to be on the ground, ready to deploy, should
something happen," Neufeld said.
The volunteers have undergone a training regimen called His
Presence in Crisis, to help others deal with everything from
accidents to fights to stressed-out spectators, she said.
"We see ourselves as vessels that God can use, whether that's
verbal or just in the ministry of presence … just being there and
Billy Graham's rapid response chaplains previously have been
deployed to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, and
to tragedies such as mass shootings in big cities around the world,
The volunteers plan to offer their support outside SkyTrain
stations and other community gathering points, but they will not be
looking for converts, she insisted.
"Definitely not proselytizing. We're not going to be pushing our
faith on anyone or anything like that. We just want to be of
Offer 'radical hospitality'
Vancouver-area Christian groups plan more than a dozen public
outreach efforts during the Games, according to co-ordinator Karen
Reed of the Christian network More Than Gold.
"The church structure should be engaged in all of community life,
and to contribute for good," she said.
The groups will practise what Reed calls radical hospitality,
including hosting guests in a home-stay program, doing charity work
in the Downtown Eastside and setting up warming stations to provide
hot chocolate or coffee and perhaps a conversation about God at
Reed also said they won't be looking for converts for their
"Practices from 20 years ago aren't as effective today … [such as]
proselytizing in ways that turns more people off than engages
them," said Reed.
Instead, volunteers will hand out a glossy, pocket-sized brochure
with maps of the city and other tourism information, plus profiles
of athletes participating in the Games that are members of
The efforts are funded by member churches and private donations
from Vancouver's corporate sector. More Than Gold has what Reed
describes as an amiable relationship with Olympic organizers.
No official Olympic connection
Olympic Officials say the groups are not associated in any
official way with the Games, but they are free to carry on their
activities in public places as long as they don't break any
"We are not going to have a lot of control around [what] people
do, nor should we," said Taleeb Noormohamed, VANOC's vice president
"If people are coming together around specific ideas and values
[and] it happens to be during the Games, that's great, but it's not
up to VANOC to dictate or be concerned," Noormohamed said.
But not everyone believes the Christian mission should support the
Dave Diewert, an organizer with the Christian social advocacy
group Streams of Justice, which works on Vancouver's Downtown
Eastside, says it is inappropriate for Christians to associate
themselves with the Olympic juggernaut.
"It seems unthinkable to align ourselves with the massive
corporate enterprise as the Olympics," Diewert told CBC News.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada