This summer will see thousands of tourists descend upon the city of London for the 2012 Games. But tourists will not be the only visitors to London during the Games. Some 5,000 volunteers from the charity More Than Gold will also arrive, working alongside churches to ensure they make the most of this summer.
And every single one of these volunteers - whether they are handing out cups of cold water, offering their homes to the families of athletes or welcoming tourists at Heathrow - have taken a step of faith and followed where God has called them.
My opportunity to step out of the boat came in April 2011 when I visited More Than Gold for a week’s work experience. At the time, I was in my final year of university, studying Journalism and English Language. At the beginning of my final year I prayed for clear direction from God about His call on my life. I knew I had a passion to use journalism and communications to further the Kingdom, but I just didn’t know how God would use me. Part of me wanted to have my life planned out…and yet another part thought that if we knew everything we were meant to do, would we be happy? Would we do it? I had to trust that God was in control.
On the second day of my placement at More Than Gold, the staff and I both felt God wanted me to come back and help on their communications team. This would mean leaving my home, my friends, my fiancé and my family, and moving to London with very little finances. I was terrified, but I knew God wanted me to take that step in trusting and serving Him. He provided everything I could possibly have needed. Accommodation, finances and friendships fell into place, all at the right time. Before I knew it I had packed my many suitcases and moved to London to start a new journey with God by my side.
A year on, I’ve seen more than many Christians could hope or dream of. I’ve seen churches take steps of faith - putting on festivals, cafes and sports quizzes in their local communities. I’ve seen people on the streets waving and dancing to worship music, and the most amazing thing…I’ve seen people ask questions about faith and God. I have also been privileged to work alongside local and national media, helping to spread the Good News and tell the world that the Church is alive and kicking! When Churches begin to step out of the boat and serve generously in their communities – giving away over a thousand cream teas in Falmouth, for example – people start to wonder why. In a world where we are taught that nothing comes for free, it is more important than ever for the Church to show that Jesus’ love is available for everyone, everywhere. Our faith and generosity has the ability to show Jesus’ love in action.
And what led me to all this? Well, the instruction Jesus gives us in Matthew 14:22-33 - to trust Him, to follow him out of the boat and walk into the unknown – that instruction is as true today as it was when it was first uttered. Even when the winds blow and the boat rocks, Jesus still stands firm ahead of us, guiding our paths and holding out His hand. Take His hand, trust where He leads you and follow Him. It was the best thing I ever did.
The Generosity Challenge:
If you haven't been able to engage with More Than Gold for the Olympics this year, perhaps you could consider showing generosity and faith in a smaller way. There are lots of sporting events being televised - why not invite a few neighbours round, provide some refreshments, and use it as an opportunity to show hospitality and Jesus' love?
Whether you’re excited about the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics or not (and I speak as someone so un-athletic that the mere sight of a running track induces queasiness), there’s no doubt that the Games will be the most talked-about event of the summer.
Up to 800,000 people are expected to travel through London on the busiest day of the Games and with 20 official Olympic sites across the UK, London is just the beginning. The Olympic torch will pass through the hands of 8,000 people in a thousand communities, covering nearly all of the UK.* Why does this matter? Well, aside from having major traffic implications, it also presents the UK church with a glaring opportunity.
The Olympics give us all an opportunity to show generosity and hospitality, kindness and community. Traditionally these qualities are already found in church environments; but the Olympics is a golden ticket to take church to the streets. More Than Gold is the initiative founded to mobilise the church throughout the Olympics; to enable them to reach out to the community in areas of Outreach, Service and Hospitality, and show them something of Jesus’ love.
If you’re into the creative arts, you can volunteer your drama, vocal or art skills to a local church outreach event. Use your football and rugby skills to set up a sports holiday club for kids. If hospitality is your gifting, you could consider hosting an Athlete’s family, saving them the astronomical cost of accommodation throughout the Games period. There’s also the opportunity to become a Games Pastor: essentially assisting visitors with practical advice and support at several key transport terminals and Games venues.
If you can hand out free cups of water or point someone in the direction of the nearest toilet, you can represent Jesus in your community this summer. And that's great news for those of us who can't tell our athletics from our elbow.
Visit the More Than Gold website for resources and application forms.
How are you planning on reaching out in your community during the Games this year? Do you think initiatives like More Than Gold will make a lasting difference in your town? Let us know in the comments.
*Figures and image courtesy of More Than Gold.
blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.