Stepping Out of the Boat | London Olympic Games 2012
Thousands of Christians follow God's call to reach out to visitors to the 2012 Games.
This summer thousands of tourists descended upon the city of London for the 2012 Olympic Games. But tourists are not be the only visitors to London during the Games. Some 5,000 volunteers from the charity More Than Gold also arrived, working alongside churches to ensure they made the most of this summer.
And every single one of these volunteers - whether they handed out cups of cold water, offered their homes to the families of athletes or welcomed tourists at Heathrow - have taken a step of faith and followed where God has called them.
"I was terrified, but I knew God wanted me to take that step in trusting and serving him"
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, now working during the Olympics, 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.
There is something amazing about a church, small in it’s numbers and resources, which manages to make a big impact. I have seen this a few times over the course of my year at More Than Gold. A small Methodist Chapel in Lands' End, with a congregation of no more than 50, had a vision to bring praise and worship to the nation during the torch relay. To make this even more interesting, they would do this on a double decker bus with a live worship band travelling for 70 days following the official torch relay. This church single-handedly found a bus, bus drivers, wiling worship bands in each of the major torch stopping locations and succeeded in bringing praise and worship to nearly every village and town in the UK.
"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."
Another small church in Greenwich gave hospitality to pedestrians on their way to the Equestrian centre during the Olympics. Even with a congregation of 12, a hall no bigger than the size of a double garage and little resources, they managed to bless Games visitors with a place to rest, free drinks and toilets. So many churches this year have shown me that no matter what your circumstances, if you have a willing heart and will step out of the boat for Jesus, he will bless your path.
Christians have also taken to the streets, not to preach, but to love. 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.
Games Pastors have been a helping hand and friendly face at major transport hubs during the Games. They have helped people in a numerous ways, from helping someone who lost their contact lenses to saving someone’s life who was about to commit suicide but just wanted someone to talk to.
Over 1 million bottles of water have been handed out to Games visitors, which were so appreciated on hot and sunny days.
Mission teams have come from 43 countries to help the UK churches in any ways they can. Whether it’s through children’s activities, planning festivals or hospitality centres.
Creative arts teams have also come from far and wide to perform in exciting locations such as outside Westminster Abbey to share their God-given gifts and their testimonies with Games visitors.
And how have I been lucky enough to be part of all of this? Well, the instruction Jesus gave his disciples 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.