The fanfare and flair of the opening Olympic ceremony will live on in many people’s minds. But, for one man, the Games is the start of something even more amazing, for people of all nations.
In March, ET reported on the Grace2London mission and its preparations ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games.
This month, we caught up with Pastor Steven Richards of Homerton Baptist Church, to see how God is blessing his vision to evangelise our corner of the world.
He was present at the May Bank Holiday test events — the British Universities and Colleges Sport — as was one of the ET staff, although for different reasons (cheering on a former Girl Crusader competing for Lincoln).
Mr Richards said, ‘On the cold and dismal May Bank Holiday weekend we made our way to the new Olympic Stadium along with 40,000 others. It was the last and the largest of the test events being held at the Olympic Park as preparations were being made for the Games to start on 27 July.
‘The event in the stadium was to mark 2012 hours to go before the Opening Ceremony. I had been to the stadium before, for a special event in December 2010, and a special tour when it was nearer completion a few months ago. But none of these visits prepared me for that Saturday in May.
‘The way in was plain and utilitarian, but the vista that greeted us on entry was amazing. The stadium itself seemed like a sprinter in the starting blocks, ready to unleash its full strength and dynamism as it eagerly anticipated the glory for which it was created.
‘We watched first-class athletics, as competitors from many British universities took part in a number of events.
‘After this, Olympic events of the past were re-enacted. Celebrities took part in a tug-of-war, tandem cycling and art events, culminating with a child joining Lord Coe in pressing the button that signified the stadium was open for business.’
‘Soon, billions of people will see the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
‘The precursor will be several special events along the banks of the River Thames and in many other places throughout the UK. The Olympic Torch is on its way to London; the cauldron will soon be lit and the Games will commence.
‘But, a month later, it will all be over, as the Closing Ceremony for the Paralympics takes place. All the medals will have been awarded and we will know whether Team GB has done as well as they hope.
‘Would all the hours of hard, intensive and sometimes gruelling effort have been worth it? For many, the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’, but for others there will be bitter disappointment.
‘Grace2London has been involved in much hard work, seeking to motivate believers to take this opportunity to share their faith with the millions of visitors coming to the UK, for both the Olympics and Paralympics.
‘It is vital we do not forget the Paralympics, as these too give much opportunity to share the gospel. There are many coming to help with the Olympics; we pray that many will also come to help at the Paralympics.
‘One thing we have prepared is the production of a credit card-size DVD PowerPoint presentation about the wonder of the human body. Various teams will be giving these to whom they speak on the streets.
‘This will be reinforced with a meeting, entitled ‘Design, intelligence and the Word of God’, at which Prof Andy McIntosh will speak.
‘There will be many events at different churches. These include West Ham Tabernacle, which will hold a quiz night, a poetry night, a movie night, an art exhibition and telling the ‘Greatest story ever’. During the Games, it will have a cafe open each day.
‘Hainault Road Baptist Church, Leyton, is planning a special event for the Torch Relay. Homerton Baptist will be hosting a community barbecue, a Jamaican evening and a performance by Rich Swingle about the life and ministry of Eric Liddell, entitled Beyond the chariots.
‘There will be teams from Answers in Genesis, South Africa, Ireland and different churches out on the streets, seeking to share the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
‘There will be a lot of activity throughout the Games, but it must be remembered that this is not the end but the beginning.
‘This is true of the Olympics themselves. The Olympic Park venues have been designed with legacy in mind and would be adapted for the Olympics, rather than the reverse. It will become one of the largest urban parks in Europe and make an incredible difference to the East End of London.
‘Among the London boroughs that surround the Olympic Park, there are some of the most deprived areas in the whole country. It is said the life expectancy of those living in the East End is seven years shorter than those living in central and west London.
‘The Park will include about 11,000 homes, nearly half of which will be family-size dwellings. There will be many community facilities and, it goes without saying, many sporting facilities.
‘Lord Coe has described it as “a city within a city”. The hope is that this will redress the balance and improve the lot of all who live there.’
‘Grace2London is concerned about this legacy. In the Lord’s providence, we have been able to build up a good relationship with the legacy company and we pray this will continue.
‘We believe that ultimately the opportunities presented in legacy will be of much greater significance than the Olympics. We would love to plant a church in the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and there have been indications that this may be possible.
‘Our prayer is that the Lord’s people will grasp this opportunity; and a place where the most significant, essential and glorious “legacy” is proclaimed will be included.
‘Please pray for all that will be done during the time of the Olympics. We live in an age where it is necessary to have jet fighters on hand, a warship in Greenwich and surface-to-air missiles in the area around the Olympic Park.
‘We hope they will not be needed. The measures being taken may be necessary to achieve peace, as the world sees it, but we have a peace that is far superior. As one has rightly said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God”.
‘It is the peace with God that can only be found in Jesus Christ that we want to present.’
Any gifts earmarked for’Grace2London’ can be sent to Homerton Baptist Church, Barnabas Road, Homerton, London, E95SD (please do not send gifts directly to ET).