Russia (MNN) — We only have one day left in Sochi, Russia and the church Fun Zone. I wasn’t able to update this blog until this morning, so let me give you an update over the last three days.
On Saturday, a few of us traveled to Olympic Park to watch an Olympic event. Curling. The trip to Olympic Park is great. It’s a brand new electric train. It’s free to help get spectators to and from events. As you get closer and closer to the events, the excitement grows. By the time you arrive on the 30 minute journey, you’re ready to almost run to where you’re going. Except, you don’t realize how FAR you have to walk. It’s a haul. It’s got to be over a mile.
We walked to the IceHouse, the home of the Curling event. We thought the USA was playing in the three team event, but they weren’t. But, it was a great time. We sat next to Gordon and Kate Adams, the parents of Vicki Adams, a team member of team Great Britain’s Curling team. We didn’t know any of the rules or strategy surrounding the game. The Adam’s were very gracious in explaining them and event encouraged us to cheer for her daughter. The Great Britain team won on the final stone. It was actually exciting, especially as we watched the parents get nervous for their daughter.
We spent a little more time in Olympic Park. The areas features the ‘Fun Houses’ of Switzerland, Russia, Canada, United States and more (I’m sure). But, unfortunately an invitation is required for the most of the Fun Houses. It was a little disappointing. Coke had and exposition and so did Korea, the host of the 2018 Winter Games. I’ll tell you about that later.
Following our time in Olympic Park we traveled back to the Fun Zone. Why in the evening? It was the USA vs Russia hockey game. It was a fun rivalry. The Russians were talking ‘smack’ with us. We were gracious (most of us were). One person wanted to bet 100 rubles. I told him it’s not that important, besides he would lose. So, we shook on it and watched the game together. It was a back and forth contest that could have gone either way. But, the Americans prevailed. The whole Russian crowd was disappointed. However, we waved our American flags very proudly.
On Sunday, Feburary 16th a number of us had tickets to the Germany vs Finland women’s hockey game. I must tell you that we were looking more forward to being able to walk through Olympic Park, rather than watching women’s hockey. After watching so much men’s hockey, I think I’m spoiled. While we watched closely, the speed of the game is much slower and the skill is much less than the men. It was fun to be a part of the Olympics event, but the level of hockey wasn’t really there for me. Finland won 2-1.
We spent almost all day in Olympic Park. We knew that would probably be the last day our team would be able to soak it all in. So, we went to Korea’s Fan House. There, they showed us the dream for the Olympics of 2018. Hopefully they’ll be able to get everything done in time, unlike Sochi. After that, we stood in line for the Coke experience. It was two huge blow-up buildings. It was basically a coke informercial, which culminated with a free bottle of coke in a special commemorative aluminum bottle.
Following that, we traveled back for dinner at the hostel.
On Monday, it was a time of ministry. I spent most of my morning writing, waiting to see my friends at Russian Ministries. They were to arrive at the Fun Zone when it opened at 3:00 pm. I arrived just prior to the opening, but the bus ride to the church was interesting.
Our group of four got on the bus. About four stops in the four people got on the bus. They were speaking broken English. One of them looked around the bus and spotted me, an obvious American. He sat next to me on the bus and started talking to me in Russian. I couldn’t understand him very well, so I told him so. Then he acted like he couldn’t understand me (in English). He asked me where I was from — specifically. When I asked him he said, “Chechnya — Grozny.” That made me a little nervous. But, what happened after that REALLY made me nervous. All four of the people got their Ipads, Iphones and other electronics out and started acting very aggressively. Unbeknownst to each other, we were all feeling VERY uncomfortable. So, our Russian translator said, “Let’s go.” It wasn’t our stop, but we all got up and got off the bus a few stops early. As we got off, we all said, “That just didn’t feel right.” After we got off the bus and made it to the Fun Zone, we were pulled aside by our hosts that the secret police informed them that a high terror alert was issued. We felt good that we listened to our instincts.
We walked a few blocks to the Fun Zone. That’s when I discovered Russian Ministries had
arrived. It was great seeing old friends: Pavel Tokarchuk, Gennady Torkun, and Wally Kulakoff. Russia Ministries provided the printed materials for the Fun Zone: Bilingual New Testaments and Gospels of John and a little magazine called “Hope.”
Many people attended the Fun Zone Sunday. In an interview with Wally Kulakoff, he told us about their 11 city marathon, sharing the Gospel in 11 cities during the Olympics. This was one of their stops. I’ll tell you more about that in our special report Wednesday.
It has been a wonderful experience being here in Sochi for the Olympics. Keep praying. SOAR International Ministries is helping to support the ministry. They still have a week to go and they need funding to help keep it going. Because of the excitement and popularity of the Fun Zone, they’re running a little over-budget. Could you help support them? Go here: http://www.SOARinternational.org.