United Kingdom (MNN) — The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are underway in London, England. Millions of people are expected to participate in events which brings people together from all over the world. Mission Network News is partnering with Planet Sport to cover the games this year from a missions perspective.
There are a number of Christian athletes participating in The Games. American 400-meter runner and favorite Sanya Richards-Ross has run sub 50-second 400s more than 40 times–a world record. She's running again this year for her country. But she's also running for someone else — Christ. Her faith is important to her. "My husband and I pray together every time we're together — at nights before we go to bed, we try to do Bible study together. My best friend and I pray before races. We don't just because of races, but it's something that allows us to come together. It's a commonality that we have."
Richards-Ross says, "Prayer is very important to me. It's our direct line to Jesus, and we know that He hears us. Where two or more are gathered, we know that He is with us. So whenever I can, I pray with my teammates and encourage them as well."
The Olympic Gold Medal is the only prize that has eluded her. Favored to win in Beijing, she finished third.
Meanwhile, South African cyclist Jo VandeWinkle says Europe is quite different than her country. "There are more people who have stronger faith than a lot of the Europeans, which is also an opportunity for us to bring that faith to Europe to show the Europeans that it does make a difference."
Fellow South African cyclist Ashleigh Pasio says she would have given up cycling had it not been for her faith. She's encouraged "just knowing that God has a plan and that things happen for a reason–although, His plan isn't always the same as your plan."
While the focus of The Olympics is on athletics, other not-so-good elements come with it. One of those elements is human trafficking. UK Coordinator of "Stop the Traffik" Bex Keer says, "There's an opportunity for people to exploit. So there's a demand for paying for sex. There's a demand for forced labor that's preparing the merchandise and working in restaurants."
Christians attending the games need to be aware of it and be watching for it. "When you see something, you might be the only person who sees it. You need to [follow] your gut instinct and respond to it–passing that information on to the appropriate person."
In the days ahead, Mission Network News will have "the story behind the story" of the Olympics Games in London. We'll take a look at individuals and organizations who are using The Games to share Christ, athletes who are being a testimony for Christ, and stories that will encourage the body of Christ.