About 10,500 athletes from more than 200 nations will be in Beijing this summer for the 2008 Olympic Games. Unlike previous games, however, there won't be a single foreign Christian missionary in the Olympic Village.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) won't be sending chaplains to the games, because only Chinese chaplains approved by the government will be allowed into the village, where athletes live. Distribution of Christian literature and large-scale Christian gatherings will likely not be allowed, either.
However, these restrictions haven't stopped FCA from planning an Olympic outreach campaign. The Kansas City, Missouri– based organization is encouraging Christian athletes at the games to minister to other athletes. It's also enlisting former Olympic athletes, such as retired swimmer Josh Davis, who won three gold medals and two silver medals at the 1996 and 2000 games, to serve as unofficial, de facto chaplains.
"This is evangelism in its truest form, not the mass evangelism of counting heads that we're used to in the Western world," said Dan Britton, FCA's senior vice president of ministries. "It's not about huge rallies. It's about a player praying with another player. These Olympics are forcing us to simplify."
International evangelist Luis Palau encourages Christian athletes and those who attend the games to contact established Christian ministries, such as bookstores and house churches, while travelling in Beijing. Christian bookstores in China are stocked with Bibles and other evangelistic material, he said, pointing to his latest book as an example. A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian, which recounts Palau's conversations with a Chinese government ...1