Now, I live just across the bay from Rio and, apart from some signs here and there, I hadn't picked up much enthusiasm on the part of Rio's residents. But I was wrong, in a BIG way! I was in downtown Rio today (Oct. 2) meeting with my Cândido Mendes University disciple, Alexandre, when my wife calls and tells me both Chicago and Tokyo were out of the running! It was down to Rio and Madrid. She asked me if I was going to Copacabana to preach to the 100,000 residents gathered there to watch, on the beach, the announcement of the winner. Alexandre had to go to a job interview, so I took the Metro (subway) to famous Copacabana Beach!
As soon as I got off the subway, I heard some teens up ahead of me screaming. I knew then what had happened, but I waited until I could get near the beach to confirm, by a street vendor, Rio's selection as the host of the 2016 Olympics. Here's the video Rio used this morning in Copenhagen to try to "sell" the city to the International Olympic Committee (I recommend that you double click on the screen below to take you to full screen on YouTube, where you can watch it in High Quality and/or watch it Full Screen on your computer.)
When I got to the beach, WOW! There were people all over the place, dancing, singing, yelling, smiling. I was thinking, "Okay, how do I play off this and preach to these people?" So I started off telling people that it was God who gave this BIG present to Rio de Janeiro, and all of us would benefit by having the Olympics in Rio. But then I challenged them to think how they were going to thank God for His gift. Were they going to continue doing the same old things, or were they going to get right with Him? Were they going to abandon their sins, or were they going to continue in their rebellion?
I only had one heckler - an older woman - who chided me on "raining on their parade" while not being tolerant of those holding beliefs in other ways, other religions. I replied that Jesus is the ONLY way and that was why I needed to be there preaching this. She said I was forcing my beliefs on them, and I asked, "How?" "By using that bullhorn! You're forcing people to believe what you believe with that thing!" I replied that I was on a public sidewalk in a high-trafficked area, so how was I forcing anybody to believe anything? This drew a small crowd (Hecklers are actually a blessing in disguise, because people are kind of like sharks: When they "smell" blood, they flock to the source to see what's going on!), which I continued preaching to.
Later I noticed one man being particularly attentive. When he approached me to take an evangelistic tract, I stopped preaching long enough for him to ask me if I taught the things I was preaching about anywhere. I told him I didn't pastor a church, so I didn't have a set place where I taught. However, I gave him my phone number if he wanted to set up a time to talk more. We'll see.
Why am I grateful for Rio's selection as the host of the 2016 Olympics? Because Rio will receive the world, and that means there will be tens (or hundreds?) of thousands to reach with the gospel, not to mention millions of Brazilians! I envision this as a tremendous opportunity for the spread of the gospel and, unlike Beijing, the gospel will be able to go out unhindered. I expect there to be an effort on the part of the Church from around the world to organize and execute an evangelistic campaign to reach athletes and fans from both open and closed countries.
May we be ready to take full advantage of this unique opportunity - for the glory of God!