The world will converge on Tokyo, Japan for the 2020 Olympics. Southern Baptists and their local church partners in Tokyo will be there to share the Gospel with the players, coaches and fans.
International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries Daniel and Tara Rice are leading the 2020 Olympic ministry efforts through Connect 2020, a program they and their teammates developed.
“Our goals are threefold: connecting Japanese people to God, connecting Japanese churches to each other and connecting the Japanese church as a whole to the world,” the Rices said.
The Rices and their teammates had the opportunity to serve during the Rugby World Cup which came to Tokyo in October. This served as a vision trip experience for their Olympic outreach strategies, as well as on-the-ground training for the volunteer teams that will be returning in the summer for Olympic outreaches.
Volunteer teams from the International Sports Federation and the Baptist conventions of South Carolina, Hawaii, Virginia and the Northwest, as well as volunteers from churches in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee traveled to Tokyo for vision trips during the Rugby World Cup. Along with these groups, the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and the Filipino Baptist Mission Board are other partners working with the Connect 2020 team. One of the Connect 2020 team’s key local partners is Tokyo Baptist Church.
Together, the volunteers from abroad and the local Japanese churches are taking part in the Connect 2020 team’s three-pronged outreach strategy.
The ECHO Project will be the team’s central outreach hub in a rented space outside of an Olympic venue. The ECHO area will have a pop-up coffeehouse, a stage, a play space and an area to trade Olympic pins. Sports fans can drop in to escape the heat and the crowds and enjoy the free coffee and activities. The ECHO area will also feature a basketball court and a rock-climbing area because, as the host country, Japan chose rock climbing and three-on-three basketball as the sports they’ll feature during these Olympics. The goal for the space is to create opportunities for volunteers and Japanese Christians to share their faith.
The Connect 2020 team and their Japanese partner churches will host intentionally-designed ‘open-festival’ style block parties that will each be connected to one of the churches. Local Japanese Baptist churches will offer free, family-friendly entertainment and activities that give church members an opportunity to interact with kids and their parents. The festivals will feature booths, games and activities for children.
Daniel said their objective in the community festivals is to get church members outside the walls of the church.
“A lot of Japanese don’t realize they have churches in their community because they never see them,” Daniel said. “It’s an opportunity for those churches to get outside of their walls, typically get off their property, engage their neighborhood, and show that they aren’t a cult.” In the past, cults have negatively influenced many Japanese people’s opinions of Christianity.
Daniel said the churches will have future events planned, so there will be an ongoing effort for follow-up with those who attend the festivals.
Become a Connect 2020 partner
There are many ways churches can partner with the IMB’s Connect 2020 team during the summer Olympics. Southern Baptists in the United States can partner in prayer as teams travel to Tokyo. Visit connect2020.net/pray for specific prayer needs.
For information on ways to be involved, visit connect2020.net/serve to see service opportunities during the Olympics.