Thousands of people from around the world were impacted by The Salvation Army during the women's Olympic marathon on Sunday 5 August. International Headquarters (IHQ) in London, United Kingdom, was right at the heart of it, with runners passing the building six times during the race.
Almost four hours before the marathon commenced people arrived outside IHQ looking for a prime viewing spot. Soon after, a team of 20 officers and headquarters staff was in action.
Throughout the day, near the main entrance to IHQ, free cups of water were distributed to spectators, race officials, police and Olympic volunteers. Face painting attracted many people with the Great Britain flag being most requested.
Inside the building, sport-themed copies of the United Kingdom's War Cry and Kids Alive! publications were given out and Olympic-inspired displays in the cafe area and on the ground floor proved popular. Of particular interest was information regarding The Salvation Army's hosting of the Olympic mountain bike event on its Hadleigh Farm property the following weekend.
Salvation Army team members reported having many positive conversations with people from a number of countries. The message of Jesus was shared, information about The Salvation Army provided and emotional and physical needs met.
As part of the overall More Than Gold Christian ministry to the Olympic Games, five water distribution stations were set up by The Salvation Army along the women's marathon route. This coming Sunday (12 August) a similar bridge-building ministry will be carried out during the men's marathon.
More than 4,000 free cups of water were given to Olympic men's marathon spectators, on Sunday 12 August, by officers and staff of The Salvation Army's International Headquarters (IHQ). The Olympic marathon route took the runners past the IHQ building six times, making the area ideal for Salvation Army personnel to connect with the thousands of spectators and others who were exploring nearby London landmarks including St Paul's Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern art gallery.
As well as receiving cups of water hundreds of adults and children also took the opportunity to have their face painted with Olympic rings or the national flag of their choice. The activities outside IHQ as well as the Olympic-themed exhibition, food and War Cry and Kids Alive! magazines inside the building in Café 101, were catalysts for numerous conversations between the Salvation Army team and joyous people from many countries.
These barrier-breaking conversations, which took place outside in the heat and inside in the air-conditioning, provided opportunity to explain why Jesus Christ wants his followers to help others.
Many people thought The Salvation Army was exclusively a charity and didn't know that it is a Christian mission with its good works motivated by the example and direction of Jesus. Others presumed it to be part of a military army.
Most didn't know that The Salvation Army operates in 124 countries or that IHQ has been at the current address since 1881. Numerous visitors had their understanding of the Army expanded as they learnt of its work in their country.
The prayer of the IHQ team is that the conversations will help people seek a personal relationship with Jesus and will have strengthened the resolve of Christians to take every opportunity to tell others about Jesus' love.
All the activities at IHQ were part of the More than Gold Olympic mission outreach which has involved hundreds of Salvationists and other Christians at Olympic events as well as in many cities, towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom. This UK-wide mission has involved Salvation Army teams from around the world as well as many UK Salvation Army corps (churches). Sports clinics, fun days and numerous Olympic-themed activities were arranged for adults and children with an emphasis on providing events for those struggling on low incomes.
While the marathon was taking place in central London, almost 40 miles to the east The Salvation Army was hosting the Olympic mountain bike event at Hadleigh Farm in Essex. The men's race was held on Sunday and the women's race the previous day. The crowds of more than 20,000 people from all over the world who attended each day were welcomed onto the site by a Salvation Army brass group.
Photos and a video of the IHQ marathon activities can be accessed at sar.my/ihqmenmar.
It is planned to conduct similar activities during the Paralympic Games which commence on 29 August.