written in August 2016 by a mission partner in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro (Rio), known as ‘the Marvellous City’, is a hub of excited activity. Thousands of people are overseeing the logistics of the 2016 Olympic Games. Organisers hope that the Olympics will become a first-class showcase of Rio to the world, turning the city into a regular venue for important events. However, there are already long shadows cast across this image.

The International Olympic Committee has demanded that the cost of the event should be greatly reduced, hoping to halve the price tag of the London Games. The Brazilian Committee is far from happy and feel the limits imposed will reduce the dynamism of the Olympics.

The Olympic Village is a complex of 31 buildings to accommodate the athletes in an area called Ilha Pura (Pure Island). Calculations estimate that 130,000 extra jobs have been created; however, there are concerns that there will be a surge in unemployment after the Games are over. The water in the Guanabara Bay, chosen for the water events, is foul and unfit for purpose. Unfortunately, promises to clean up and improve conditions to safeguard the health of the competitors will not be fully realised, and the spread of the Zika virus is also worrying.

Economy

In 2015 the Brazilian economy dipped causing international concern; the government is finding it difficult to balance the books and there is a huge economic deficit. There are widespread allegations of corruption, even among those professing to be Christian. President Dilma Rousseff faces impeachment and the political climate is anything but stable. This uncertainty has resulted in many cancelling their flights to attend the Games.

Security

Brazil ranks high on the list of countries with serious security problems. In 2013 nearly 60,000 violent murders were committed. In an effort to reduce crime, the Peace Corps was sent into many of the shanty towns and was initially effective. However, their task is not easy and it brings the police into contact with better-armed and highly organised criminals. They have made mistakes and, as a result, they have lost the confidence of the populace. Violence that seems to go unchecked and unpunished deters potential visitors. During the Olympic Games, 80,000 people will be employed in an attempt to guarantee the safety of representatives from more than 200 countries.

The Role of the Churches

To a large extent, churches have been impotent to impact the nation in a positive way due to the dreadful impression that people have of them. The main goal of these ‘church’ movements is often financial gain, using numerous gimmicks to attract and deceive people. Many who left Catholicism are now abandoning the evangelical ship because they have been fleeced or given empty promises. The door into these churches is wide but sadly the exit is wider still.

Our hope is that the Olympic Games – the preparation, the unity among the athletes and the great effort to bring honour to their country – might have a spiritual impact on the Brazilian church. Local churches need to be united in their effort to honour not only our country, but also our God; not to win a perishable medal, but to receive an eternal reward. Perhaps the Lord will use this occasion to touch the hearts and lives of Christians to have a burden for one of the nations represented, to be a light for Him in a world that is becoming increasingly dark.

Local churches need to be united in their effort to honour not only our country, but also our God…

The Games will begin with the Olympic flame being lit. More importantly, the Holy Spirit needs to ignite the life of the churches in Brazil, in order that the flame of the gospel message might spread throughout the nations.

Evangelistic Opportunities

In 2014, Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup and many Christian groups from various countries attended. One group of young Argentinians came to Brazil with literature, paid for by themselves, in English, Portuguese and Spanish, and the Lord used them to great effect. Other Christians from Europe and the USA made a tremendous impression through their lifestyle, sacrifice and sincerity in presenting Christ. We know of two believers, one Chinese and one Korean, who made the long journey to contact athletes and visitors from their countries. They and others have promised to come back for the Olympics. Many church members who previously opened their homes to offer hospitality to these servants, plan to repeat this kindness.

Praise God for the vast number of Christians preparing Bibles, literature, posters and websites in various languages. There will be stalls in strategic places to distribute them, and workers posted at the main stadiums before and after the events, to talk to passers-by about spiritual and eternal issues. These will all play a part in an effort to try and reach the hearts of the thousands attending, and impact them with the message of the gospel.

Brazilian athletes have pulled out all the stops and are hoping that many medals will remain in Brazil. No doubt some hopes will be dashed but for the Christian, the prize is guaranteed. What a privilege not to receive a prize from the hands of some high official, but rather the prize from the Saviour!