Deacon Don Hindle reflects on Olympic outreach in Vancouver

TCL: How many people participated? For example, how many people actually walked through the doors?
DH: I tried to do some rough math and I believe we met an average of 500 people per day (who used our parking). So I’m guessing we met approximately 8,000 people by the final Sunday. Out of those, 4000 came into our building and used our washrooms and took advantage of the free coffee and goodies. About 2000 stayed around for more than 10 minutes.

TCL: Where did they come from?
DH: We had visitors from all over. Our map set up in the narthex where people put flags from where they came has about 150 different areas marked. We had visitors from all over the world, including places like Fiji, Uganda and Hawaii. We also had many people from the community and outside areas of the Lower Mainland. There was a great mix of people; lots of families, seniors and younger teens.

TCL: How did visitors and guests react?
DH: Most asked the same question “Why are you doing this?” especially when we gave away parking. We could easily have charged $15 for parking, but since it was free, people really felt that was wonderful. As a result, many came in and visited our building and took the free handouts, Bibles, pins and DVDs we distributed. It was also a great time for our members to simply connect with the people. Those who visited were relaxed and realized that Christians are nice people, not judgmental as they’ve heard in the past.

Some people were still skeptical. One person passed us by and parked two blocks further away. I was on the corner and as he passed by he said, “It is free parking!” He was surprised and couldn’t believe it. Others would drive up, slow down, see that it was a church and would drive on, but those who came in were pleasantly surprised at the radical hospitality they received.

TCL: How many volunteers did you have?
DH: We had hundreds of volunteers from all over. The first week was great! We had mission teams from different churches in Mississippi, Texas, Las Vegas, Winnipeg and Georgia join us. We also had biblically conservative churches from all over the Richmond area help us, so it was a great time to work with these fellow Christians towards one goal: telling people about Jesus. Unfortunately, we had challenges the second week when we had shortfalls on many of the days, but God was faithful and helped us to get through them.

TCL: What kind of jobs did the volunteers perform?
DH: We had parking lot attendants who were very important people because they were our first contact people. They informed our visitors what was going on inside the church and had to be very warm and welcoming—as were all our volunteers.

Then, we had greeters in each of the areas. In our narthex, people would greet those who would come in and let them know where everything was. They would also man the pin trading booth where we had the More Than Gold pins and the “We Remember” RCMP Fallen Four pins (which were very popular).

In the Internet café, the volunteer would watch over the computers and greet anyone who would come in.

At the Big screen, the person there would greet people and let them know about the coffee and baked goods.

Our bakers kept busy 12 hours a day baking up a storm, making sandwiches for volunteers, and continually making coffee.

Finally, the janitorial staff kept our bathrooms clean. Next to our parking lot, our clean bathrooms were the second biggest draw (they had mostly port-a-potties at the O-Zone across the street. When we let people use our bathrooms, they were very appreciative.

TCL: How has the congregation benefited from the outreach programs? Will you get more new members?
DH: All too often the evangelism desires in our congregations focus too much on getting “new members”—people to fill the pews on Sunday morning (and fill the offering plate). I think this really takes away the focus from what we are doing. It also changes how we deal with people who are spiritually lost. Instead of seeing them as people in need of a loving Saviour, we see them as numbers. When we do that, we don’t show them the sincere love of Jesus.

My father-in-law once said something profound (he was a member of a church, but stopped going). “All that people at church want is for me to go to back to church. They don’t care about what I’m going through or what’s happening in my life…I get that from my friends at the pub.”

With this event, our volunteers weren’t focused on making our visitors “members of a church,” rather they were focused on showing them the love Jesus has for them through our hospitality. As a result, something very interesting happened.

At first, no one was taking our evangelism materials, but by the next week I noticed we were going through a lot of the literature at a much faster rate. I can only speculate why, but my guess is that people wanted to see why we were showing such radical hospitality and felt they should learn more about Jesus. So, they took the free booklets, DVD’s and New Testaments. The Gideon’s gave out about 300 New Testaments and we also handed out many of the More Than Gold Gospel’s of Mark

TCL: How will this experience help the church prepare for future outreach?
DH: As far as Trinity goes, a lot more people now know we exist, and they will remember the hospitality they received when they got here. They may come back to check us out or they may just use our parking lot again. But at least Trinity has made its presence known in the community.

Now it will be a question of where to go from here. How will we keep our hospitality focus and continue serving the community around us? How do we get out of our church and meet those who are spiritually lost.

On another note, we have been working with other Richmond churches, and it has been a blessing. We discovered that we can do a lot more together for our community than we can apart. As a result, we will continue to look for alternative ways to serve our community together.

TCL: Any other comments?
DH: We definitely found ourselves being stretched with this event. There were many times that our comfort zones were stretched, but this was a good thing. Reaching out to people involves stretching our comfort zones a little and stepping out in faith, trusting that God will work through us.

The other thing I discovered is the difference between God’s success and my own success. In my mind, I wanted to see our big screen packed to capacity every day and our concerts as well. But, they weren’t. However, I think the smaller setting was much better. It allowed us more time to connect with people and get to know them, something that wouldn’t have happened if we were at maximum capacity.

To read more about LCC’s Vancouver Olympic Outreach see http://aliveat2010.lccabc.ca

Freelance writer and editor Keven Drews conducted the interview with Deacon Don Hindle.