Olympics Aside, The 'Other Race' Takes Baylor Prof To Athens

Aug. 30, 2004
News Photo 2158Kathy Hillman ran into Baylor alumnus Sergei Koltovich, an executive with the Russian airline Aeroflot, while in Athens.

by Julie Campbell Carlson

The world watched while men and women journeyed to Greece to run, swim, dive and ride, but Baylor University associate professor Kathy Hillman was in Athens to talk to people about a different kind of race - the one Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27. Hillman, president of Woman's Missionary Union of Texas, was part of an eight-person team of women from Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky and Illinois that traveled to Greece with WMU's International Initiatives, which provides women with the opportunity to be a part of international missions.

In Athens for almost two weeks, including the first week of the Olympic games, Hillman served in hospitality at the First Greek Evangelical Church and helped man an exhibit at the church titled "The Other Race."

"The basement of the church housed the exhibit, which explored the history of the Olympics and showed how it related to the athletic imagery and language in Paul's writings," Hillman said. "Upstairs in the sanctuary, there was a loop Powerpoint presentation that showed Paul's movements in Greece, and then in the foyer, there was an exhibit titled 'Strive' that featured athletic artwork created by children and teenagers from around the world."

During the five hours each day that Hillman's team staffed the exhibit, they witnessed to people from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq to Hungary, China, Vietnam and Russia and all points in between.

"Primarily, we were there to greet people and talk to them about the Other Race," Hillman said. "For example, I spoke with a young man from Albania, who had attended college in the U.S. He believed in God, but said he was struggling between Islam and Christianity. I talked with him a long time, and he finally admitted what he couldn't understand was how someone who lived 2,000 years ago could die for him. That gave me an opportunity to talk about Jesus."

The church was located in the heart of Athens with Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus across the street and the Acropolis behind it. The cycling and marathon routes passed in front. To attract people to the exhibit, free water and restrooms were offered and the exhibit was air conditioned. Athletes, coaches and referees were just some of the people who passed through the doors. Hillman even spoke with a Baylor alumnus - 1996 graduate Sergei Koltovich, who is an executive for the Russian airline Aeroflot.

"We had several hundred people attend the Sunday morning service, which was broadcast on the BBC. Jonathan Edwards, who won the gold medal for the triple jump in Sydney and is a fine Christian man from Great Britain, spoke at the service," Hillman said.

As part of their duties, Hillman's team distributed packets of information that contained part of the New Testament in eight different languages. Edwards also had helped prepare a brochure titled "More Than Gold" that gave short testimonies and provided space for recording Olympic results. These also were distributed.

The ministry team did attend some Olympic venues, including water polo and volleyball matches. They also went to a taping of the "Today Show," watched as the Olympic torch passed in the front of the church and made a side trip to Corinth.

"But we were there to work. We knew less about what was going on at the games, than the people back home who were watching on TV," Hillman said.

Plans already are under way for International Initiatives trips to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and the 2008 games in Beijing. Hillman would love to be part of those teams.

"There is a spirit of openness at the Olympics that I'm not sure I have seen at other times," she said. "You talk to everybody, whether they are next to you on the Metro or sitting beside you at an athletic venue. If they speak English, then you talk.

"I think any Christian tourist, regardless if he or she were part of a mission group, would have the opportunity to visit with others and share about Christ."

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