Game on: Christians join in prayer and outreach as Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games
To read answered prayers during the Games including healings, hour-long conversations about the Gospel with Muslims, and tracts given out, scroll down for guest blog by Gillian McDade-Hastings.
God has been doing “incredible things” on the streets of the English city of Birmingham. That’s according to Lee Gater, mission director at evangelistic organisation Burn 24-7 UK and one of many Christians engaged in prayer and evangelism in the city as tens of thousands have gathered to take part in and watch the Commonwealth Games.
Gater says many people have been open to receiving the Word of God in a way he has not experienced, with healings taking place during the daily witnessing.
“In Birmingham people have been more open, compared to other cities throughout the UK,” he says. “I spoke to a Muslim and he opened up to me and shared with me about ‘seeing the man in white’ in his dreams. We shared with him that the ‘man in white’ is in fact Jesus and this is the description given in Revelation. A lot of Muslims have been very open and have been asking questions about the Trinity and how Jesus is the son of God. The conversations are always respectful.”
The Commonwealth Games began on 28th July and ran through until 8th August, with more than 20 sports represented in the competition, the city is packed with fans cheering on the thousands of athletes competing at sporting venues across the West Midlands.
Churches and Christian organisations are there, too, providing chaplaincy support and prayer and engaging in outreach work. They have also been involved in supporting the anti-human-trafficking campaign, ‘It’s A Penalty‘, which educates people and aims to prevent exploitation.
A praise service organised by Birmingham Churches Together took place at St Chad’s Catholic Cathedral on 24th July to mark the opening of the Games. The service, which was organised by Monsignor Tim Menezes, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral, Dr Beverly Lindsay, of the Association of Jamaican Nationals UK, Laurence Sharman, executive director of the World Prayer Centre, and Robert Mountford, of Birmingham Churches Together, was followed by gathering outside on Cathedral Green where a choir sung the famous song by Bill Withers, Lean on me when you’re not strong.
Images from Blessing the Commonwealth event | Source: Andy Page
The World Prayer Centre, which is a global house of prayer based in Birmingham, hosted a service at Gas Street Church in collaboration with Gas Street Music, with the aim of praying for and blessing the Commonwealth nations. At the ‘Blessing the Commonwealth’ service, the World Prayer Centre’s Sharman prayed for Birmingham to be a blessing to every nation and territory. The World Prayer Centre also held a session via Zoom to enable people to come together and share their experience of the work so far.
Christians make up less than half the population of Birmingham while the number of Muslims is around 22 per cent. The city also has a sizeable proportion of Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists.
Volunteers from the various organisations have been stationed at landmarks and venues around the city including the Bullring, which is the main shopping area, the Alexander Stadium, the NEC, the Arena and Edgbaston, the home of cricket.
Source: Burn 24-7
Across the West Midlands, unbroken prayer sessions have been taking place at various venues. Burn 24-7 UK held 336 hours of non-stop worship and prayer at the Elim Life Church. The hope is that with this continual canopy of prayer over the region, visitors will put their trust in Jesus and return home to share the Gospel with family and friends.
Rachael Howson works with Youth With A Mission but during the Commonwealth Games, she has been part of Burn 24-7 UK. Howson has been taking part in the outreach work and she is keen to share the love of Jesus with those she encounters.
“What we really felt from the Lord is that God has been speaking to us in Burn about the importance of partnering with missions, so we have been doing worship and prayer in the prayer house, 24/7,” she says. “We have been here through the night and during the day, worshipping and praying for the Commonwealth Games.
“Each day we have a number of people – anything from two to 16 – who come and begin with worship in the presence of the Lord and then head out into different parts of Birmingham to carry the love of Jesus and to see who He wants us to speak to.”
Howson says the outreach workers are not on the streets to debate with people.
“We are there to share the love of Jesus – whoever is open to hearing this. On one of the days we ended up having two conversations that were an hour long. I love Jesus and therefore a lot of my lifestyle is aimed at honouring Him.”
Howson had the opportunity during an evangelism session to share the good news of Jesus with two Muslim girls.
“One of the girls said she had heard about the cross but never really understood it. She said the way I was explaining it made sense. I thought this was incredible. It shows that when you talk from your heart, about your own experience of the cross and of Jesus it makes such a difference. Personal testimony is so powerful.”
Among the other organisations evangelising are Healing On The Streets and Birmingham City Mission. BCM is running a digital poster campaign across the city during the games. Three posters have been designed to encourage people to read Psalm 23 and throughout the two-week period, the posters will be displayed at least 75,000 times at bus stops in Birmingham.
Also involved in evangelism activities include Operation Mobilisation, The International Mission Board, Victory Outreach Birmingham and the US-based Sports Fan Outreach International. SFOI mobilises teams of volunteers to go to sporting events and evangelise to people.
Bill Adams, chief evangelist with SFOI, says thousands upon thousands of people are in Bullring area of Birmingham, providing unlimited opportunities for the team to communicate and minister the Gospel.
“The local authorities have, as ministers of God, allowed us to evangelise and the weather is ideal,” he says. “Secondly, the people are receptive and there have been many substantive conversations. Above all Christ is being proclaimed and in that we rejoice!”
Gater, meanwhile, says the volunteers have been giving out Gospel tracts and ‘destiny bracelets’ with different colours on them, each representing a different part of the Gospel.
“One guy said to me, ‘Lots of people are doing outreach from many different faiths,’ he recounts. “He asked me, ‘How do you know yours is the right way?’ I thought this was a good question. God led me to ask him if he needed healing for anything and he explained that he had been experiencing pains in his hand and thumb. As we prayed for him, God healed him and the pain left.”
“We are just going where the Holy Spirit leads us. God is doing great things on the streets.”
Some event details have been updated since the original article was written on 5th August.