This upstate New York town will attract Olympic athletes, officials, tourist and the press next week -- and Southern Baptists.
Southern Baptist home missionary David Book is overseeing 125 volunteers who say they are here to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of persons at the Olympics.
While evangelism will be at the heart of the activities, Book noted that the teams "will not blitz or distribute (religious) tracts wholesale." Rather, they will try to identify needs and respond with tracts that address specific problems.
The Southern Baptists will also offer a 24-hour hospitality center with a soup and salad bar, Christian entertainment, language interpreters, and emergency service, and large-screen television for viewing the Olympics.
Because Lake Placid schools will close for five weeks during the Olympics, the volunteers will provide an "Olympic Learning Project" for elementary school children, using puppets, music and other techniques to, they said, help children understand the Olympics.
In addition, senior citizens in Lake Placid can get special assistance from the Southern Baptists' "Good Sam Program." Volunteers will run errands and provide other help to the elderly, whose activites will be curtailed because of traffic congestion and anticipated large crowds.
Visitors may run into the Southern Baptists as soon as they arrive in Lake Placid. Volunteers will maintain welcome stations at airports, bus stations, and area parking lots, offering free coffee, information and literature.
"We want to demonstrate to Lake Placid that we're genuine people -- that we can offer something that has integrity," Book said. "Many think we'll leave after the games, which is not the case at all."
At the same time though, Book acknowledged that the Olympics will offer a special opportunity to Christians. "Instead of our going out into the world, the world is coming to us."