LEXINGTON, Ky. — “Don’t miss the biggest equestrian event in American history,” the slogan on a World Equestrian Games (WEG) brochure reads.
More than 600,000 people from 100-plus countries are expected to arrive in Kentucky next year for the Sept. 25-Oct. 10 event. And believers in the state intend to be ready for the Olympics-like atmosphere.
The Kentucky Horse Park, a 1,224-acre equestrian facility in Lexington operated by the state of Kentucky, will host the 16-day World Equestrian Games. During a Church and Community Day at the park, about 100 Christians gained a glimpse of the abundance of WEG-related volunteer outreach possibilities.
Not only will Kentuckians represent the Bluegrass State at the WEG next year, but the entire United States, said Harvey Thomas, a British Baptist and public relations consultant working closely with the Church and Community Day sponsor Affiliated International Ministries (AIM).
“Kentucky has the chance to change, improve or increase the image of the United States in 100 countries of the world,” said Thomas, who previously served as press secretary for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
AIM is the organization that will coordinate Christian ministries during the World Equestrian Games. It was established by Kentucky Baptist Convention missions consultant Larry Martin.
The group is seeking a large number of volunteers to serve at next year’s games in a variety of ministries, both in and around the Kentucky Horse Park.
During a panel discussion at the Church and Community Day Sept. 12, several AIM representatives talked about the volunteer opportunities that will be available for individuals, groups and churches.
There are two ways to volunteer, AIM volunteer coordinator Jeff Rice said. One option is to sign up as an official WEG volunteer at the Kentucky Horse Park during the competitions. WEG volunteers are required to work six-hour shifts for a minimum of four of the event’s 16 days and submit to a security check beforehand.
Another option is to become an AIM volunteer. The AIM group will work at various venues in and around Lexington.
AIM representative Ray Van Camp, director of church planting and development for Elkhorn Baptist Association, said AIM will have a presence at dozens of WEG-associated events, such as an International Equestrian Festival in downtown Lexington. The various outreach opportunities include staffing booths, participating in backyard Bible clubs at area hotels and campgrounds, storytelling and face-painting.
There also is a need for families and churches to open their doors to give World Equestrian Games volunteers from other countries a place to stay, noted Ken McDaniel, AIM hospitality coordinator and associate minister at Hill-n-Dale Christian Church in Lexington.
Much of the WEG outreach is being patterned after Christian outreach that takes place during the winter and summer Olympics every other year. LaRaine Rice, youth and college consultant with Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, is coordinating Gospel presentation materials for AIM for the many opportunities provided at Olympics and WEG events.
“When so many people from so many different cultures come together in a neutral sports setting, it just opens up conversations,” Rice said. “People are more open to hearing other thoughts, other beliefs and just learning from one another.”
Part of the volunteer outreach will involve pin trading, a favorite pasttime of Olympics visitors. The “More Than Gold” pins, Rice said, help believers share the gospel.
With so many details still left to be finalized before next year’s games, Cindy Rullman emphasized that prayer is the most important way volunteers can be involved right now.
Because there may not be an opportunity for “overt evangelism” inside the park during the World Equestrian Games, Rullman, associate director of marketing for the Kentucky Horse Park, urged Christians to begin prayerwalking the park as much as possible.
“Our prayer effort from now through the games could make this place like stepping into the Holy of Holies,” Rullman said. “I absolutely believe that we could … have God’s presence here in such a powerful way that none of us would have to open our mouths.”
The World Equestrian Games, which features eight competition categories, is governed by the Federation Equestre International, which was founded in 1921 and now has 134 affiliated national federations globally. The official name of the games is Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Alltech, a lead corporate sponsor, is an animal health company.
The Kentucky Horse Park, which opened in November 1978, includes a number of tourist attractions and horse barns, with some 50 different breeds during peak summer months; the International Museum of the Horse and American Saddlebred Museum; offices of more than 30 national and regional equine organizations; and a 260-site resort campground.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nichter is news director for the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. For more information about how to volunteer, send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit www.EquestrianMinistries.org/WEG.html. The website for Affiliated International Ministries — www.aimky.org — is scheduled to be online later in October.)