By Dominique Stewart
BSU at the Games
Seven years have passed since Marc and Kellye Hook sold their home in Middleburg, Fla., and moved to Russia with their three kids. Their mission: to reach out to people for Jesus Christ through church planting and mass evangelism.
“We had to leave our life in America,” said Kellye. “We sold everything, sold our house, gave away the cats and moved to Russia.”
The move was initiated after Marc had a vision for Sochi three years after Russia was chosen to host the Winter Olympic Games.
“The Olympics is an important time in the life of a city—an opportunity to engage people not just during the Olympics, but before, during and after,” said Kellye. “If there’s a chance to share the Gospel with people and to disciple them to help the church in some way, then it’s worth the chance.”
The Hooks are members of the Southern Baptist Convention, which claims to be the largest Evangelical denomination in the United States with a total of 16 million members. With the help of churches through the International Mission Board, the Hooks formed Engage Sochi.
The missionary group’s purpose goes beyond the Games.
“The target is Sochi. The people who live here, who work here, the church that’s here, to strengthen it, to partner with it, is really our focus,” said Kellye. “Every city deserves someone who loves it. If we are who we say we are, then every city, every person deserves the chance to know who Jesus is.”
Engage Sochi has been working in the city for the past three years and has partnered with the Central Baptist Church in Sochi for church planting, the name given to the process of establishing a church and community. They often use a men’s choir and flash mobs to interact with people.
“Every culture has its own identity and passion,” Kellye said. “For Russians, it’s the arts. They’re really musical [and] artistic. [Our] guys are professional musicians, and they just draw a crowd.”
The language barrier has had little effect on their ability to communicate, Kellye said: “You can do a lot with hand gestures and pin trading.”
The organization plans to remain in Sochi for six more years to help strengthen the community while the Hooks to their home in Vienna, Austria.
“There was a moment when we were out and the guys were singing, drawing a crowd. We saw some people we knew [and] met new people,” said Kellye.
“There was a moment where I thought, after four years of planning this, it’s a little humbling to watch it happening.”
BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 41 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.