RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The UCI Road World Championships begin this Saturday, so it won’t be long until an estimated 450,000 people from around the globe come to Richmond to watch the race. A group of volunteers is already prepared to welcome them to the city.
“We were awarded this opportunity to host, and it’s a great privilege and honor to do that,” said Steve Bradshaw, coordinator of Richmond 2015 HOPE.
Richmond 2015 HOPE will deploy about a thousand HOPE Ambassadors to help make the stay in RVA a friendlier one. The group is made up of volunteers from about 25 local faith organizations, all coming together provide three things: hospitality, help and hope.
“The world is coming to Richmond,” said Pastor Jeff Chadwick of The Church on the Avenue. “A lot of times we as churches want to go out into the world. We don’t have to. The world is coming here.”
You’ll see HOPE Ambassadors at airports, hotels and on the streets sporting bright orange T-shirts and handing out cards with their website and information. It includes everything from how to navigate the city, where to eat and even information for those seeking religious guidance.
“We really want to make a good impression. We want people to feel welcome, to feel loved, to feel like we rolled out the red carpet for them and just to make them feel like, you know what, I know Richmond is a place that I can come back and truly feel at home,” said Amie Carter, executive media director at Mt. Gilead Full Gospel International Ministry.
About 75 nations are expected to be represented at the race, and one of the services Richmond 2015 HOPE will provide is translation stations to make communicating easier for guests.
“Many people don’t know that there are 122 languages spoken here in Richmond, so Richmond is a very global city,” said Minh Ha Nguyen, a pastor at International Community Church and employee of the International Mission Board. “Whatever language they speak, we speak it here, too.”
Nguyen says visitors who stop by one of the translation stations for assistance will be paired with someone who speaks their native language so they can help translate or interpret. He says, even if they don’t have someone on hand at the station, they’ve established a database of local people who speak all languages represented. Those folks will be on call during the race.
Participants say it’s an opportunity not only to lend a hand to visitors but also unite with neighbors.
“Richmond has an incredible faith community, and it’s really awesome to see the unity because it’s not about my church, it’s not about my denomination. It’s about what kind of message, what kind of mark can we leave as a unified body in Christ,” said Carter.
Members of Richmond 2015 HOPE say they want spectators to walk away with more than a good race.
“We want people to have hope, and not just a fleeting hope. In a race you have people that hope their favorite cyclist wins. We want people to have a lasting hope, and we know that’s only found in Jesus,” said Pastor Brad Russell of Old Powhatan Baptist Church.