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Japan missionaries trade pins, share God’s love during World Cup

YOKOHAMA, Japan (BP)–Ron Capps has found the hottest thing on the streets during the World Cup soccer games in Japan — trading pins.

In the past, Capps and his wife, Joan, Southern Baptist missionaries to Japan, have tried all kinds of “big event” outreaches in bustling Yokohama: handing out tracts, helping with festivals. But nothing excites Ron as much as seeing Japanese soccer fans ready to trade World Cup pins.

And with the World Cup held in 10 cities throughout Japan, including the Capps’ city of Yokohama, the frenzy is high.

The small collectible pins, which come in all shapes and sizes and display emblems with national flags, hosting cities and World Cup mascots, are a big target for collectors and game watchers.

“See, it’s so simple,” Capps said, showing the tag he wears around his neck studded with all kinds of pins. “People like to trade pins and talk. I trade pins everywhere.”

He carries a backpack literally packed with pins to trade once the supply around his neck is depleted. And since Capps has done his homework, the pins he trades are ones people want.

But the Cappses, who head up the Japan students and single adults missionary team, have more in mind than swapping pins.

He wants to show young Japanese the way to the truth.

“Here’s the first pin I always give away,” he said, unclipping a round, simple-styled pin with nothing more than a team name and web address printed in neat letters.

“This is our website,” he said. “When people go to it, they can find a clear presentation of how to be saved in both English and Japanese, as well as information about our team. They can also sign up to receive a free ‘manga’ [Japanese cartoon] Bible or evangelistic music CD.”

Is it working?

With 650 hits and 10 requests for free Christian materials in one week, the Cappses think so.

“We’ve never had that many hits,” Joan said.

After giving the free pins, Capps usually gets down to the business of trading pins with Japanese soccer fans. Some people haggle, some people bargain and some ask for specific pins that can bring top dollars at collectors’ markets.

Capps, ever the businessman, joins the game.

Sometimes he haggles back, and sometimes he shakes his head no. And sometimes, if the conversation is good, he’ll send the other person away with a freebie or two just for their time.

But Capps always hands them one last thing before the deal is over: a Japanese-language interactive soccer guide that gives testimonies of Christian soccer players and a clear plan of salvation.

“We’ve utilized the World Cup spirit and open, festival mindset,” he said. “We’ve hit a vein. And with all the hits we’ve gotten on our website, it proves it works.”

With one more big game scheduled for Yokohama on June 30, the Capps pray the soccer fever lasts long enough to produce more results.

“There’s a great openness here,” Joan said. “It’s been so much fun. It really has. It’s all about relationships.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at https://bpnews.net. Photo title: TRADING.

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  • Jenny Rogers