VANCOUVER (BP)–Barely noticeable on a lapel, a pin carries weight at the Olympics, which is why Sid “The Pin Man” Hopkins was standing near a SkyTrain station’s escalator in downtown Vancouver — his vest, hat, coat and lanyard forming a mosaic of pins from around the world.
“I have 150 pins on me and several thousand in a suitcase I keep back at the church,” said Hopkins, a missionary with Southern Baptists’ North American Mission Board and director of missions for the Atlanta-area Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association.
Olympic pins originated in Athens, Greece, at the 1896 Summer Games as a way of identifying the athletes; 100 years later, Hopkins embraced it at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta — his first Olympic Games.
At the Beijing Olympics, he says, his pins would attract hundreds of people a day.
“They’d come up to me three and four at a time, I would trade with them, give them a More Than Gold pin and use it to share the Gospel,” he said. “I got to share the Gospel literally about a thousand times in eight days there.”
In Vancouver, pins have opened conversations with Olympic tourists and local residents on buses, trains and just walking down the street.
Hopkins used a pin with a Hindu man on one bus ride to share the Gospel. “I gave him a pin and a New Testament,” he recounted. “I marked the Gospel of John. He promised to read it.”
Including the 2010 Winter Olympics, Hopkins has ventured to 14 Olympic Games. An Italian TV station in Torino nicknamed Hopkins “The Pin Man,” making him a legend to Olympic enthusiasts worldwide.
“One reason I got so much traffic in Beijing was that people wanted a picture with the Pin Man,” Hopkins said.
Pin trading is a side business for some. The serious traders carry folios of their collections everywhere they go, unzipping and laying out their wares on street corners, asking prices upwards of $20 for pins that initially were free. To receive a pin that’s decades old, or even a brand-new More Than Gold pin, seems like an immense gift.
But Hopkins does not trade pins for profit, having a much greater purpose in view.
Back at the SkyTrain escalator, Hopkins approaches a man he’d seen earlier that day. “He’s a serious trader,” he says. Later Hopkins approaches a young girl in a wheelchair, pulls a pin off his jacket and pins it on her. The lady pushing the wheelchair is elated.
“I’ve got pins from all over the world, and I’ve traded with people from everywhere,” Hopkins says. “You don’t always get to see the seed come to fruition, but whether it’s sharing a pin here or hospitality there, you’re sowing a lot of seeds and they’re going all over the world.”
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For additional BP stories from the Winter Olympics, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPCollectionNews.asp?ID=166. For Olympics blog of BPSports editor Tim Ellsworth, go to http://www.bpnews.net/blog/.