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‘The unofficial Olympic spectator sport’

SOCHI, Russia (BP) — Scarves, lanyards, hats, backpacks and jackets display small metal tokens of past Olympics as well as newly acquired ones in a collectors’ sport that visually represents the Olympic spirit.

“The unofficial Olympic spectator sport is pin trading,” said Marc Hooks, co-director of the Engage Sochi outreach at the Olympics. “People coming to the Olympics love to trade pins, so we’ve designed a pin that is fun to trade, that people like and that they want, but has elements that allow us to share the Gospel.”

Decked out in pins as badges of honor, spectators share stories of past Olympics and use the tokens as conversation starters to initiate relationships.

“One thing I think is so cool and unique about the Olympics is how much people want to talk, no matter where you are,” said Morgan Gandy, a young Engage Sochi team member from Colorado. “A lot of people that we meet are very grateful for the pins, so it’s easy to give them and start a communication with them.”

[QUOTE@right@418=A jazz band from Alabama at the Olympics draws crowds to offer trading pins that share the Gospel.]Engage Sochi team members offer the specially made Engage Sochi pin and pamphlet as a padarok, or gift, to reflect a greater gift given to them and offered to all.

“We’re able to say, ‘This is a pin that means something. Can I tell you what the different colors in the pins mean?'” Hooks said of the five colors in the Engage Sochi pin that are the same colors as the Olympic rings.

Gold represents God’s love and desire for a relationship with every person. Black symbolizes the sin that separates a person from God’s love and eternal life with Him. Red signifies the blood Jesus shed for everyone’s sin. Blue illustrates the Holy Spirit living in every person who has become a follower of Jesus. Green stands for daily growth in Jesus as a person follows Him.

Hundreds of American Christians traveled to the Olympics to partner with Engage Sochi, enjoy the Games, attract fans and local residents through street performances and share Engage Sochi pins in order to present the Gospel to the world.

The Singing Men of Oklahoma enthralled fans with their spontaneous performances near various Olympics venues, yielding numerous opportunities to distribute Engage Sochi pins and talk with spectators.

The Earl Brackin Band shared God’s love and the Gospel message by becoming bluegrass troubadours from Sochi to the nearby mountains and everywhere in between.

“Since pin trading is a popular activity, we had specially designed pins to give away at each of our impromptu gigs,” Earl Brackin said. “Each pin was used to share the Gospel and the hope found in Christ.”

A Baptist jazz band from Alabama also was part of the Engage Sochi team, uniting their tunes with their desire to invite the world to join in worship to God. As their music drew crowds, they took breaks to engage spectators in conversations and give away pins.

Balloon artists, clowns and various others also used their talents to initiate relationships and share the meaning of the Engage Sochi pins.

As people from around the world trade stories and pins, the response to the sharing of God’s story has varied, but some are leaving the Games changed. Many have visited the Engage Sochi website and read the Gospel presentation there. A drama group who came to work alongside Engage Sochi encountered people every day who want to receive God’s offer of salvation.

“Hearing this was a shining light from God — Him telling me that He’s still here with me,” said Tanya, a San Francisco native after hearing the Gospel in Olympic Park.

Daily Olympic updates

For daily photos, quotes and prayer requests concerning Olympic ministries during the Sochi Games, visit Daily Engage Sochi updates.
William Bagsby is an IMB writer based in London. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • William Bagsby