JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (BP)–Brazilian Baptists plan to share a Christian witness at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. For 20 days, 200 Brazilian volunteers working with the 2010 African Connection Project will conduct outreach activities among soccer enthusiasts at the tournament, which runs from June 11 to July 11.
The Brazilian Baptist Convention’s World Mission Board is organizing the project as part of its volunteer program to send Brazilians overseas on short-term missions trips.
Brazilian Baptist pastor Marcos Grava, coordinator of the initiative, noted, “The 2010 African Connection Project is one of the biggest volunteer projects in the history of the missionary church in Brazil.”
The goal is to bless the people of South Africa with the Gospel message, Grava said. “We ask prayers for local security, volunteers’ security and many fruits among the South Africans and tourists,” he said.
Some of the planned outreach includes praying and doing personal evangelism in front of stadiums, conducting arts and sports clinics with spectators and providing a health clinic for poor communities in Johannesburg. The Brazilian volunteers will travel to Johannesburg in two groups: the first from June 3-20, the second from June 6-22.
Grava said he is particularly interested in the opportunity to reach out to players from countries that are traditionally closed to the Gospel along with supporters of those teams.
Grava also hopes to prepare a number of Brazilian players to present the Gospel to other countries’ players on the field when their teams compete against each other. Jorge “Jorginho” Oliveira, assistant coach for the Brazilian team, knows about and supports the outreach, Grava said. Oliveira is president of Atletas de Cristo, one of the Christian organizations supporting the African Connection Project.
Of the 1,300 Brazilians who applied to participate in the project, only 200 were selected. Each was required to provide a recommendation letter from an evangelical pastor indicating the volunteer’s previous church involvement. The cost of participating in the project is about $2,500, and volunteers are providing their own funding.
“We have people from different backgrounds and professions,” Grava said. “We have different skills and gifts in this group.” Ten evangelical denominations are represented among the volunteers, many of whom speak English and Spanish, but some also speak French, Arabic or Korean.
“We hope to work among groups from Mozambique who speak Portuguese like us,” Grava added.
Many World Cup games will be played in South African cities other than Johannesburg. But before the World Cup draw — which determines schedules, locations and team groupings for the matches — project organizers bought a Johannesburg campground from the Baptist Union in South Africa. They made the purchase knowing that two stadiums in Johannesburg will be playing host to World Cup games and Brazilian Baptists already have two missionaries leading churches in that city.
A month later, when the World Cup draw determined the Brazilian team will play its first two matches in Johannesburg, Grava took it as God’s confirmation that they had chosen the right location for the project.
“We are sure that God is blessing this project even before it starts, as we have prayer support from the brothers and sisters here in Brazil,” Grava said.
For daily ministry, match and prayer updates throughout the World Cup, visit WorldSoccerJourneys.com. To learn how you can help with the 2010 African Connection Project, e-mail [email protected]
Tristan Taylor is an International Mission Board writer in the Americas, is based in Santiago, Chile.