RIO DE JANEIRO (BP) -- With 64 soccer matches contested by 736 players on 32 teams in 12 cities, the month-long 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is the most watched sporting event in the world.
In addition to the 1 billion people tuning in around the globe, an estimated 600,000 visitors are converging on Rio de Janeiro and the 11 other host cities in Brazil to watch and cheer for their country's team. Other visitors to Rio, however, have another goal in mind -- sharing the message of Jesus Christ with those who have never heard the Gospel.
A team of 11 Southern Baptist college students and two student ministry leaders traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup as part of the International Mission Board's student mobilization efforts to partner with Brazilian Baptists in outreach during the world-famous soccer tournament. The students, their Brazilian co-workers and some IMB missionaries are spending two weeks witnessing in communities around Rio and evangelizing near the city's Maracanã stadium, where tens of thousands of fans attend World Cup matches twice a week during the June 12-July 13 competition.
"Yellow Card Strategy"
After arriving in Rio, the student volunteers spent time learning about a specialized witnessing technique developed by the Brazilian Baptist Home Mission Board. Diogo da Cunha Carvalho, coordinator of evangelistic strategies for Brazilian Baptists' domestic missions efforts, helped to develop the "Yellow Card Strategy" for Brazilian churches to use at a regional soccer competition in 2013.
In soccer, Carvalho explained, a yellow card is displayed by a referee as a warning or caution to a player regarding conduct that could lead to expulsion from the match (signified by a red card).
"It's a sign to the player that he is getting very close to severe consequence for his actions," Carvalho said. This visual understanding is the perfect direct approach for witnessing against the backdrop of a soccer match, he added.
Carvalho demonstrated the witnessing technique, which begins by approaching someone and raising a yellow card while blowing a whistle -- just like a soccer referee. This warning, though, is a message from God, the Baptist volunteer tells the person.
"In Brazil, probably 90 percent of the people will say 'yes' when asked if they want to hear the Gospel," Carvalho said. "With such an interest in the Word, we can take a direct approach like this yellow card." Read More