gospel with the thousands of soccer fans expected to attend the
world’s biggest sporting event which starts June 11.
Some 200 Brazilian Christians began arriving in South Africa this month for the FIFA Word Cup with plans to target a very specific group when
the games begin: North Koreans.
The Baptist team led by pastor Marcos Grava Vasconcelos, a
former handball player, prayed for North Korea to qualify for the games and be
placed in the same group as Brazil so they could evangelize fans from that
country, the U.K-based Guardian newspaper reported.
“We were praying for North Korea to qualify and when we
found out they [the North Koreans] would be playing in the same city as Brazil
we glorified God for the opportunity to announce to their fans the message of
Jesus,” said Vasconcelos, according to the Guardian.
Pastor David Botelho of the Brazil-based missionary group
Missão Horizontes, which targets the 10/40 Window, said the World Cup presents
a rare opportunity to reach the people of North Korea, which he called “a
champion in the persecution of Christianity.”
“There will be many tourists there from countries which
are closed off to the Word of God and who we couldn’t reach any other
way,” Botelho told Eclésia, a Brazilian evangelical magazine.
North Korea last competed in the World Cup in 1966 and joins
Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Portugal in Group G. The Brazilian evangelists planning to reach out to
North Koreans may face an uphill battle, however.
North Korea’s closed regime
has imposed travel restrictions on all but a few government officials, the Guardian
reported. And Xinhua, a Chinese news agency, reported that North Korean
officials have been trying to recruit Chinese fans to cheer for their team when
it competes against Brazil in Johannesburg June 15.
The Brazilian missionaries will join Christians from around
the world who also have their sights set on sharing Christ with those
attending the games, which will be held in several cities across South Africa.
Britain-based Operation Mobilization is rallying teens and
young adults to participate in its Ultimate Goal Campaign, a partnership with
local South African churches. And the World Cup Evangelism Project is training local
Christians to use evangelist Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master outreach strategy
to witness to soccer fans one-on-one.
of the Christians down here in our country wish that they could go across the
borders to other countries to spread the gospel, but just due to resources
we’re just not financially able to do that,” said Nigel Titus, an evangelist in
Cape Town, South Africa, and an organizer of the World Cup Evangelism
Project. “We’re having people coming from all countries, tribes, tongues,
nations—they’re coming to our shores. We don’t have to go over to them. So it’s
an opportunity for us now to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.”
Several Christians will be bearing witness from the field. At
least four members of Brazil’s soccer team—Kakà, Lucio, Luisão and Felipe Melo—reportedly are Christians. Kakà has worn T-shirts beneath his jersey that read “I Belong
to Jesus,” though the FIFA World Cup recently outlawed the use of
clothing carrying political, religious or personal statements.
defender Nicola Legrottaglie and U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard are also outspoken
Kakà and Legrottaglie
are featured in The Prize: Chasing the
Dream, a half-hour DVD filled with testimonies of Christian soccer players that
Athletes in Action is distributing during the World Cup. Tim Howard previously released an evangelistic
DVD through Athletes in Action.