DAVIS—If visitors to Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center were to stop by the 1917 Café during daily breaks, or the Missions Village on Wednesday afternoon, they would see a large group of people huddled around books and different collections of trading pins.
These trading pins are in their 10th year at Falls Creek, after Andy Harrison, conference centers director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), saw the idea at a national school event with his children, in which they traded pins with other students from around the world.
So Harrison and Todd Sanders, Falls Creek program specialist for the BGCO, put the plan into motion, with a higher purpose in mind.
“Trading pins is an activity that we created to pray for the nations and share the Gospel,” Harrison said. The first pins created were for the Missions Village, representing the locations in which missionary groups were ministering or locations to which Go Student trips traveled.
“We flooded the market the first year with a lot of pins, and then every year since, we decreased the number of pins to encourage trading. When students come to the Missions Village, they would engage with our staff regarding missions, and if they prayed for the country they were asking about, they would get a pin,” Harrison said.
With facilitating prayer for the nations at the forefront of a now favorite pastime at Falls Creek, churches and campers soon began to enjoy the art of pin trading.
A decade of trading pins at Falls Creek has created pins representing iconic places on the campground like Boulder Springs, the Gum Tree, Price’s Falls and more.
Pin trading has become a popular event for those who don’t choose to participate in sports or other afternoon activities at Falls Creek.
“It is really inclusive and for campers who are just nerdy enough to try pin trading,” Harrison said with a laugh. “You’re trying to get certain pins that people have a fixed value to, and it turns out to be a really fun activity.”
Churches now create their own pins for Falls Creek. However, there is an elite and rare group of pins that are highly sought-after in pin trading activities.
“One of the pins that seems to have the most value is the ‘Bitter Enders’ pin. This pin was made in reference to a group that used to meet at Falls Creek in the 1930s and 1940s. The Bitter Enders would stay all the way to the bitter end of camp and stay to clean up things before going home,” Harrison said.
Other highly sought-after pins include the “Simone Says” pin, the Gum Tree pin and a “Fast Pass” pin that, with the right paperwork, allows campers a turn to jump to the front of the ICEE line during breaks. Once the campers present the card attached to the pin, they can keep the pin, and, of course, the bragging rights that come along with it.
Another rare pin is a blue sparrow that was created the year that “Thirst” was the theme of Falls Creek. “In association with our ‘Thirst’ film that year at camp, there was a sparrow in the film that was used as a landmark and way to find life,” Harrison said. “We created a sparrow pin, and a sparrow inside a speech bubble pin, that was a reminder to share the Gospel and share life with someone. It’s supposed to encourage them to have a Gospel conversation.
“My favorite thing about pin trading is to watch the student’s faces and engage them on whether they’re making a good deal or not. I ask them what their favorite pin is, then offer them a trade, and they usually say, ‘But I just told you that’s my favorite pin!’ That’s when I ask them, ‘Isn’t it difficult? You know you want this pin I’m offering, but you know you’ll have to give up something valuable to get it. Then I tell them how it costs things to follow God, so it’s a great conversation starter,” Harrison said.
“Most of the time they’re going to walk away from me thinking, ‘Man I scammed that old man,” he said with a laugh.
Pin trading has expanded significantly since it first began at Falls Creek 10 years ago. Now, churches trade with other churches, campers have binders full of colorful pins representing countries and missions around the world, and Gospel conversations are being had, all thanks to trading pins.
There is even a church pin contest, along with church camp shirt contests and best cook contests.
Each Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Missions Village, a pin trading event sponsored by the Baptist Collegiate Ministries takes place in which campers and sponsors alike can visit the Missions Village and try their hand at getting some of the rare pins like the “blue sparrow” and “Bitter Enders” pin.
Pins that have a higher purpose are just one of the many things that emphasize world missions at Falls Creek youth camps each summer.
Visit skopos.org/missions to learn more about and support world missions through GO Students and the Cooperative Program.