Sunday in Maceio
Today I met Gabriella. She was about 7 years old. So happy and willing to be my friend. We played tag, I taught her a dance, she taught me a dance. We made a cool hand shake, the kind only best friends make. We clicked. It was interesting to see her be so accepting and including of my friendship. Her welcoming attitude reminded me of God's willingness to accept us. Although we are sinners and fall short of his glory, God wants us to accept him in our life and by his grace we are saved. With hard hearts It is easy to push that love away. Unfortunately, my time with Gabriella was short lived. As I left she kissed me on the cheek, said "chow" and was on her way to make a new best friend.
I had the opportunity to share my testimony for the first time. Spoiler alert.
I spoke about how we are constantly in a tug of war within ourselves. The first side wanting to follow God's will and allowing him to light our path. The second side being the sinful, greedy, lustful people we are. This side is the everyday temptations we face that are too easy to fall into. It is a constant battle within ourself. Ultimately in the the end, it is the side you feed that will triumph.
I am so grateful and humbled by this experience. This trip has allowed us not only to impact the lives around us, but to grow ourselves closer to God.
In the end, be more like Gabriella and her childlike faith.
Baylor Lady Bears
Today we went out to a camp ground where we met with children and the local professional football team, the Marechais. The football players and some others participated in a full day football camp where we continued to spread the knowledge of football. We started off the camp just like we do at Baylor, we stretched and then got straight to work. Defense started off with pursuit drill and the offense went with individual work. I was with the quarterbacks and we started to install some of that Baylor magic. As we went through the rest of practice, they got better and better. I started to feel that we were actually impacting their team in a positive way. Even though there was a tough language barrier that we had to break through, luckily some of the players could speak some broken English. Several of us that were helping with the camp noticed that one of their best players wasn't moving around as well as he was a couple of days ago. We began to ask questions and it turned out that he had been infected with the Chikungunya virus which can affect a person for over a year causing join pain, digestive problem and also causing a lot more problems with the body. It was amazing to see that even though he was being affected by this virus which was obviously causing him a lot of pain, he pushed through because he really wanted to be on the field with his brothers playing the game he loves. He even threw up several times during the practice and came back looking really pale but that didn't hold him back. At the end of the first practice, we had a competition, defense against offense and we put everything that they had learned into play. It wasn't as polished as I wished it was but they made some great progress through practice.
After the first practice, we went and had a break down of the practice with the team. We went over some good and bad things that happened in practice. After that, we had a sports psych meeting covering everything in 30 minutes that our football team would take to cover in 6 months. Let's just say there was a lot of information given in a very short period of time. Through that entire time though, all of the players eyes were fixated on coach Kaz and taking in everything he was saying. It was really cool to see because it shows how dedicated they are to their team and football as a sport. After that we had a nice lunch and then went straight back into the second practice. We continued to teach the players and they were interpreting everything really well. By the end of the practice, I could tell that they were tired because I sure do know that I was tired, and I wasn't even playing.
Once we had the second breakdown after the practice, the feeling and emotion really came out as the players began to talk about how much us coming to Brazil meant to them. One of the players shared that before he found football, he had a really bad divorce and football was the thing to be able to cope with the loss. He began to explain that when they first formed the team, they were a laughing stock of the league, then after we came to visit them last year, they began winning and gaining respect from people all around the country. They have been making a name for themselves ever since. As he shared those feelings with us, he began to tear up and he had to stop a couple times to gather himself to finish sharing his heart with us. He said he was not a religious person but that coming to church Wednesday he felt such a peace and wanted to know more about Jesus. I looked around to the other players and could see them tearing up too, and it hit me with how much they really love this game and how much our coming here means to them. With a country full of turmoil and stress with the Zika virus and the impeaching of their president, everybody in this country has something that they can fall back on, and for these 45 guys, football was that way of escaping from everything around them.
After we all came around a prayed for each other, we took a bunch of photos and exchanged some gifts with one another. The quarterback gave me his first jersey when he joined the Marechais and he so happened to be number 17. I was very much honored at the same time that he would give away something so important to him. I was very thankful for them letting us come out and run a couple of their practices and getting to learn the Brazilian culture a little better.
From everything that I learned today, the one thing I took from it was that it is amazing how something as small as football in Brazil, can change the lives of so many people. That no matter what I am going through, no matter the pain in my life, I will always remember back to this time in my life where I got to see how people with so little, gain so much from football and Christ. My life will forever be changed from the moments I have been able to spend with the kids and football players here in Brazil.
2 church sports clinics, 4 school visits, 1 huge stadium sports clinic, hundreds of children, and that's a wrap for our first week in Brazil! This entire week has been so wonderful, but today touched me on a different level. To start our day, Wes challenged us all to take 5 minutes on our own to sit and meditate and pray to God to work in a special way throughout the day--and that He did. We visited a military school for the second time. The first time we went, we ministered to the middle school students. This time, we were able to minister to the high school students. Their energy was amazing and the love they showed us was truly unbelievable. The three other schools we've been to have been great, but this one was on a whole new level. Not only did they thoroughly enjoy the demonstration of sports, but they were completely receptive to our message about God. The part that touched me most was when we joined hands with the students and prayed for their peer who had been recently diagnosed with leukemia. As I stood there and held hands with two crying girls, prayed to the God we had just finished telling them about, and wiped the tears off of their face telling them that God would make a way, I knew that our purpose for this mission trip was being fulfilled. Despite the language barrier, the girls both shook their head and gave me the most heart felt hug. Neither of them understood what I said, but they could feel that God was indeed already making a way.
This mission trip is allowing me the opportunity to share my faith with others in a way that no language barrier can hinder; God's love is truly universal, and that is amazing. I came on this mission trip expecting a life changing experience, but my time here so far has been much more than anything I could have ever imagined. The outpouring of love is unbelievably touching. The children are so receptive to us, which makes our mission of spreading the love of God even easier. The way that we have been reaching them on a level they understand most--sports--and then tying in God in a way that they can comprehend and appreciate is the most amazing thing to me. I wanted to come on this trip to make a difference in someone's life, but in turn they have done a work in my own life. They have given me a new light on evangelism and reaching people to bring them the Gospel. Sometimes all it takes is someone just taking out the time to talk to them about who God is and the difference having him makes in our lives. It's the greatest thing watching them WANT to know and learn more just because a group of Baylor students took out the time to tell them. I am so happy I was able to be apart of that group to make this difference in their lives, and I pray that they'll not only remember our presence in Brazil, but our message.
Baylor Athletic Training
Oi, Today was a very long but fun filled day with some very cool people. First we went to a Military school and got a chance to meet some of the older kids that attend the school. This group was the oldest group we have seen here in Brazil and we most definitely underestimated their athletic ability. Every competition that we had from acrobatics and tumbling to a relay race was nail biting and intense.
Our next stop was at the church where we did not have as many kids come because Friday most kids go to jujitsu classes but the 50 kids that showed up did not disappoint. We played lots of 4 square which turned into soccer, ultimate frisbee/football which turned into soccer, and then we played soccer! When it comes to soccer these kids go 100 MPH. Watching these 6 to 19 year old kids play soccer is just amazing. The tricks and instant chemistry they can create with each other is incredible and so is the fun that comes along with soccer.
At 9pm was the start of our 2nd practice with the Brazilian professional American Football team, the Merechais.
Today's practice was night and day compared to practice 1. They were running around and clicking like a well oiled machine, catching every ball that was thrown to them and gaining so much knowledge about the game. We can not wait to see what we can accomplish in our next practice and neither can they.
Today, visiting the military school, church, and practicing with the Merechais, was such an eye opening experience seeing in how many different ways Gods love can be shown. Whether it is a simple smile to a kid sitting in the assembly at school, giving a little boy or girl the rubber band you have around your wrist, actually sharing the colors on the gospel balls to the different groups, or coaching the football team God is revealing himself through us all over and I can't wait to see what He has in store for the days to come!
It didn't take very long to find Jesus Christ in Maceio. At our first meeting, Wes called us to "say yes to Christ." After a semester of saying "no" to Christ - "no" to prayer, "no" to grace, and "no" to compassion - this sounded like a challenge. It wasn't long before I remembered, when we call Christ into our heart, we are not calling out a God who is distant and condemning, but one who has been waiting eagerly for our return. I have found Jesus Christ in the people of Maceio first and foremost. Starting with Jonson and his family, who changed their lifestyle to dedicate over 20 years to this community, and reiterated in each kiddos face who found joy within their circumstances. These kids know how big our God is, and they've reminded me this with every smile and laugh, regardless of where they live or the clothes they have. God is working here in Brazil, that is clear as day.
Today we did a program in a much poorer school and then held a clinic in the local stadium for hundreds of kids, many who had never been in the stadium before. It was a blast.
I will always hold in my heart my the kiddos who patiently have pieced together my broken beginner Portuguese, who have taught me how to be hip and say "Ta tranquilo ta favoravel", and who have loved me even when all I can say is "what's your name? How old are you? I love brazil!"
All I know is that God is here and he is so good, and these kids have taught me more about faithfulness and perseverance than I could have eve comprehended. And so I'll end with this: "May God's strength be our contentment. May His grace fuel our faith. And may the message of our story be simply this: In Christ I have all I need. And, friends, so do you."
Today we were able to visit our first school. The kids were anywhere from 14 to 17 years old. The students were all sitting on the bleachers when we arrived. It was amazing to see how excited all the students were when they saw us walk in. Some of the athletes were even able to recognize some of the kids from last year's trip! After we were introduced by pastor Jonson, we did some short examples of our respective sports. We even pulled volunteers from the stands to participate in some competitions. Brazil is certainly known for their love of soccer, but everyone was just as excited to see and play some of the other sports. Most importantly, after we talked about sports, we shared the Gospel and talked about how Jesus is our motor that allows us to play our sports. We ended this trip to the school with an obstacle course consisting of balancing a cup of water while walking on a beam, buttoning a shirt, shooting a free throw, and much more! Before we could leave, the student swarmed us asking for autographs and selfies.
After we finished at the first school we had about a 3 hour break, which most of us used to check out a killer seafood place and the local market. After the break we went to the next school which was a military school full of younger kids. The itinerary for this school was very similar to the previous school. Once again, the kids wanted autographs and pictures. One kid even asked me if he could have my shirt!
Our final event for the day was a visit to Jonson's church to attend their Wednesday night worship gathering and to celebrate his 52nd birthday. The service was awesome! While the songs were in Portuguese, most of us were able to sing the English lyrics. Seth, Lynx, and Nina all talked about their Faith and their journey and Wes delivered an awesome message using Numbers 13. After the conclusion of the service, we all went to the backyard of the church to celebrate Jonson's birthday. There was cake, soda, and goofy glasses!
After reflecting on the day, we talked about how neat it was that all of these kids look up to us. We don't know the exact reason for why God brought us to Maceio in the middle of May 2016, but the stuff we're doing in this community seems to be inspiring these kids to want to better know Him. Which is making us want to work harder and become stronger in our Faith. We've only been here a few days, but we're seeing more pieces being put together in God's worldwide puzzle.
Today was officially our first day spreading the gospel in Brazil. We had a meeting at 9:00am with our host, Pastor Jonson. During that meeting, he shared his testimony with our entire group. Jonson's testimony was powerful and encouraging. His walk with Christ all began during his early 20's when he met his roommate while playing professional soccer, a young man who Jonson thought to be "weird" at first. Jonson's roommate showed up on the first day and laid a large bible across his neatly made bed. This is where the "weird" all began. Little did Jonson know that his roommate would forever change his life. Pastor Jonson usually listened to music through his headphones while his roommate read his large bible. His roommate made a point to look at Jonson while he read his bible, which Jonson also thought to be "weird". One day, his roommate got down on his knees while Jonson was in the room and started praying, saying something along the lines of "Lord, please save my roommate Jonson. Save him so he doesn't go to hell. Allow him to accept You and to accept Christ". Jonson said he stood over him and told him "You're crazy! You're weird! I'm not going to hell!" After that event took place and sometime during the three months of their time together as roommates, Jonson accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. Jonson has not talked to his roommate in 32 years, but it was because of him that he began his walk with Christ. Jonson and his wife began dating when he was 16 and when he was 20, he married her. They agreed to both walk their paths together as believers in Christ. They have three children today and are still very happily married. His testimony is an example of what amazing things Christ can do to a single person. His entire life was changed because of one teammate who had the courage to spread the gospel and verbally pray for Jonson to be saved. I/we are here to spread the gospel and impact the lives we interact with. Jonson's testimony was a great kickstart to what I'm sure will be a successful trip.
Jonson took us on a tour of Maceio and wanted us to see the "other side" of Maceio called Trapiche where most people live in poverty. Most made small "houses" out of whatever material they could find. Most of the kids we will work with this week come from that area. We were able to spend time with the kids today as well. It was a blast. We were with them from 2:30-5:00pm. We had a basketball clinic that consisted of drills and ended with a couple of pick-up games. The kids loved that we were there. It was so encouraging. We handed out the Gospel of John to all of them at the end and shared a prayer together. All of us seemed to enjoy it and seem to be eager to spend more time with them.
Lastly, we had a football clinic with the Maceio football team. American football that is. I didn't take this trip last year, but the people who did said they have improved tremendously. We met with their coaches at 8:00pm and practiced with the entire team from 9:00-10:30pm. We ran it just like one of our own practices, thanks to Coach Kaz. I worked with the running backs and the other guys worked with their position groups. It amazed me how badly they wanted advice and wanted to learn. It was a great experience and I know the other guys enjoyed it as much as me. We ended on an amazing note. Coach Kaz explained how instrumental communication is and how important being on the same page is in team sports. In other words, he straight up dropped some knowledge on us, as usual. Seth Russell then shared his testimony with all of us and it mainly regarded how Christ can get us through any hardship we go through. His neck injury was a hardship that he experienced and overcame, and he gives thanks to Christ for it. Powerful, yes. True, absolutely yes. Can't wait for another day!
As we make our way down to Houston to begin our journey to Brazil for the second year in a row, my mind is flooded with memories from our mission trips to Kenya, Zambia, and Brazil the past 7 years. Over 300 student athletes have participated with us in an effort to share the gospel through sport and serve our sports ministry partners across the world by offering ourselves to help them meet needs in their communities, build, teach, compete, and love on others. I think of the lives that have been impacted as God worked in and through us as we walked through slums to make deliveries to families and saw poverty like we've never seen before, led clinics and shared with inmates in prisons, prayed with boys living out in the streets, and washed the feet of those with jigger infestation. I reflect on the relationships that were formed with people of different backgrounds, languages, and sports that still carry on today and find great joy in the fact that a handful of our student athletes are actually serving in full-time missions today.
I don't know what God has in store for us these next two weeks but I trust that if we seek him wholeheartedly He is going to blow us away! Our Brazilian partners are eager for our return and have spent the year planning for how we can build on the things we were able to help with last year. The football team in Maceio has followed our guys and communicated with them all year long. I got numerous messages from Brazil when Spencer Drango got drafted by the Cleveland Browns last month rejoicing as their friend was picked. They've actually reserved a campground for a three day football/spiritual growth camp for us to lead this year. The schools we went to last year are planning programs for us to participate in and the head of Brazilian Sports has asked us to conduct a community sports clinic in the local stadium in Maceio! We will treasure your prayers as we serve the next two weeks. Pray that we will be open to Gods leading, that we will share the gospel boldly, and that we will love like Jesus loves.
We would like to say a very special "Thank You!" to all that have helped us so far. Your generosity and encouragement has helped us get here! We look forward to sharing with you in the upcoming days how God has honored your faithfulness.
We are so grateful!
Let's giv'em heaven!!!
Director of Sports Ministry/Athletics Chaplain