Rio Day Two
Today we completed our final day of missionary work here in Brazil and also had the opportunity to do some great sight seeing. Although I am sad to say today was our final full day in this amazing country, I am thankful to say it was one of our most fulfilling ones. As we lay our head down to rest tonight, I am confident that each of us feel that we served the Lord to the best of our ability and were inspired by His people and His beauty in return.
The day began on Brazil's famous Sugar Loaf. I had never heard of this attraction before, but I will never forget the views it provided us. We all loaded onto a gondola and headed to the top of two giant mountains, where we had time to gaze upon the entire city of Rio. As much as I could try, I will never be able to express the views we were seeing. Although the city seems to be moving 100 mph on the ground, full of tall buildings, hotels, favelas, and ridiculous traffic, everything slows down when you have the ability to look down on it like we did. I'll never forget the feeling of looking down and having a hard time believing I was actually looking at the view in front of me.
Next, we moved on to the main course of tourism. We took a short train ride up to the mountain where Christ the Redeemer stood. Knowing it was one of the seven wonders of the world, I knew it would be huge. However, I again underestimated the impact the monument would have on me. It's obviously a huge statue, but the meaning behind it means much more. I have never noticed how detailed it is, as Jesus has a heart and even has scars on his hands from the nails. In addition to the beauty of the statue, the view surrounding it was even more amazing than those of the Sugar Loaf. In all, the attraction is truly one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Though Jesus is always looking over us, it was a great and funny feeling to have such a LARGE Jesus looking over us as we took some time to reflect on the trip.
The rest of the day was full of missionary work. We began at a high school, where we had the privilege to meet the students and share the good Word. I was honored to give my testimony along with two other student athletes, and I pray that it made an impact on their lives. A trend throughout this trip is that we are constantly being treated as celebrities. I have never taken so many selfies in my entire life. I hope that their love for Americans helps them pay more attention to the message we are aspiring to deliver them.
We also visited an orphanage full of 16 boys, ages 10 to 16 or 17. Although they had so little, each of the boys was so full of happiness in the time we were there. We sat around tables just showing the kids love, whether that meant playing games or talking through translators. The simplest games such as rock-paper-scissors and hand slapping (hands over one another's, try to slap the others before they move them) provided so much joy. This put a lot of things in perspective for me, as we often get so spoiled in the states with things such as technology when all that we truly need is a good friend of family member to have fun.
The team finished the night at the church with about 100 boys and girls of all ages. We played with the kids, held a short basketball clinic, and shared the Gospel Balls. One of my favorite parts of the day was when our basketball girls played the basketball team from the church. Although it seemed like it was going to be a friendly, light-hearted game, the game heated up as soon as it tipped off. Both teams were playing to win, and the fans chanted like they were at a Brazilian soccer game. It sure did create an exciting atmosphere. The girls won, by the way (obviously). We all were able to connect with several kids, and some of us even switched shirts and gave shoes away. It was a great way to finish the day.
I can't believe we're actually leaving tomorrow. I'm sad to be leaving, but I am thankful for all that has happened on the trip. After experiencing the trip to Zambia last year, I knew this summer's trip would be an unforgettable one. However, I am leaving this country even more changed and impacted than I could ever imagine. I have loved every moment of the experience and the people that have accompanied it. Everyone we meet is so eager to learn and grow closer to Christ, welcoming us with completely open arms. We have shared so many testimonies and continued to spread the Gospel through sports. As Baylor Football encourages, we have set the standard here in Brazil. We have established relationships in Maceio and Rio that we will be able to grow and nurture for years to come. I thank God for Wes Yeary, Kim Scott, and the people that made this trip possible, and I can't wait to see what these trips have to offer Baylor athletes in the upcoming years. Praise God and Sic Em Bears.
Wednesday in Rio was by far the craziest day we have had up to this point. It was the first full day we had in Rio and it definitely was full. We started the morning off with a 6am wakeup call, after breakfast we took an hour long bus trip to a school on the outskirts of Rio. At that school we split up into two teams. I was apart of the team that stayed at the school so thats the side I want to tell. The kids we worked with were all younger than 10, and full of energy. We taught the kids American football while the girls taught basketball and soccer. Our attempt to teach American football quickly became just a relay race that was really fun. When we left that school we went and met up with the other group at the school they went to. We helped them finish up their clinics and then ate lunch. After lunch we had 2 classrooms opened for us to go in and just chill for an hour. Everyone that went in there instantly fell asleep. When we woke up we once again split into 2 groups one group stayed and the other went to a church where Coach Clayton does a sports ministry to kids from a poor area. I went with the group to the church, so i was able to go to 3 different places in one day which was awesome. At the church we went to, the kids were a little older and very skilled. They killed it in the soccer clinic and when they got the hang of football they did very well in it also. After that clinic was done I somehow found myself out in the middle of the street doing a dance form of jiu jitsu which was fun but very scary at the same time. After we left there we went to our host church, dirty, sweaty, and stinky and got to be a part of their Wednesday night prayer service. That was one of my favorite church services I've been to in a long time because we had the chance to go up to the front and pray over all the kids that came to the service and most of which were who we worked with that day. We finished the service and ate and by the time we finished eating it was like 10 o'clock which meant we put in something like 16 hours of work. Those 16 hours were some of the most life impacting hours I have had on this trip. In those hours when traveling from school to school we were in the heart of the favelas which are the poorest parts of the city and are literally shacks stacked on shacks. I was able to see just exactly what those kids came from and why this mission trip is such a blessing for them, and even more of a blessing for us.
Today was our last full day in Maceio. What an amazing day we spent relaxing with our Igreja family. They took us to one of the local beaches where we got to see the beauty of Maceio. The joy our Igreja family has is so contagious and we are so sad to be leaving them. At the beach we went snorkeling, tried fresh pineapples and corn, and played different sports. We ended the day eating at the Brazilian steak house we ate at the first night to celebrate a 2 year wedding anniversary for two of the members in our Igreja family. It has been so much fun learning about them and spending time with them. We are sad to leave them but are happy knowing that all of us will have a family when we visit Maceio and that their church doors will always be open. Tomorrow we leave for Rio and our ready for the new adventure and realize these next couple days will fly by. Our schedule in Rio is jam packed with sports clinics and visiting schools. This past week has made us realize a lot of things. The first is having respect for people who come to visit the US without speaking any english. The people here are so loving and patient and willing to help us. That is not always the case in America. The second is how lucky we are. A lot of the kids we worked with this week don't even have tennis shoes. They did the sport clinics barefoot and that just made me realize how lucky I was to have cleats to play soccer growing up. And finally just the joy the people have here. Like I said it is contagious. Their smiles light up the whole room and when they worship they really worship. They don't care who is watching they are jumping up and down praising the Lord and that is the way it should be. I have loved every second here in Maceio and I am so sad to be leaving. Saying goodbye to the kids was very hard because even though there was a language barrier, we still made so many connections. The greatest thing I learned this week is that even though we do not speak the same language God is love. You do not have to speak the gospel to them because if you just love on them they see God through you. And it sparks an interest to them to where they want to know more. And that was the coolest thing I witnessed all week because at first I felt sad I could not communicate and share the gospel. But then I realized that by loving them you are sharing it. I actually was able to share my testimony at a church service a couple nights ago. At the end of the service, 3 girls came up to me explaining how much it meant to them to hear somebody else was going through the same things they were. I was able to share how much God has changed my life on a deeper level with them. One of them said for the first time they felt peace. I was brought to tears when she told me that and how much her testimony meant to her. I wrote them 3 letters with the bible verses Matthew 5:5 and James 1:2. Matthew 5:5 was the verse that made me want to become a Christian and James 1:2 is just a reminder on how struggle can be a good thing. God is so good and we are all excited for our next adventure in Rio!!!
Before my freshmen year at Baylor I was introduced to the quote, "Comparison is the thief of Joy" and in this digital decade I believe that this statement has never been more true. We tend to be content with our plans, our lives, even our talents until we log on to social media and see the latest Instagram posts from our friends and family. As a veteran on the Baylor Sports Mission Trips, I've struggled with comparison more than any other trip I've been on. It's easy to get caught in the debate between the Brazil vs Africa experience.
There's no doubt that nothing will shock you more than the poverty you will witness in the slums in Kenya. And in the same way nothing will bring you more joy than seeing the smile on a child's face when they kick you a ball made of recycled trash. But what I've learned on this trip more than anything is that you don't have to be in the slums of Africa for God to tug on your heart strings.
Sunday was our last day with the church we've partnered with in Maceio. We met with the youth in a small group bible study that morning. It was funny because we had no idea we were supposed to lead the hour long bible study until we got there but Cam rose to the occasion in our group and killed it. He preached about the Prodigal Son. Just seeing how so many of us in the group struggled with being the younger brother in the story blew me away. At one point in our journey we all have found ourself turning our backs on the Father and yet His grace is out of this world. He celebrates every time we come back to Him.
That night we went to the the church for our final church service with them. Madison and Alexa helped lead worship by singing "Open the eyes of my heart Lord". Let me tell you, there is something beautiful about closing your eyes and hearing people from two different worlds, worshiping in two different languages. And yet, God's love is universal.
If you want to come to Brazil to escape all of life's distractions...you'll fail. On this trip we've had incredibly reliable wifi, a beach across the street, and lots of markets by our hotel. And at first that frustrated me. I mean this is supposed to be a mission trip! But after spending time at the church on Sunday it all began to click. When you say Yes to God it means that you are putting Him above all the earthly distractions around you. He is the ruler of our lives. Going to a different country isn't going to change that. On this trip, I have failed more times than I can count when it comes to putting God above all else. That is why I praise God that like His love, His GRACE is universal too and like the Prodigal Son, He will celebrate every single time we find our way back home.
Hey Baylor Nation!!! This is Spencer Drango live from Maceio! Today was something else. It started on a relaxed note. We were given the morning to ourselves to rest and recover from the busy and exciting days we have had here. It was one of our first times to do a little exploring of the city. There was a few things that we did. Some just wanted to hangout on the beach and catch some rays, while others wanted to go explore some of the local shops. I was in the group who wanted to go do some shopping.
A group of about 8 of us set off on our adventure down the beach on the hunt for cool and interesting shops, and after a quick shop at a currency exchange and about a mile or so walk we stumbled across a market of sorts. There were easily 100 merchants in packed in about an acre space. They had a little bit of everything there and so everyone found something they liked.
In the front of the market were guys selling coconuts. Now if you have never drank the water from inside of a fresh coconut I highly recommend it. Especially if you are low on electrolytes because coconut milk is a great source of those. On the walk back, we stopped for lunch and ice cream.
Then it was time for the last football clinic. The football clinics were amazing for me. The team from Maceio was so willing to learn and were thankful for us to be there teaching them what we could. A few said that it was like a dream come true, but what I don't think they realized is how much we got out of it as well. The first clinic I had no idea what to expect, but we were all blown away with what they already knew and how quickly they picked up what we were teaching them. It was truly remarkable!! I asked one of the offensive linemen, Thiago, where they learned to play football and he said from watching Youtube... Youtube!!! It is so crazy to think that they were that good from just watching Youtube videos.
Today was the first day that they had pads on and could really let loose and show what they could do. After going through a normal-ish Baylor practice we got to the team period. The offense had 4 downs to get a first down, if they succeeded, they received a point, and if the defense stopped them, they got a point. They played to 4 points. The O was strong but the Defense was good too. with the score tied at 3-3, it came down to a 4th and 5. There was an early push upfront by the O-Line but the distance proved too great to overcome and the defense prevailed. After a word by Coach Kaz and Jonson, we said our goodbyes and took a team picture, then we boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel.
After dinner we headed to the church for a youth celebration! All week we passed out flyers at the schools we visited, inviting the kids to come, and many did! Some even for the first time which was HUGE for Jonson and his ministry. We worshiped and gave glory to God! Jonson surprised everyone in the church when randomly called up Chris Sanders to share his testimony, which he did. This was the first time he had shared it and it was awesome to see his courage to share it in front of the 150 or so people who were there. After Chris, Jonson did it again, this time with Collin Brence, followed by Coach Kaz and then Sarah Moghadas. All three were very powerful in their own right. If you want to know more about any of those testimonies y'all should ask them to share them with you, you wont be disappointed you did!
This whole trip has been nothing like I had expected, but God is funny that way. He has a plan for EVERYTHING and i cant wait to see what he has in store for me and this group next!!
Until next time Baylor Nation,
Today we had a little bit later start, which ended up being good because we were able to catch up on some much needed sleep. When we all gathered the girls went to the neighborhood around the church and passed out flyers for the service. While we did this, the guys went to do another American football clinic. The neighborhood we walked through was amazing. While we have been able to grasp a good bit of the culture here, the walk through the neighborhood was the staple. It allowed us to not only interact with many people we have not seen but it also helped truly understand how many of these families live.
I think this understanding of culture helps us understand what many of these kids and even adults go through in a way that can help us relate to them. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. Next, we went to watch the guys help with football. Since this was their final clinic, they were in full pads scrimmaging. It was so amazing to see the passion these guys had for football and for God. They looked up to our guys like big brothers, and bonded so well. You could see the pure joy in their faces. It was a wonderful thing to watch them grow rich in relationships that will last.
After that was the Saturday night worship. There was a great turnout and Johnson said that 50-60% of the people who came were first-timers. To me that was a great thing to hear knowing that we had possibly led someone to a church. The service was wonderful and many people gave their testimonies. My favorite part was the song worship because they were so upbeat and excited. Overall it was a wonderful day to further experience our knowledge and grow in relationships with each other and with God.
Baylor Spirit Squad
Today was a later start than the first few days of this trip. We went to the private school that we did a presentation for on Wednesday and handed out flyers for the big celebration tomorrow at Igreja Batista no Trapiche. The kids were excited to have us back and it felt like a great number will be in attendance tomorrow. The next event was a sports clinic back at the church where we taught American football. We had and amazing turnout over 80 kids. The number of girls in the group continues to grow. Its always exciting to see more and more show up daily. The smiles on their faces are unreal. I feel like I'm getting to do something many don't typically get to experience, so being able to do so with the great team we have is just incredible for me.
To have the kids competing and having fun in The Lord's name is something special to see. The looks on their faces when the doors are open for them to enter and sadness in their faces when it's time to leave is something I will never forget. The love they have for us and one another is awesome. The last event of the day was teaching men American football and wow, how excited, eager, and willing they are to learn! We play the game for a school, get a degree, and hope to make it to the NFL. They are here for just a love of the game and are paying out of their own pocket. They are very quick to pick up the things we have taught them and just want as much knowledge as possible.
I have many highlights from the trip so far but my highlights from the day would be the care the church has for the families in their community. Each kid for attending the clinic received a Baylor bag and sun glasses, then Jonson and the church gave each child before they left 2 large bags of fruit that about filled up the bags they were given. Jonson, his family and the Brazilian people have been so comforting. I feel as if I'm at home with a family I have known for awhile. This trip is continuing to challenge me while I continue to grow in my faith. Its also helping me learn from each experience allowing God to work tremendously in my life. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
These first couple days in Brazil have really opened my eyes to how much we take for granted the simple everyday things we are accustomed to in the states. The outlook the Brazilians have, given some have so little by our standards, is humbling and truly inspiring! They have been nothing but optimistic and are always wearing a smile that is contagious.
Today we returned to a high school that we visited two days ago to invite the students and teachers to a community gathering that we are hosting with the church Saturday night. It was great being welcomed by familiar faces with open arms! It's easy to think that kids in school here would be so much different than kids the same age back in the US, but they're just the same! These teenagers love to laugh, dance, and of course take selfies. My prayer is that these students and teachers all bring their families to worship and fellowship with us tomorrow night to not only learn more about why we are here but to establish new relationships between the church and the community.
When we first arrived in Maceió I really struggled personally with the language barrier. I wanted to really get to know these kids that we are working with and share the gospel with them but the most I could seem to do was ask their name in broken Portuguese. However as the days have gone by I've truly been amazed at the relationships that can form by just showing love to people though energy, emotion and the universal language of sport. With only a few days left before we head to Rio I cherish the time we have left and am looking forward to continuing to share more about Christ with this amazing community here in Maceió.
Baylor Women's Basketball Manager
GOD is awesome! Today has been the most toughest day throughout this trip by far, but you know what? GOD gives his toughest battles to his toughest shoulders. This morning we got the opportunity to visit the public school here in Maceio and as soon as the bus arrived to see the priceless facial expressions and smiles of those children really was an eye opener because the majority of those kids are very less fortunate, and don't have everything that I may have, but yet they could keep a smile on their face. As I arrived and walked in, the first thing that came to mind was to grab a soccer ball and get as many kids as I could and have a session where we would have to continuously kick the ball to each other without it hitting the ground or at least just keep some sort of rhythm going. After a little while we did a program for them. Some of our athletes did demonstrations and had little competitions with the students. We also got to share one of the Gospel Balls with them. They really seemed to enjoy getting to know more about the things that we do in America and at Baylor University. Although the kids didn't really have much, the willingness and attitude of those children really just made me want to be more apart of them.
We also got a chance to work a soccer and volleyball clinic at Ingreja Baptista and the atmosphere and drive that we had to just give GOD and those kids was phenomenal and couldn't ask for a better way to end that part as a unit. Would you still be eager to want hope, love, and opportunity to change someone life despite what you may or may not be going through? Well these kids are changing me daily and they inspire me everyday to just give more and appreciate more and I just thank GOD for that.
Tonight we also met and did a clinic with young men who played American football! Their team is called the Macherais. They are the only team in the state and travel to other states to play 6 or 7 games a season. Despite them not actually knowing the game and the way it is played in America or even at Baylor we were able to teach them not only the fundamentals of each of their positions, but we did things the way our football team does at Baylor with the help of Coach Kaz who is our head strength and conditioning coach and mentor. I can say for the first night of being with those guys teaching them and helping them, they caught on pretty quick! Even though we had to do it on the beach! Pastor Jonson said for them, this was a miracle for them to get to work with us. I know I am pretty excited to get to work with them again tomorrow. I personally just want to thank GOD for the opportunity and Baylor Nation for helping us all experience this mission. As a team we are learning, giving, and understanding what we are here to do and why we are doing what we do.
My experience in Brazil has been one of kind thus far. I never imagined the impact this trip would have on my life so quickly. I heard the different stories from past athletes who went on mission trips, but hearing the stories is one thing and experiencing it yourself is another thing. I knew once I left Brazil I would view things differently, however I wasn't prepared for the things I have already seen.
The first day in Brazil we took a tour of the soccer arena, then we had a soccer camp later that day. However, the one thing that really hit me hard was when we were passing by the slums. I was speechless to say the least. You know growing up as a kid I would watch the television shows about people living in poverty, and you know it would really make me sad. However, once the show went off I would continue my day. Seeing these slums in person will forever change my life. I am so blessed in life that sometimes I forget about the little things in life. Things such as tissue or fresh water is a blessing. I could not do anything but sit on the bus and think about the lifestyle these people were living, the lifestyle that the small kids were living.
Today, we went to a high school and had a basketball camp. Being at the high school was amazing, the kids treated us like heroes! Lastly, of course I loved teaching the kids basketball! Something that I am so passionate about and just simple love!! It's been a great day. We finished the evening with a worship service at the church. It was cool singing the songs in Portuguese as best as we could! Now time to rest before a full day tomorrow!
Lady Bears Basketball
Today the BU mission team visited a local school to take and opportunity to demonstrate some of the sports we participate in and share the word of Christ. The kids had a great experience with the demonstrations just as I did. The kids cheered on athletes of every sport as they demonstrated some skills and some where chosen to compete against are athletes in the demonstrations. Involving some of them helped us make a connection even though we could not personally verbally communicate. Proceeding the athletic events we had the opportunity's to tell them about our color ball and how it represents Christ, sin, spiritual growth, and heaven.
I really like how our mission team ties in sports and ministry so well. Everyone in Brazil loves sport especially soccer and we hope to use that to show them God's love as well. An example that touched me today was before we left passed out the Portuguese Gospel of John. I saw an older student flipping through the pages of the bible and it hit me. If even only one kid is moved towards Jesus by us it is a success.
After the school we went to Igreja Batista No Trapiche (Johnson's local church) to put on a sports clinic for more kids. The younger kids are just packed with energy. Many of the kids showed up an hour early because they could not wait to come and play. After the clinics sporting events came to an end we had another opportunity to show more people the Gospel ball and pass out Portuguese bibles.
Overall it was a long tiring day yet very rewarding. I never imagined packing so much into a single day for this mission trip. That is a good thing though! I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store.
Our first day in Maceio was an incredible day and a great way to kickoff this mission trip. This morning we woke up and got to hear Pastor Jonson's testimony. Listening to someone's testimony who has grown up in this Brazilian community was powerful. He got to live out a dream of becoming a professional soccer player, and after his career ended he felt a call back to to serve the poor. He pastors a beautiful church in the slums where he is able to reach out to the people of that community and be a safe place for the children. Driving through the slums today was such an eye-opening experience. To see the things they go without is heartbreaking. Most of the places we saw did not have the basic necessities of life that we have every day in America. It makes me feel extremely grateful for what I have. We also got to host a sports clinic today for the children living in the slum area. To see kids with huge smiles on their faces when they have absolutely nothing was probably the best part of the day. In all their circumstances and challenges they have a smile on their face, and that is powerful. We have so much to be grateful for, and being in Maceio has made me realize that. Being a part of BU missions has been such a blessing.
Today was a day filled with firsts.
My first time having strange Brazilian cake for breakfast. My first day exploring Maceio, Brazil. My first time eating lunch at a Brazilian subway. My first time drinking 1.5 liters of water in one sitting. What felt like my first time being outside- holy cow it is HOT with about 100% humidity. My first time teaching a sports clinic to a bunch of little Brazilian boys...and one girl. My first time learning to correctly, and still terribly, kick a soccer ball. My first time eating Brazilian BBQ. My first time going for a run on a Brazilian beach.
This day was jam packed with first times, language barriers, and sweaty children....and I loved every second of it. In all my discomfort and first times I had ample opportunities to say "yes" to Jesus. Yes, I will follow you today. Yes, I will love these children. Yes, I will eat this food that is slightly scary so that I can be fueled to love your people well. Yes, I will go run around in the scorching sun. Yes, I will laugh with and enjoy the company of my fellow teammates.
I pray that my life song today sang a loud and resounding "yes, Lord"
He is good.
Baylor Acrobatics and Tumbling