The week that my team and I just spent in Rio was one of the most incredible experiences that I have ever been apart of. Our hearts were completely broken down and then reconstructed by God as we loved and served the people of Brazil. We knew going into this trip that it was going to be a big task to share the gospel with people who may have never heard it before. However, we knew God had our backs. As I have spent some time reflecting on the week, I am in awe of what a loving and gracious God we serve and how much He showed up in each and every moment of this trip. We were prepared for a life changing week, but we had no idea that the people of Rio would end up having a much more profound impact on us, than we ever could have on them.
One of the biggest blessings of this week was the people that I got to walk alongside while doing ministry. Watching my teammates lead with a servant’s heart, and love so hard on each and every person we interacted with was an extraordinary sight. It was so impactful listening to them in our nightly debriefing sessions become so vulnerable and share what God was placing on their hearts. We laughed. We cried. We joked. We saw the handiwork of God everyday as He made His presence known to each and every one of us. God pushed and pulled each of us in different ways each day, but we always had each other to fall back on for a firm foundation. I feel that these little moments are where we learn to trust one another. We become comfortable sharing and talking about the way God is moving each of our hearts. This is not an easy task, but I feel a task that will only help us to beat as one heartbeat as we go throughout this school year and this season. I am excited because this week only helped our relationships grow stronger.
As I think about all the little details that happened on this trip, I cannot help but be so thankful for the leadership we had in the day to day activities. Coach Bart gave one of the most beautiful sermons that I have heard. I don’t think that many colleges coaches would put themselves out there and do what he did. It is a true testament to his character and his leadership of this program and university. He brought his humble demeanor and spoke truth and life into both the people of Rio, and to his players. I know that we were all incredibly proud of him and thankful that he is the one leading this program.
I cannot say enough about the work of Sharon Fairchild. This woman is one of the most Godly, loving, and empowering human beings that I have ever been around. This team was incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to go with her to Rio. Without Sharon, we wouldn’t have been able to see the gospel reach nearly as many kids without her leadership and fearless character. One of the things that she said to me that will always stick with me, is that ministry is not a place. Ministry and sharing the love of God is a lifestyle. You don’t have to go all the way across the ocean to speak of God (although that is great too if that is what you are called to do), but wherever God has you planted is where you should be bold in sharing what God has done in your life.
To me, this speaks volumes for what this team is about to go through. Obviously we are located many many miles away from Rio De Janeiro, but the things that we went through and the experiences God placed in front of us can be shared anywhere. The lifestyle and servant hearts that we had each day in Rio can be brought back to Nashville and lived out everyday right where we are planted.
To go along with all the amazing things that Sharon brought to this trip, we had an equally amazing woman in Betty Wiseman. She showed us what it really means to love like Jesus. On the first day of ministry we went knocking door to door in the favelas, and Betty prayed over a woman who was spiritually empty, could barely open her eyes, and had found her hope in anything but Jesus. Betty placed her hands on this woman’s face and hugged her and held hands with her while praying for her. Betty treated this woman like the child of God that she is. After a beautiful prayer, we walked out of the favelas and into a play area with a bunch of kids. Not 5 minutes later, the same woman that Betty had prayed for and loved on brought her less than a year old son down to the play area and asked if Betty would pray for her son to have Jesus in his heart. The woman began to cry and said she knew that she needed Jesus and wanted a better life for her son. What an amazing display of God’s love. Without Betty loving on a woman who seemed unlovable, we do not see the rest of God’s story play out with this woman and her baby. This set the tone for the way we all would love for the rest of the week, and hopefully now for the rest of our lives too. Betty truly lives out loving like Jesus on a daily basis. For this team to get to be around a person of her faith and conviction is one of the biggest blessings that we will ever get in a lifetime.
Never before have we had more players speak their testimonies in front of the kids. Usually, Betty is the one who takes the lead on giving testimonies and helping the kids invite Jesus into their hearts. This time, we see another act of true selflessness from BW. I think most of you reading this understand the profound life that BW has lived. She has led more people to Jesus than most people ever dream to. But she stepped to the side. She encouraged us to get up there and share what God was doing in our lives. She allowed us to pray and feel what it was like to lead kids to eternity. That takes an extreme amount of selfless love and I cannot say enough about the impact that Betty had on this trip and on each of our lives. I feel incredibly blessed to have gotten to serve with her.
There are so many stories that happened during the week that we could write an entire book about each one. However, we will cherish each of those moments as they are etched on our hearts forever. They changed the way that we view the world. They changed the way we enter into relationships with one another. They changed the way we love. We have experienced the goodness of God and the power of drawing near to Him. We can only pray that as we go throughout the rest of our lives, we can draw strength from this trip and continue to be God’s hands and feet no matter where we go in this world.