The reflection that I look at in the mirror today is a much different reflection than what I looked at before I left for Rio. Not in a physical sense, but all of this change happened in my heart.
Going into our trip to Brazil, I really did not know what to expect. I had never been on a mission trip before and honestly, the thought of going to a country where the native language was something that I had never heard a word of scared me to death. I was extremely excited to work with the kids and to get to learn more about their culture and try to make a positive impact on their lives, but at the same time nervous, because no one knew how they were going to respond to us when we did not know a word of Portuguese. Ultimately, God showed us multiple times throughout this trip that His love knows no language barriers and the extension of His love has no boundaries. It was amazing to see these kids really latch on to us even when we did not have a translator by our side at every moment to communicate with them. A simple hug or a high five to show them that you cared for them and loved them as brothers and sisters in Christ was all they needed to warm up to us.
Throughout this entire trip, we had some amazing leaders. Betty Wiseman was one of the leaders that really stuck out to me and her words will forever be ingrained in my head about the way we should live our lives. “When your time comes and you are standing in front of God waiting to see if you made it into heaven, He is not going to ask you how many championships you are bringing with you. No way. He is going to look at you and ask you how many people you are bringing with you.” That quote, to me, really set the tone for our trip and took the focus off of basketball and put in on something greater. There were too many quotes and too many special moments to write them all in this reflection, but gradually through quotes from Betty and moments with the kids, my heart began to change for the better.
All of the kids were so fun to be with! One of my favorite days was at the temple when we were dancing with the kids on the stage and worshipping with them in both Portuguese and English. I met two little boys who were the cutest and sweetest little guys I had ever seen. Chawe (7) and Kale (10) really took to my heart and showed me that all we needed was a little love to connect. Few words were really spoken, but singing with them hand in hand went further than any words ever could have. The time came for us to leave them, and it broke my heart. Imagining these two young boys walking home by themselves in the favelas with all of that violence and danger was not easy. It is truly not fair that they were born in a place so violent and we were born in a place so free and peaceful. Thinking of those little faces makes me realize just how fortunate I am, and makes me forever grateful for all that I have. It also has made me aware God’s love is everywhere and joy is not in material things but in love and connecting with His people. There has not been a day since I’ve been home that I don’t think of these two beautiful gifts from God and the pure joy and love they gave me.
These experiences and these people have made me a lot more aware of what goes on in the world and how fortunate we are to have been born where we were. We did nothing to deserve the blessings that we have… we were just merely born into this, and so were the kids like Chawe and Kale. Each day they fight a fight that’s more than most people could ever bear, but they do it with a happy heart. Everyone that I was around that week has made me want to serve those around me and love God’s people as much as I can. This has been a life changing experience and one that I will remember forever. My inner-reflection is forever bigger and brighter because of this experience. I thought I would go on this trip and impact others but they were the ones impacting me.