Our team will never look at a basketball the same. For some it became a soccer ball, for others a precious gift from the Belmont Women’s Basketball team, but for all of us, a basketball is now the bridge that can cross any language barrier and break down walls. A basketball now means hope and love from our team.
Today was our last day loving on the children and students in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once again, I don’t believe there was a dry eye the entire day. Between having to leave the children’s school for the last time, saying goodbye to our translators, and giving last hugs and kisses to the children of Pastor Douglas’s church, I’m pretty sure each one of us shed tears of joy and hope for our new friends. We began our 7:00 am day at the children’s school (provided by Pastor Douglas, Sharon, Betty and many others) playing games, singing, and dancing. Our team brought as many gifts and toys as we could pack while in the US, knowing we would want to leave the children with something special. These sweet babies touched our hearts in so many ways.
The last goodbye was the hardest and many team members and children held on hugging as long as possible. After lunch, we made a pit stop for some much appreciated ice cream then finished our day at the gym for final game number three. We were all surprised by the children of Pastor Douglas’s church when they piled in at the basketball court. There were at least 150 kids in attendance, just to watch our girls play. They cheered “defense,” did “the wave,” and many other cheers led by Coach Betty during timeouts and halftime. We played a Brazilian team called All Basket Team. Both teams played great and Belmont won in the end with a 65-25 victory. At the end of the game, we were able to take pictures, give away shirts, shoes, shorts, necklaces, bracelets- anything we owned and were able to give, we did. The children and students of Rio will forever hold a piece of our hearts. Lucky for us, they have filled that missing piece with their smiles, laughter and love. We love you children of Rio! We will never forget you!
Darby Maggard – “This morning we were able to return to the children’s school and walking in was so much fun. Seeing their faces light up with joy is an amazing thing! God works in crazy ways and I think it’s been an eye opening experience to see how much those kids love to be loved and how much joy you can bring to someone just by giving them and showing them God’s love. Being at the church today with Pastor Douglas was great. He is such an amazing and generous man. Having the opportunity to get to see his work and see what he does is something that I’ll hopefully get to experience again. He puts his life out on the line everyday for God and it’s an incredible thing to see. When the children from the church showed up at our game today, it blew us all away. It gave us all energy and joy to be playing for them. Showing them how we use our gifts from God was a really neat joy for us.”
Maura Muensterman- “The biggest thing for me today was realizing how much a touch or a hug can do for children or students. We didn’t have to understand what they were saying – just a hug or holding their hand made them so happy. I think that’s amazing and something I never realized until now. The smile they have after you hug them is incredible.”
Ellie Harmeyer – “This has been the most humbling experience I’ve had in my entire life. When you walk through the streets, you see the homes that these children live in. Then you get told that their family members – mom, dad, siblings, are involved in the drug cartel and prostitution. But the kids are so happy with the little things that they do have. It inspires me because we complain about little things but these kids.. I haven’t heard them complain once about anything. It just shows you how little we really need to be happy in life. It was amazing spending time with these kids. We came here to help change their lives, but they changed ours so much more.”
Kylie Smith – “Being able to come back to the children’s school that was one of the most emotional places to leave was an incredible thing for us. We were able to spend a lot more time with them and play outside. One of the best parts was when were were singing and praying together before leaving and a little girl who was around seven years old prayed for the entire group and their lives with Christ. It’s just awesome seeing God work through the kids. Then at our last game, there were 5 of the older students from the first school who took two buses and a train all afternoon to get to our game. They didn’t even have lunch. We never realized that the little amount of time we spent with them made such a big impact on their lives. That is the most rewarding and eye opening part of this trip for me- how something so small (the time spent with them at the school) means so much to them. I am so happy we were able to come.”
We were able to sit down with Silvia for a moment, and through translation help from Sharon, we have some of her thoughts from the past week. Silvia works at the hotel and has worked with Sharon for many years. She has a great relationship with the schools, church and favellas we were able to enter. No other foreign visitors are allowed inside the favellas we entered into daily.
Silvia – “I believe the team has impacted the lives of these children more than we will ever know. The kids come with the idea that they are not important, that they don’t matter. That’s the difference. The team told them that they do matter, that they are important. The impact that this week is going to have on their lives is going to be very very big. Where they will go after this week, we don’t know, but we can tell you for sure that the way they think is far different from when the week began to where they think they can go now. Without a doubt, they are waiting for the team to come back.”