Today’s adventures seemed to take us all over Rio. From neighborhoods, schools, and malls we were going nonstop all day. We were able to interact with and give to some amazing and joyful children who were in need. Sometimes all they needed was someone to see them, someone to tell them they love them, or even someone to hug them.
At one point while we were in one of the neighborhoods, there was a beautiful view where you could see almost all of Rio and our leader, Sharon Fairchild, said to us, “How many Americans can see this? You are some of the first.” At that moment, everyone understood our mission. We have a tremendous platform as D1 NCAA athletes who are educated and know the love of Jesus, and here we stood in one of the poorest communities in Rio where nobody else in our position has ever been and our mission was to spread the good news of The Gospel to those around us. At first, it felt like an overwhelming responsibility, but then Betty Wiseman said seven of the most profound words we would ever hear: “Bounce the balls and they will come.” Sure enough, all we had to do was bounce the basketballs and we were soon surrounded by children eager to play and share in the joy of our hearts. It was that easy.
Junior Maddie Wright, had experiences of her own that she was able to share:
“Speaking from someone on their very first mission trip, I want to start by saying I am overtaken by my emotions…and it has only been my second day with the people of this beautiful country. There’s mountains and beaches and rain forests and pretty much anything else you can imagine here. Rio is larger than life and it is full of surprises around every corner. But it isn’t beautiful because of where it is on a map, it is beautiful because of the people that reside in the deepest corners of the city that bring its beauty to the surface.”
You would think that three days wouldn’t be a long time to get to know someone, especially not being able to say more than hello in their native language here. Let me just tell you, give it only 5 minutes, and the biggest of smiles can say so much more to someone’s heart than any words could ever say. It truly is one of the most indescribable feelings I have ever experienced. I don’t know how to put into words that the feelings I went through today. Seeing a child who’s “normal day” is a fight for their life, greet you with their best and goofiest grin can really send you through the ringer unlike anything you have ever felt before.
I had the privilege of sharing a devotion this morning before we headed out to minister to the children all over the city, and a verse that I used was II Corinthians 12:9 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I have been in a season of life fighting overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, but I lately I have realized that inadequacy and strength will always go hand in hand in God’s kingdom. These children are the picture of His power every single day. How else can they be full of love and light?
One thing that I have learned over time is that people just have a need to be heard. And I don’t mean just in the literal sense of speaking. I mean really hear what people have to say. We don’t speak a lick of Portuguese, but we hear the people. We hear their struggles, but more importantly we hear the joy they have. The everlasting joy that comes from God and God alone. We hear their passion for people and fellowship, and they hear us too.
Rio, can you hear me? You have my whole heart.