May 28, 2011

Alyssa's Reflections

AllysaNaples Naples Naples! I am apologizing already for the lengthiness of this blog! I just would hate to leave anything out! Plus for those that know me know that I love to talk anyway! This was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. I am beyond blessed to have had this opportunity to go on such a trip and be with such amazing people. When most people think of Italy they think of the Tower at Pisa, Coliseum, and maybe even fashion and Italian boys. This is all very true in some parts of Italy, but not in Naples. Naples is a very different from the rest of Italy. It is very dirty and is one of the poorest cities in all of Italy. Naples is very much in need of the Lord. My teammates and I had amazing opportunities these past ten days to step out of our comfort zones and show others our love for one another and our love for the Lord. As much as I hope that I touched the lives of the people of Naples, they touched mine so much more. We all really developed some great friendships with not only Charlie and Shannon Worthy and their children but with the Neapolitan people as well.

I really got to know four children at the elementary school quite well. They were four autistic children named Carolina, Jon Carlo, Simone, and Francesco. They put a smile on my face each and everyday. I will never forget how excited they were every time we came into their school! I also really got close to two older boys from the basketball courts. Michele and John Carlos. I was able to share my testimony with them and we had some great conversation. I encouraged them to go to church with Charlie and they both sounded quite interested and I hope that they try and follow through with him since we are now gone. Not only did God work through me but in me as well!

What I like about this trip is that we are all basketball players but that is not what we were this week. We did not see each other as Mick the great post player or Mick the big guy that walks around campus, but just plain ole Mick Hedgepeth. I wish I could try and explain these feelings of seeing all my teammates in this way but it is very difficult. Our relationships are no longer based on our connection through basketball but yet our connection through our faith and love for the Lord. I especially think this was true within the girls on the trip. Cacy, Haley, Kristin, and Tristan and I had some really great bonding experiences through this outlook. Many nights we had a little “girl talk” time. It was full of jokes, laughs, tears, and unspoken thoughts and feelings. Amazing is the only word that somewhat describes it. We all became so much closer and decided to take what we have learned and how we have grown into our team next year. It can be an absolutely program and team changing experience.

Overall I wanted to say thank you to anyone and everyone that had anything to do with this trip. It is something that I will always remember and cherish. Thank you!

- Alyssa

To everyone who went on the trip: I love you all so very much and had the most amazing time getting to know you all and I can't wait to continue our friendships within these years to come!

Betty Wiseman - Closing Reflection

Betty WisemanAs the plane touched down Thursday night in Nashville to end our journey I said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for safe passage of another sports evangelism mission trip. When I crawled into bed I said another prayer of gratitude for my home and the comfort therein. I always recount my many blessings following these yearly trips.

This journey brings to a close my twenty years of leading sports evangelism mission trips. This decision was made prior to departure and I am at perfect peace. I have no regrets. I have given my all. The team overwhelmed me in our last processing session with affirmation and expressions of love that I have never experienced before. That time with them helped me to bring closure. They’ll always be an extra special team to me for many reasons, but those moments will be forever etched in my heart.

I will forever remain in “awe” of God; how He can use a little round ball and fourteen ordinary individuals to draw people unto Himself. We just bounce the balls and they come to play and hear about Jesus! What an awesome concept of evangelism!

I tried to write more this year for the journal and team members have shared their hearts. You get a sense of how God worked during these long and physically demanding days, both in the school and in the parks. It was a different kind of trip with a lot of personal interaction and conversation. Seeds were sown, decisions for Christ were made, and the light of Christ illuminated our work. It was evident that the school - students, administrators, parents - and community were in need of some hope, real hope. We won’t know the spiritual impact of the work until we meet in heaven. Jesus was the focus of the week as kids began to understand His love and how to have a relationship with him. Teachers reinforced our sessions with follow-up and assignments in the classroom - “what did the Americans tell you about Jesus?” They, too, were intrigued and interested in this personal relationship. They recognized us on the streets and came to the parks for more interaction. Parents showed up at the parks for personal time with our team.

Charlie and Shannon will each agree that it was a “moment in time” for their ministry and gave them more recognition and credibility within the school and community. I believe they were pleased with what we did. I know we hated to walk off and leave their family on Wednesday night as we said our “good-byes.”

Our hearts are full and our bodies are exhausted. But, it is a good kind of exhaustion. A part of each team member remains in Naples with all we encountered. We brought a piece of the city, school, and people back with us. It is difficult to write a final entry, because there is so much to share and tell. Please pray for Charlie and Shannon Worthy and their ministry and family. Pray for the seeds that have been sown that they will be produce fruit. Pray for Naples that a revival would break out and the hope that is in Jesus Christ would prevail. It is a city of darkness that needs our prayers!

Thank you for your support of this trip through financial contributions, prayer, and sending of your dear children to serve. You have been vital members of this team sharing God’s love in Naples, Italy. I am forever grateful.

- Betty

May 27, 2011

Tristan's Reflections

Tristan I’m truly sorry it has taken me so long to write. I have been waiting until the very end because I feel like I could not express how amazing this trip was even if I tried! My time in Italy was one of the most memorable trips of my life. I will forever remember the people and places. My favorite part of the trip was being able to play with the kids, and seeing how happy that they were when we were with them really made me so happy! We were at the same school every day, and we went to the same park every night. This gave us the opportunity to really get to know the kids. The time we spent at the park gave us the best opportunity to reach out and not only spend more time with the kids, but it also allowed us to see their parents and talk to them. The park really opened the doors for us to do our work. My role was playing with the kids, and I LOVED every minute of it! Being able to put smiles on the kids’ faces warmed my heart and I will never forget them!! It’s funny how such small smiles and laughs can make me feel so amazing, but it did. I hope that I have had some impact on their life because they definitely changed mine!!

The children of Naples were my favorite part of this trip, but my team definitely ranked as number two!! Wednesday night we had a reflection meeting where we all looked back on the week. This week has really had an impact on my life, and a major reason this has happened is because of my team. During the reflection time we all went around the room and told each other encouraging things about everyone. I wish that I could have said something to everybody but I knew that I would have never made it through because I would have been crying the whole time!! So I thought that I would make my blog about the team and let each of you know how important you are to me, and the impact you had on this trip.

JJ – Before this week, I can honestly say I had probably never spoken a word to you. Over the past week I have been able to get to know you, and I just want to say that you are a truly amazing person. The kids absolutely loved you, and I could tell that you loved spending time with them too. I feel like you have such a big heart, and over the week you have been able to touch the lives of kids that will never forget you! A great example of this is Charlie’s kids! They loved you, and I am sure that they will never forget you. Watching you play with them every night, I could see that you will never forget them either. You are a great person, and your smile is contagious! I don’t know how you do it, but every time that I am around you I smile. I know that God has a wonderful plan for your life, and I look forward to getting to know you even more!!

Alyssa – I just want to start out by saying that you are such a great person! I truly love you girl! I was able to see you in a different light this week, and I can see how your big personality has helped you in more ways than imaginable! The people that you were able to talk to this week will probably always remember you, and I know that you were able to have an impact on their life. You were so great talking to the people at the park, and you could not tell that this was your first trip. I looked up to you this week because of your fearlessness to tell people your love for God. You are such an amazing friend, and I feel so much closer to you now!!

Haley – I feel so much closer to you now even though we have been in school together the past three years and went on the mission trip to Malta last year. I am so glad that came this year, and I know it would not have been the same without you! The kids absolutely love you, and I know that you care about them too! You are going to be such a great teacher, and I wish that my kids could be in your class one day. The kids are drawn to you, and I feel like they will never forget you. You are such a strong person!! I want you to know that I am always going to be here for you, and I will always be here for you! You are one of my best friends, and I love you!

Bake – You have an amazing personality, and like Haley, you will definitely be a great teacher. You can make anyone laugh, and the kids really loved you. You were able to interact with the kids and make them smile. Watching them smile and laugh around you was such a great thing to see. You are one of the funniest people I know, and this allowed you to do your work this week. You did such an amazing job with the kids, and I know that you had an impact on them.

Trevor – You really opened up this week. Before this week, we talked every now and then, but this week allowed all of us to see a different side of you. It is such a great thing to see the whole person, and I feel like I now know more about you. You were great with the kids, and every day I feel like you opened up more and more. I feel like we became better friends this week. I hope that you continue to open up and continue to let God lead your life.

Cacy – I looked up to you this entire week. I considered you a leader, and you proved this to be true every day. The way that you were able to talk to the people at the parks really inspired me, and I wish that I was able to talk to people as easily as you do! You are so open about talking with people about God, and I want to be able to do that as easily as you do. I feel like we have gotten closer this week, and I hope that we continue to stay close. You are such a great friend, and I love you girl!

Adam – Ever since last year’s mission trip to Malta, I feel like we have gotten closer. I feel even closer to you now. You are such a great person, and you are fun to watch with the kids. They laughed at your crazy dances, and they would copy your moves when it was their turn to dance. You made an impact on their lives, and I know that they impacted yours as well.

Drew – We all look to you for leadership when it comes to the drills, but that is not the only thing that you are great at. You are such a great speaker, and when you speak, people listen to you. You are a true leader, and I know that they kids were able to see this. I am sure that they looked up to you because of your skills, and I encourage you to use this more often. I know that your job gives you many doors and opportunities to share with people, and I hope that you can let God lead you to do so.

Nash – I am so very thankful that you decided to come on this trip. You are such a great person, and you are fun to be around. We were good friends before, but I feel so much closer to you now! The kids were so happy to be around you, and you made an impact on your life. I know that you were able to talk to a few people at the park with Cacy, and I hope that you were able to open their hearts to the Lord. I just want you to know that I will always be here for you, and I will always consider you one of my good friends! I am going to miss you girl, but I know that God has a great plan for you! You better come visit me in Nashville, and I love you!

Mick – I think I can speak for everyone when I say that you were our leader. We all looked up to you this week, and you were able to prove to us all week why this was true. You are so open about talking to people about God, and people listen to you. You are able to answer the hard questions that people have, and I hope that I will be able to do this one day. God has given you this gift, and I know that you are definitely using it very well.

I had an amazing time this year and I just want to thank you all for making this possible. However, none of this would have been possible without the work of B-dub, Mrs. Debbie, and Wes. They have been our leaders throughout this week, and I know I can speak for everybody when I say THANK YOU for everything that you all did! Without you three, this week would have never happened. I feel like it has changed all of our lives, and I thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to change mine! God Bless you all!!

- Tristan

May 26, 2011

Back in the USA!

GroupA weary but happy group of travelers arrived safely back in Nashville just a little after 6:00pm this evening. Thanks to all for following along with the blog and for providing much appreciated prayer support for the trip.

After a time of reflection and relaxing, B-Dub will be adding a Naples Journal wrap-up of this year's experience.

Again, thanks to all for the support of this team!

On the Plane to Chicago

KristinWell the time has finally come for us to leave Naples. I'm actually writing this blog as I'm sitting on the plane headed to Chicago. As I look around Alyssa is sound asleep to my right along with Trevor and JJ. Mick, Brandon and Adam are right in front of me catching some zzz's too I guess everyone is pretty exhausted from this trip but what better way to catch up on some sleep then on a 10 hour plane ride?? Oh yea Tristan is up here coloring in her Hello Kitty coloring book with her crayons too :)

I'm excited to be headed back to the states but it was hard leaving Italy too. Last night some tears were shed as we parted ways with our missionaries Shannon and Charlie and their kids who we all grew to love over the past 2 weeks. The city of Naples welcomed us with open arms and by the time we left I could feel the impact that we made on the city and it's people. You would think with Italy having a very large percentage of Catholics and so many churches that talking to people about Christ would be easy but not everyone is always so accepting.

With this being my first ever mission trip I have learned so many amazing things and have formed some great friendships over the past 2 weeks. As Mick would say the greatest friendships are the ones that have Christ at the center of them. And Mick and I have become very close during this trip. He really is an example for everybody else and I really admire his ability to lead an share God's word. Even though I have known Haley, Cacy, Alyssa, and Tristan for over 2 years now and have played with them after these past 10 days in Italy and spending lots of time with each one of them our friendships have grown even closer. It was amazing to see my teammates and my new found friends on the boys team in this type of setting away from our normal eveyday lives at Belmont. But I would especially like to give a special shout out to Brandon Baker for presenting me with the "Best New Friendship" award.. that really meant alot to me not to mention my award he also gave me for the "best Carlton Dance" (Fresh Prince of Bel Air). This really was a special group to be a part of and I am so thankful for BW giving me this opportunity.

Not only did I make new friendships and strengthen old ones my own personal relationship with Christ has grown as well. I have gained so much from this trip and I learned not to take anything for granted. Just talking to some of the Italian families they all dream to come to America one day. Some want to live there others just want to come visit. I used to think of America as just my home where I live but after being in a different country that does not have the freedoms as we have in America and seeing how the people in Italy admired us was a very humbling experience and if i could, I would buy everyone of them a plane ticket to come visit.

I know God will continue to watch over the city of Naples and it's people and I will continue to keep them in my prayers as well. I feel honored and so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of this special group that have touched the lives of many. I will never forget this experience in my life and the the friendships that were formed here.I can't wait to get back and tell everyone about it and in the words of Cacy "I am SO SO ready for some good ole America food!

- Kristin

May 25, 2011

"It Takes A Tribe"

We have been blessed with a team of volunteers who have served us and with us so beautifully. There are Journey Girls--Courtney & Grace, semester study abroad students from Quachita Baptist - Abbey & Stephanie, local translators--Ilaria, Grace, Marta, and Antonio.

Of course, Shannon and Charlie Worthy have become our extended family along with Benjamin (two), Alesia (four), Emma (seven), and Micah (nine).

Journeymen Worthys

The school Director, teachers, local merchants and friends of Charlie & Shannon have all embraced us and been a vital part of this journey & ministry. They bake us cakes & cookies, give us Gelato (ice cream), and prepare specialties of all kinds. They have been our guides and walked miles upon miles with us. Our needs have all been met .

One teacher even participated in relays and drills with her class. The teachers and entire school have all bought in to this ministry. They love the interaction and hanging out with this team. The message of Christ has inspired them. They want to know more.

Translator Translator

"It takes a tribe" to make all this happen and we will forever be thankful for our Napoli Tribe!
- Betty


Mick PrayerHe has been with me to South Africa, Malta, and now Naples. He stands tall and gets lots of attention. He plays, dances, claps, jumps, and runs with the kids. He allows the little boy inside himself to blossom and shine. This giant of a man is adaptable, gentle, welcoming, unassuming, caring and easy. He gives and gives and gives, never showing fatigue. He is always ready to serve! He is the consummate teammate. He is Mick!

When he opens his mouth to speak--people listen! He is always right-on target. I've watched him grow in his faith and deepen his commitment to Christ. He speaks truth and leads by example. I would trust him in any circumstance to speak on my behalf. He is well on his way to becoming a Godly man. He blesses my life daily and is a "rock" to his teammates. He is Belmont's "Mr. BRUIN."

- Betty

It's a Marathon!

Betty WisemanIt's Tuesday and possibly our longest day. We are at our school for six one hour sessions before heading to the park at 5:00 for our last session there. We'll then go into five different homes for our evening meal with families. That should be a unique cultural experience. We anticipate a 13 hour day before walking back to the hotel around 11:00 pm.

We're in the last leg of our marathon journey. Tomorrow we'll be back in school for 3 hours before an afternoon of shopping in preparation for our departure on Thursday at 5:00 a.m. from the hotel. Thanks to Debbie we have a bus to take us to Rome to the airport. I have already given away half of my clothing and items from home, thinking I'd be retracing all those steps and trains from Naples to Rome. That's ok because I don't really need half of all I have anyway!

This has been an extra special team to be with. They have grown in their love and respect for one another. They trust one another with their thoughts and feelings. They were growing spiritually and in fellowship.

Processing times have been intense, honest, and deep. Team members are eager to take all they have learned and apply to their teams and seasons next year. It's so good to hear them talk about leading bible studies within their teams, being Christ-centered BRUINS. Their testimonies each day have been more and more relaxed and relative to the moment. They are growing individually and together in Christ.

We will come home exhausted and emptied but "filled up"!" It will take some time to debrief and adjust--to recover. We will have been embedded in a culture that has stretched our limits of adaptation. There is much to be shared but telling the story won't come easy. Just give us all some time.

**The first thing I will want to do is hit a good salad bar and drink some cold iced tea!
- Betty

Plate 1...Plate 2...Plate 3....Plate 4

AllysaWell tonight was an experience to say the least. Tristan, Adam, and I went to the home of an Italian family. The mother and father, Mari Lou and Antoino, and their daughter Claudia. Claudia attends the school we have been in all week. They also invited the mom's two sisters and mother over! Not knowing what to expect since our experiences with food in Italy so far have been quite interesting, we were pleasantly surprised.

To start the night off we were served pasta. (Go figure) It was truly wonderful! After this the second dish was brought out! It was a plate of real Italian sausage and and a green spinach/ Brussels sprouts/broccoli type vegetable native to Naples. Along with this came the dish that all of our team just LOVES.....the oh so wonderful eggplant and tomatoes. With this also came the fresh mozzarella and the fresh bread. We thought we were done but, oh no. After this came the tiramisu and cookies followed by some blood orange juice. Then they brought out a plate of fresh fruit. To wash it all down, they gave us a drink that they said was for "indigestion". Let's just say, it was not exactly what we expected! It was a once in a lifetime experience that I am very thankful for and will never forget!
- Allysa

The 2011 "Betties" - Awards by Brandon Baker

In our last reflection meeting B-Dub encouraged all of us to think about the strengths of all of our teammates. She wanted all of us to be ready to commend each other in the next meeting, but when I found out that time would only allow me to commend a few of them I decided to praise all of my teammates via blog. I have chosen to give awards to everyone that made the trip here to Naples based on the things they brought to the table this week. Here are the 2011 “Betties”:

Allysa Alyssa- Winner of “Best Trick Shot” and “Most Likely to be seen working with a kid 1 on 1 in the corner of the gym”. Alyssa has hit many crazy shots in our down time at the elementary school. She has even perfected the “off the ceiling, off the ground, into the hoop” shot. But even more impressive than that is her ability to her to connect with student who can’t or decide not to participate in the games due to a mental and/or physical handicap. I can’t count the number of times I looked up to see her laughing and playing with a handicapable child while the rest of us did dribbling drills. It was amazing to see the look on the child’s face while Alyssa played with him/her. It is clear that the lord is working through her.

JJ J.J. – “The Energizer” and “Most likely to be seen with a small child” J.J. Mann, the energizer, was a crucial part of this team. Due to a lot of walking, late nights, and a long week of working with kids there were times when it was difficult to keep up the energy that the people of Naples deserved from us. J.J. refused to let the team energy go down. Whether he was clapping, yelling, breaking into a dance, or all three of those things, we could always call on J.J. to get us going. Also, small children LOVE J.J. It seemed all week he was holding either Alysa or Ben, the two smallest children of our host family. The little kids just connect with him. We haven’t decided if this is because J.J. has the heart of a kid, or the I.Q. Maybe both.

Kristin Kristen- “Best new friendship” (teammate division) and “Best Carlton Banks dance” Before this trip I did not know Kristen very well. One of the best parts about these mission trips is the chance to get closer to everyone that goes. I have been especially appreciative of the opportunity to become closer with Kristen. It is true that the strongest relationships are the ones made in Christ. That why I feel very close to Kristen, even though we have only been friends for a short time! One of the highlights of getting to know her has been seeing her Carlton Banks dance (from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Its good. Its really really good. The best part about it is that we have video documentation of it.

Mick Mick- Wins the “Keaton Belcher” award and the “Award for most humbling blocks” Last year in Malta Keaton Belcher was our mission trip expert on the team. He was a senior, he had been on four mission trips before, and he knew the routine. Every time someone needed to step up or out of his or her comfort zone, Keaton was the first to do so. Mick has done a great job assuming this role. He was the first to give his testimony, and has been a great leader all week. One of the things we have tried to instill in these children is the importance of teamwork. We always preach the importance of passing and working as a team. There is even a rule that the kids must make 3 passes before they can shoot when playing against us. Mick is the enforcer of this rule. If any child chooses to ball hog or shoot without passing, Mick throws their shot to the other baseline.

Tristan Tristan- “Best cheerleader” both jokingly and seriously Tristan receives the award for best cheerleader for multiple reasons. One of the reasons is that many times this week while I was playing basketball with small kids in the park I looked up to see Tristan jumping, kicking, and saying things like “Yay team” with some of the girls at the park. It was a very funny thing to see, but in a way it described Tristan’s attitude all week. No matter what the circumstance has been this week, she has had a great attitude. She is always the first to cheer people on, whether it was a child in a relay or a teammate in a scrimmage. It cannot be understated how important this attitude is in mission like ours. Her encouraging words gave a boost to everyone around her.

Drew Drew- Wins “True point guard” award and “Most likely to eat his weight in bread” A true point guard is someone who can make his/her teammates’ jobs easier without getting any of the credit. Drew has been a true point guard in Naples. In a literal sense he has been a great point guard, in our 5 on 5 scrimmages he has been averaging about 7 assists per game (the games usually end around 20-20). But his presence as a point guard in a deeper sense has been his greatest impact. Drew is in charge of all drills during our time at the schools. The kids are introduced, and then turned over to Drew for ball handling drills, shooting drills, and relays. Drew has made everyone else’s job easier this week; his teammate’s jobs of helping the kids, Wes’s job of directing the children, and B-Dub’s job of reaching the kids spiritually. Drew has done all of this on a diet that seems to consist of only bread and water. As the pickiest eater on the team Drew has rarely enjoyed the authentic cuisine here in Italy. Luckily these Italian restaurants have delicious bread in large quantities.

Haley Haley- “Teammate who most obviously has made the best career choice” and “Teammate who gives the best advice” Haley is studying to become an elementary school teacher and if you watched her for 10 seconds here in Italy you would understand why. The kids love her, but I think she may love the kids more. It is obvious that the children make her happy and she is so incredibly good with them. The energy and happiness that she gets from the kids is contagious to all of us, and a huge reason that we are able to reach these kids. She also is a superb advice giver. We have had many discussions about our future careers since they are so similar (I want to teach high school) and she has had some great ideas for me! With her passion for children and her ability to advise others I have no doubt she will make an excellent teacher one day.

Adam Adam- “Happiest person in Italy” and “Most received alley oops” Adam is ALWAYS smiling. Always. We have had some late nights followed by some earlier mornings, but it never seems to interfere with Adam’s level of happiness. Throughout this entire trip I have counted on Adam as someone who can cheer me up and make me laugh. He is always joking around, laughing, or doing something to make others laugh. There was only one time this entire trip that Adam stopped smiling. It occurred when some trouble making hooligans tried to make a joke with Adam. The young boys were terrorizing the entire subway and frustrating and scaring everyone. The leader tried to joke with Adam. He is the only person I have ever seen to fail to get a smile out of Adam. Adam has smiled his way into the record books; because I am 99% sure that he has broken the record for most received and finished alley-oop layups in a game situation. Guinness has not gotten back to us yet.

Cacy Cacy-“Best life saving catch” and “Best fisherwoman” Cacy’s first award is very special to me…she wins it for saving my life. In one of our many trips to the park this week I tried to step over a chain ink fence that was only about 1 foot high. I had done it many times before without trouble, but this particular time it caught my foot. I had basketballs in one hand and Bibles in the other, and if it had not been for Cacy it would have been awful. I may not have died but I would have been hurt and thrown Bibles on the ground. Her second award also involves saving lives. In the Bible Jesus called his disciples to be fishers of men. Cacy is one heck of a fisher! It is incredible to me how skilled she is at testifying to people at the park. Her previous blogs have chronicled some of these stories, and it amazes me when I read them. She is doing the Lord’s work in Naples, just as he commanded in the Bible.

Trevor Trevor- “Best alley oop” and “Biggest transformation” Trevor has come such a long way since he first stepped foot on this campus as a freshmen. I have only been here a year longer than he has, and I have been though similar changes, but it is still amazing to see strides he has taken her in Italy. Even though he was one of the newcomers and the last to share his testimony, there is no doubt in my mind that he has had a profound effect on the people here. He has done a great job connecting with the locals, both kids and young adults, but he has also had an impact on my life. I will never forget some of the things he said in our first debriefing session. I feel like this hasn’t been given enough attention on the blogs; Trevor caught a SICK alley oop and absolutely put one of the streetballers from Naples IN A POSTER! I was not there to personally see it, but everyone who did see it said that it was easily the best play of the trip. That’s saying a lot considering that everyday we have been playing competitive games to 52 in one of the parks here.

Ms. Debbie Debbie- Winner of the “Walk 100 miles miles” award and “Best job of tossing your uneaten sardines onto Trevor’s plate while the host (and chef) of our dinner was not looking” It seemed everyone walked more this week than they had all year and Miss Debbie walked more than all of us!! Seriously, she may have walked multiple marathons this week. Thank you so much Debbie! You are such a big part of the success of this trip, and I’m sure I don’t even know half of the things you did to make this trip happen. We all thank you. As for the “Best job of tossing your uneaten sardines onto Trevor’s plate while the host (and chef) of our dinner was not looking” award…she did that. It was hilarious.

Wes Wes- “Manager of the year” award and “Best new friendship” (staff division) Wes claims that he has not had to do much in terms of leading this trip. I think he is wrong. He has led by example from the moment we got to the airport and is a very critical part of why I feel this team has been able to reach so many people here in Naples. There are many talented people here on this team, but that doesn’t make the job of leader any easier. He has done a great job of knowing when to let us do our own thing and when to push us into a specific direction. Wes is also winner of the best new friendship of someone who works at Belmont. It has been great getting to know his this week, and I extremely grateful that we were both able to come on this trip.

Betty Wiseman B-Dub- “The Closer” award and named “Best bocce baller” On our first day in Naples we went to the park to get a glimpse of the place where we would be playing all week. Before we could even get to the court B-Dub introduced herself to a group of men playing bocce ball. According to Charlie, our host, bocce ball is a game reserved for elderly men in Naples. They very rarely let anyone else play. After each of them received a hug from B-Dub, they all wanted her to play with them. The men explained to rules in Italian to our translator and B-Dub began to play. What a great start to our trip! It represented everything we wanted to do down here. A barrier was broken, we communicated despite the language difference, we had fun, and B-Dub has been talking with those men every day since! Betty Wisemen is the closer for one reason. When its crunch time and you need help explaining the love of Christ to someone, there is only one person to call. She is the Mariano Riveria of evangelism. We spend time with children and families, we lay the groundwork and break the ice, and there is no one better than B-Dub to seal the deal and pray with them to have Christ in their heart. There is nothing she doesn’t know and there is nothing she hasn’t seen when it comes to helping people to accept Christ as their lord and savior. What a person to have waiting in our bullpen!

- Brandon (aka "Bake")

May 24, 2011

Grow(n) Together

HaleyA country with many churches, but few believers, is where we are stationed. It's crazy to see how many people live here in Naples Italy and do not want to change their bad habits of smoking, polluting, trashing the city, and not knowing Jesus Christ. My second day here in Italy I began talking to a twelve year old girl named Valentina--who could speak simple English. She was so pleased to be actually talking to an "Americano" as she would say. We talked about food, basketball, our favorite things, and then eventually Jesus Christ.

Valentina was some what confused about what I was talking about at first and thought I was just telling her to attend her church. After about 30 minutes of explanation, she was able to catch on, and became extremely interested in the phrase "having a relationship with Jesus Christ." Soon after, Valentina prayed with me to accept Jesus into her heart. This experience brought joy to my life and I will continue to pray for her faith and relationship. Everyday that we have been at the parks I have been able to spend more time with Valentina. She is going to grow into a great young lady, and it's a great feeling to know I have been a part of that.

HaleyOn a different note some of the guys came over to our apartment (cause us girls got the big roomy plaice) and we played some cards and just chatted. We played a couple hands of Kings Corner (or Kings Castle--as some of the team renamed it). But finally we made it to an intensive game of Egyptian Rat Screw, while Nash, Ted, Adam, Alyss, and J.J. had already lost all of their cards, it was down to Bake and I until J.J. "slapped" back into the game and stole all my cards! So props to J.J. although Bake pulled out the 'W' in the end. It's good to get to know all of the team even more while on this trip, and talk about our faith in Christ while having a good time.

I was telling BW today that while it seems like we have been here for so long, at the same time this trip is flying by! We had our second Belmont team processing time and lucky it was not as intense, but super informative and active with information about our journey this far, as well as plans for when we head back to the states. It's great to see how much we have grown together. Of course after leaving that; Nash, Ted, Alyssa, Cacy and I had to have our own processing time. I've never felt closer to a group of girls in my life, and I know God sent the five of us here on a trip together for a reason. I am so happy to be here knowing the days and time we have are slowly fading, I have already gained so much more faith in God and I can tell the city of Naples sees that in the magnificent team we brought here.

HaleyI am pleased to see the interest and eyes that are brought our way not only because we are tall (well extra tall) Americans with something to say, but it shows God gave us the ability to play basketball, to spread His word, and to be here in this struggling area of Naples. Although walking all over this place is tiring, I think we walk so people can see us and basketball players and the cross on our shorts and shirts. At first I was unsure of walking 5 miles everyday, but now it makes sense when we stop for gelato (ice cream) every day (HaHa!) Most of us struggle deciding what two flavors to choose for the day. After the tasty treat we head to the parks - where I met Valentina. These days will be times, moments, and memories I will never forget.


P.S. If I could only write it all, but I don't have 3 days to to it!

Wes Comes Full Circle!

wes_fence_sm.jpgIt does my heart good to watch Wes Burtner standing before groups and leading our team. I take great pride in the fact that Wes began exactly where the athletes are on this trip. Now, he has come full circle - leading.

Wes' quiet and gentle demeanor enhances his ability to organize and lead. He is non-threatening but speaks as one with authority. Our team has followed his leadership with great respect for who he is and the One he serves. His experience in sports evangelism trips as a student-athlete has served him well. He has earned the right to lead.

I know he misses his family - Candice, Max, and Reece and soon to be born child. We have all been sensitive to this separation and done our best to encourage him. He doesn't have too much time to think about it due to our busy schedule.

Special thanks to Wes for his leadership role!

- Betty

Thank you, Ms. Debbie

Betty WisemanHow many times a day do I hear this? Regardless of how often we say "thank you," there is no way to measure the magnitude of Debbie Chenoweth's service. More than ever before Debbie's presence with us is a gift from God.

Whatever we need--Debbie has it. If it isn't in her back pack, it is in her room. The team knows she will take care of every need. Charlie (missionary) is amazed at her skills, talents, and gifts. She has been his shadow. Her servant's heart inspires us all.

She has added responsibilities this trip--the journal/blog. Debbie daily sends entries and photos to husband Paul who records on the journal.

Debbie along with Charlie makes plans for our meals and pays the bills. She buys metro tickets, pays for hotel expenses, and keeps track of receipts. Debbie has her office with her at all times. She is the ultimate organizer, and servant.

Thank you, Debbie, for serving us and our Lord so unselfishly and generously! You are definitely our Most Valuable Teammate!

- Betty

May 23, 2011

"Pure-Sweat Man" - At His Best!

DrewHe has his own company, travels all over the country to train basketball players of all ages and levels. He is beyond his years in skill, leadership and as an entrepreneur. He is innovative, creative, disciplined, confident, passionate, and bold. He can do more things with a basketball than you can imagine.

Drew Hanlen
is the real deal and ultimate teammate. He can take any group, large or small, and organize and lead. This is his third trip with me and year by year I've given him more and more responsibility. He is a leader.

But what has taken place in his heart during these three years is a wonderful transformation. He will tell you very quickly that these sports evangelism trips are the highlight of his travels and teaching. He is a natural in a leadership role. He is at his best! He loves to share Jesus now and there will be a ministry component to "Pure-Sweat" in the future.

- Betty

A Semblance of Hope

WesAs someone who has had a longstanding, yet unexplainable fascination with the mafia, my eyes have been opened to a new reality. The Godfather movies and tales of New York crime boss like John Gotti have peaked my interest for years. While here in Naples, a city controlled by the real mafia, I have seen how oppressive the mafia is and how it has sucked the hope out of Neapolitan citizens and especially the youth. Too often, I've heard that the mafia has a stronghold on the community and future prospects are limited because of the grip the mafia has on business, government and society at large. I can only pray that God will work on the hearts of those associated with the mafia and that He will provide a semblance of hope for the citizens of Naples.

- Wes

J.J. - J.J. - J.J. !!

Debbie and I are trying to describe J.J. - what we see and hear. We can't. J.J. is a magnet. The kids love him, chant his name (see picture below), hang onto every word he speaks, imitate everything he does! His smile, personality, and animation light up a room and captivate an audience. He is a child's inner self. Charlie and Shannon's children are his shadow. The little boy inside J.J. is a joy to behold as he plays with these kids.

J.J. men_play_sm.jpg

I loved watching him last year as a BRUIN, but what I'm seeing here in Naples far exceeds that 30-5 season. He at his best--in his true element--doing ministry--connecting with kids. He makes my heart smile!

- Betty

Eye Opening Experience

TrevorThis trip has been an amazing eye opening experience. I have never experienced anything like this. The people are extremely receptive of us and are really interested in what we have to say. They love playing basketball with us and play as hard as possible because they want to beat the Americans. I think the best part about being here in Naples is that we get to play with these kids and get to see first hand the impact that we make on their lives. Its amazing to watch a kid's eyes light up, especially the ones close to our age, when we arrive to play with them.

TrevorAt the end of every day, they are always asking if we will be back the next day. By them asking that, I know for sure that we are impacting them and that they want to see and hear more from us.

- Trevor

I Love Italy!

AdamWow! A lot has changed in the last two days since I wrote my last blog.

First a quick update on John-Cabo... His real name is actually John-Carlo. You have to give me credit, I was pretty close on his name. Their accents are very thick here. I've seen him at the park everyday. He is a believer in Christ as our relationship grows maybe there will be a chance where he opens up to me. He is one of the many friends that we have made down at the park.

Speaking of friends at the park, Mick and I met a guy named Marco on Friday. (he insists that we call him by his American name, Marcus). He is a 17 year old kid with a really good heart. He loves basketball. The only thing he wants is to come to U.S. I admit sometimes I take things for granted and seeing "Marcus" share his dream with me really made me stop and think of how blessed we all are. Marcus shocked us all when he showed up at church this morning. He took two trains all the way from Pompeii to make the morning service! He spent the rest of the day with us. He ate lunch, went to the park and even stayed for dinner. I am very proud of him and am looking forward to spending the rest of the week with him and the rest of our friends down at the park.

Adam TestimonyAt the park today we noticed that one of the rims was nearly torn down. It was hanging by one bolt. Luckily Drew, Mick, trevor and I found the missing pieces on the ground and were able to fix the goal. This really took some team Chemistry. Drew was sitting on trevor's shoulders and I was Sitting on Mick's shoulders. (really funny site to see) after we fixed the goal, all of the guys were very appreciative.

This whole trip I've been learning a lot about Italians and their culture but I've also learned a lot about some of my teammates as well. It's crazy how you can learn more about them in 3 days during a mission trip than you would after spending an entire season with them on the court. This shout out goes to JJ, Trevor, and Wes. We have all been getting pretty close and I am happy we are. We are like a family.

I absolutely love Italy but there are somethings that I will never get used to... The first one is the walking. I feel like if we complained on every blog post from now on it still will not do it justice. I have probally walked more here this week than I did my entire semester at Belmont! One other thing that is foreign here is there are no refills on drinks. Refills might be the best invention in the world. Drew and I have been coming up with business plans that would start a revolution here. My favorite idea is, chicken Parmesan (they don't put any meat on their pastas) they would love it!!!

- Adam

May 22, 2011


AllysaCiao! Saluti dall'Italia! In other words "Greetings from Italy". I apologize for such a late blog entry but honestly things have been crazy and my electronics just seem to always be dead! Well I don't think that there is enough room on the blog for me to reflect on all the amazing things the past couple days so I'll just mention a few of the highlights.

First off, I think we all now know how it would feel to be famous because we get stared at EVERYWHERE we go. I guess it is unusual to see a group of 11 basketball players almost all over 6 feet tall (0r in Mick's words..2 meters) :) It also doesn't help that most Italians never see blondes, and I have yet to see a natural one either. Since being here we have met our host missionary Charlie and his wife Shannon! We have all truly enjoyed being with them and their wonderful three kids! Especially the youngest boy "Benji" who just can't seem to say any words other than "J.J". They have so kindly allowed all of us to eat at their house a couple nights so far and we have had such a great time over there except for the 4 flights of stairs up to their door. You would think a bunch of athletes would be able to do it but after a very long day on our feet and walking what seems like 15 miles a day...its a struggle to say the least. Drew, BW, and I have discovered the wonders of a very sketchy elevator but nonetheless it's an elevator. I would have to say the best memory at dinner would have to be Bake's dance with the hot pink streamers to "Ain't No Sunshine". Quite a sight! Between that and "pulling it out of his hat" (inside joke) I completely lost it in tears crying.

AlyssaWe have been working in a elementary school in Naples and it has been such a joy. Clapping, screaming, dancing, and laughing are all the events other than basketball that goes on within the hour we have with each class. We start of by an introduction and many drills, followed up by all of us playing against each other, and then someone from our team shares their testimony. These times at the school have been very special for me. As fun as it is seeing whatever wild move JJ can come up with in the dancing competition and seeing Mick block a 3rd graders shot to the other side of the gym, I have been able to have some really special moments with some children. First I met Antonio who was an autistic boy and we were able to really have a type of connection. Although I was not able to really have a conversation with him I was able to get him to play with me outside gym and really just try and show him that I cared. Personally, it was just a really meaningful moment.

A couple days ago we met at the end of the day for a time of reflection and discussion. We went in expecting a meeting full of touching on the highlights of the day and all left with a feeling of the touching of our hearts. The only way a can really explain it is a truly bonding experience. It was a time of opening up and letting ourselves be vulnerable and open with each other and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of. It is something I will never forget and I am sure there will be more like these within the days to come.

I would have to say one of the best things about the trip in my opinion is going to the courts in the evening. The court is located in almost as we would call like a "town-square". It is somewhat the hot spot of the area. It's the hangout place for all the teens. It was a great way to start the week when one of the first things I was told was that I should get a medical marijuana card for my asthma. This was a sure sign that evenings at the court would be interesting......and that they have been. From awesome basketball games with the locals, watching the boys put on a show of dunks for everyone, to being able to share my testimony numerous times with people there! I have met 3 guys in particular that I have created a great relationship with. One of which came to church with us today which was a great experience. I have been able to really get into some deep conversation with them and hope to go even deeper before we leave and try and let the Lord work through me and speak through me. I will try and give an update soon as to how things are going but I am really starting to fall asleep so I better get some rest but please continue to pray for my team and I as we finish out our trip here and continue to try and share our faith with those here in Naples. Thank you!

- Alyssa

Good Food, Great Fun, and Deep Conversation

Brandon Group.jpgHere in Naples everything begins and ends with food. The entire day is scheduled around the meals. Today I had some absolutely delicious food; a pastry and cappuccino for breakfast, pasta for lunch that was, as the Italians say, “magnifico”, and good ole chicken and potatoes for dinner. We had to have more of an American dinner because some of my teammates (all of them) are not as open minded as I am about trying the authentic Italian cuisine.

Based on food this was the best day we have had yet, it was also the most fun. We had tons of fun with the children in Naples elementary school. Our trip to the elementary school included a running sky hook in 5 on 5 play (me), some very intense shooting competitions between the Neapolitan students, and what turned into a 3 minute break dancing competition. The participants in the competition were three of the 4th grade students in our gym class. One student was of Asian descent, another appeared to be 100 percent Italian, and the final competitor resembled an elementary school version of Mick Jagger. All three of them were dressed as if they were on the cover of GQ Magazine.

TristanOur day was amazing, and we had so much fun with the kids, but I would not be doing this blog justice if I focused on sky-hooks and break dancing. There were four testimonies shared today in the elementary schools after we played with the kids. Tristan was the first to speak and set the bar very high. The only hiccup in Tristan’s speech came when she explained that God can help the kids get through tragedies, like losing their dog. The translator looked appalled, thinking that Tristan meant losing the dog to death, but quickly covered it up telling the kids in Italian that God can help them when their dog gets sick. After Tristan the next three to give their testimonies, J.J., Alyssa, and Kristen were all newcomers to the Belmont Sports Evangelism trips but you wouldn’t know it listening to them speak. They each made great points and clearly spoke from the heart, which is hard to do when pausing for a translator.

BrandonAs impressive and touching as the testimonies were, we had not scratched the surface of the emotional and spiritual impact that would come later. After our work in the schools we grabbed lunch (the aforementioned “magnifico” pasta) and came back to the hotel for a debriefing session. It was intense. It is hard to describe the emotional level of the meeting without breaching the trust of everyone involved, but I will say this: Earlier in the park a four year old Italian girl was hit in the face by an errant half court shot…I out cried her today, hands down. And I would do it again in a heartbeat; the tears that were shed, the friendships that were strengthened, and the love that was shared in that small Italian hotel room will stay with me until the day that I die.

- Brandon

May 21, 2011

Pompeii Blew Us Away!

pompei_02_vert_sm.jpgSeeing is believing and I could never have imagined such a place. Books, picture, or internet sites cannot do justice to the city totally destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. History unfolded before our very eyes.

For two hours we walked, hiked, carefully stepping on uneven surfaces. Some of us had Charlie, the historian, guiding us. Should he ever get out of the ministry he could make a fortune as a tour guide. I was intrigued to get a review of my history of sport and physical education that I taught for so many years - actually viewing the palestra where ancient men trained for competition.

What a magnificent city it must have been! It reminded me of how quickly everything can be taken from us. Natural disasters seem more prevalent in our world today and even in Tennessee and surrounding areas in recent months and years. Somehow, cities and communities recover over time. This city did not. We saw corpses of humans and animals, pieces of artifacts, and original paintings on walls. All life was taken without a warning and the city buried. By chance, someone discovered a piece of what was--and the excavation began.

As we stood front and center in an unearthed outdoor amphitheater we could only imagine what it might have been like. Even the acoustics were in tact as we each took turn speaking and listening to our voice resonate within the walls. Quite an experience!

Pompei Pompei

I have seen a lot of the world's wonders, but this particular place simply blew me away!

- Betty

Being Encouragers

b-dub-grief_school_sm.jpgThe school we've been working in daily experienced a real tragedy within a few days prior to our arrival. One of their beloved teachers died, a young woman of only 50 years old, from pancreatic cancer. The teachers here are grieving.

When a class comes into the small gymnasium the teacher is introduced to Debbie and me, and then they stay to watch and listen to testimonies. We are hearing story after story of how God is using team members' testimonies to encourage these teachers. They talk of "something" different in the lives of these athletes. When they hear us talk about Jesus--then they understand.

I am praying God will give me an opportunity to share with those who are hurting.

- Betty

May 20, 2011

First Mission Trip Ever

KristinI apologize for being a day late on my blog entry! I was supposed to write it yesterday but thus far this trip and the ministry that we have done has been quite amazing. Working with the kids at the elementary school here in Naples has just been a joy because to see the smiles on their faces when they see us make this trip all worth while.

Kristin TesifyEveryday the kids come to the gym we do some drills and fun games with them then one of the team members speaks to to the group of kids about their relationship with Jesus Christ. Well it was my turn to go on Friday and boy was I nervous before I got up there. But with the prayers and support of my other team members I got up there and just let the Lord speak for me and it ended up turning out great!

I've been enjoying becoming so close to the other team members. It really feels like we are one big family. Continue to keep us in your prayers while we're over here doing God's work!

- Kristin

(click image to view larger size)

Friday Morning

CacyIt is Friday a.m. - our second day in the school - 4th and 5th graders today - following a very long day yesterday. I'm watching from the sidelines as Wes and Drew lead in basketball relays and drills. This team is filled with energy, enthusiasm, and the love of Christ! I love seeing the faces of these children as they play and respond to our team. The noise is deafening!

Our park experiences each evening are unique. We split the team and work in two locations. Each team member can tell their own stories of how God is providing divine appointments and opportunities to minister to individuals. Cacy spent two afternoons with Carlo talking about Jesus--then I was able to step in and lead him to make a decision to follow Christ. Kudos to Cacy for her sensitivity and commitment to this divine appointment.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we'll take a much needed break and sightsee at Mr. Vesuivus and Pompeii. Following church Sunday we'll spend the afternoon in the parks. These parks are filled each day with families. People everywhere--Amazing! We keep our translators busy!

I wish all of you back home could hear the testimonies of the team members. They amaze me with how they speak with clarity, boldness, passion, humility and complete honesty. They truly are the "aroma of Christ" in this place!

Betty WisemanThe "first-timers" are stepping up today and sharing. I am so proud of them. That first times not easy, but it becomes the point of no return for them as they take a step forward in their faith journey. They are proud of themselves, as they should be.

- Betty

Images from Days of Service

Click on image to view larger size in a new window:

haley_cacy_sm.jpg men_play_sm.jpg
Wes Carlos Close-up
Class Clowns Adam Testimony

May 19, 2011

Make Yourself Available

CacyWOW, what a great day we had in Naples today! We started off eating breakfast in one of the many breakfast bars. I had a chocolate croissant and fresh squeezed orange juice it was amazing! We spent the majority of our day in the schools and played and shared with 3rd and 4th graders. The kids are very energetic. It is through them in which we get our energy.

Each and every person who spoke today did a great job and the kids were very receptive. I would have to say though the highlight of my day was in the afternoon when we went to the parks. Each day when we go to the parks we break up into two groups and go to the two different parks that are near each other.

CarlosYesterday (wed) at one of the parks I met this little boy and his dad, Carlos. They were both very nice and friendly. While I was playing with the little boy, his dad, Carlos, asked me why we were here. I told him and he automatically
seemed interested. Through a translator I was able to share my testimony. Carlos said he prays to Jesus a lot and loves learning more about him and listening to people talk about him. He truly was a lovely man and there was just something special about him.

This afternoon I went to the other park I had not been at yet. After about 2 hours I decided to go to the park I was at Wednesday just to see if Carlos and his son had come back. As I was walking to the other park, I ran into Carlos and his son. They were walking to the park I was just at. It was amazing how the Lord allowed us to meet! With our very helpful translators I was able to start small talk with Carlos. Shortly, into the conversation Carlos, the translator and I were once again talking about Jesus Christ. He said this morning his little girl had to go to the hospital because she busted her head at school. He said he prayed to Jesus and his little girl ended up being fine. He told me he talks to Jesus all the time and has a bible. I was so glad Carlos knew of Jesus and prayed to him and talked to him daily. However, there was still something missing.

Carlos PrayerI just was not quit not sure what to say. And in God's working, BW came up right at that time and started talking to Carlos with the translator and I. It was amazing to listen to BW talk to Carlos. She asked Carlos if he died today did he think he was going to heaven? And he said, "I don't know, that's a good question." Then she went on talking to him and within 10 to 15 min Carlos accepted Christ into his heart for the first time. It was such an amazing experience to witness and be part of. After Carlos accepted Christ into his heart our translator that goes to church in Naples invited him to church with her. I am so happy for Carlos and I think him as a father and leader in his family could impact his 3 children and wife. It was amazing how the Lord set everything up today. The biggest lesson I have learned is how when you make yourself available, God will open doors to things you may never have expected. I am just happy to be a small part of God's great plan.

Every night I am excited to see what the next day will bring.
- Cacy

Lorenzo: The Dribbling Machine


Side note: Before I start my blog entry about a full day of activities, I would like to note that there was a local that absolutely dominated JJ in a 3v3 game yesterday. He only spoke Italian, but still managed to say “In your face” in English to JJ after knocking down one of his many three-pointers right over JJ.

On a more serious note, today was our first full day of mission work, and we stayed on the grind all day. Our day started at 8:00a at a local school, where we spent six hours with around 150 children, in one hour sessions. Each session contained dribble relay races, dancing, shooting contest, 5v5 full-court games, and a short testimonial from one of our team members. Mick, Cacy, Brandon, Adam, Haley, and I all spoke to the kids about making good life choices and having a personal relationship with Jesus.

DrewAfter a quick lunch, which only consisted of nine pieces of bread for me because the “stew” did not quite meet my picky standards, we headed back to the school for two more sessions. After two more successful sessions, we headed to two parks for more basketball. (Another side note: Debbie came through in the clutch, like she always does, and helped me get a few tasty snacks before heading to the parks.)

We started at a court in the middle of a roundabout and played 5v5 games to 52 points, with every basket counting as two points (Coach Byrd, we tried explaining that three-point shots should be worth three points, and that two-point shots should be worth two, because a 3:2 ratio is more game-like than a 2:2 ratio, but they couldn’t understand our English. They also had no idea about bringing the ball to “The Spot” ☺). After a few successful games, we moved to a local park to play with some of the local kids. That is where I met Lorenzo, the dribbling machine.

Lorenzo is a ten-year-old boy that absolutely LOVED (Pure Sweat) ball-handling drills. We spent about an hour practicing all kinds of ball-handling drills, including: figure eight drills, two-ball dribbling drills, spinning the ball on your finger drills, and everything in-between. After an hour, his mother approached me and asked if I could babysit for 15 minutes while she ran a few errands. We spent some more time working on some fancy ball handling drills before his mother came back to get him. At the conclusion of the “workout” he asked his mother if he could come to America with us. I’m sure T.J. “All Day” Saint will be recruiting him after reading this blog, so hopefully Lorenzo will be playing college ball in America one day so you guys can meet him too.

I am so so excited that we have another full week here to work within the community (“So so” was not a typo, just a new term that Cacy has created). The locals are really beginning to open up to us, and I think that we will be able to make a huge difference in their drug-filled community.

Thanks to everyone that contributed and helped make this trip possible. I travel all over the country running basketball clinics for my job, but this is always my favorite trip, because I leave changed for the better every time I go.

Until next time, ciao,
- Drew

May 18, 2011


JJItaly is AWESOME. Day 1 and travel is officially complete. It was quite the adventure to get here with the planes, trains and walking, but it is great to be here. I think I speak for everyone when I say last night was one of the best nights of sleep of our lives because we were so exhausted.

San Elmo CastleI saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen today when Charlie took us to Castle San Elmo (click image to see larger size). It overlooked the whole city and Mediterranean Sea, and it was absolutely gorgeous. It just made me think about how amazing God is and how amazing this world He created is. Later in the day we made it to the parks where we played with the young adults and kids and all I can say is I hope they had as much fun as I did. We are off to the schools tomorrow to continue God's work, and I could not be more excited.

- JJ Mann

Day One

AdamI really enjoyed today! We started this morning by walking to the market place for breakfast. I had a Gratta which is basically a huge donut.. I will probably get this for the rest of week because it was so delicious! After breakfast we walked to a historic castle that was built in the 16th century. At the top of the castle you could see everything! We saw Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and the US Council (the place where Jason Bourne escaped from in the Bourne Identity) Looking down on the entire city was breath taking! Naples is the most densely populated city in Europe. What is more astonishing is that of all the people in the city only about 3 percent are active in their religions. Looking out over Naples; seeing how many people there are that do not have Christ in their life really puts this trip in perspective for me.

Later on in the the evening, we we went to the park. This was a stepping stone. We were able to interact with people naturally. I played basketball most of the time and I met quite a few people. I was able to talk to one guy, Jon-Coba (I'm not sure how to spell it, that's how you pronounce it at least). He is a 17 year old senior in high school who wants to attend college to be a doctor. We talked lightly about his faith. He said he is Catholic and he does attend church occasionally. I'm not sure what he meant by "occasionally" but it is my goal to find out more about Jon-Coba by the end of the week. Most of the same kids go to the parks so many of them told us that they will be at the park tomorrow evening. We will be back at this park tomorrow evening as well, so I will get the opportunity to talk with Jon-Coba and others again. I can't wait!!

- Adam

Do you want to smoke some marijuana?

MickDay one in Naples was exciting and full of firsts for our team. We started off the day with a very sweet breakfast consisting of chocolate or jelly filled cornettos (similar to a croissant) with expresso, cappuccino, or freshly squeezed orange juice to drink. We then went on to visit a famous local castle that was built in the 16th century, which was the correct time frame guessed by Brandon Baker. Being on top of the castle produced an incredible ocean-front view of the extremely dense population of Naples. The only patches of green that could be seen were those at the airport and the mountains in the distance. You could see the area where the apostle Paul landed his ship and also the building Jason Bourne leapt from in "The Bourne Identity".

Mick PrayerOur first afternoon of ministry was one I'll never forget. We broke up into two groups. Cacy, Kristin, Alyssa, Adam, Trevor, Wes, and I went to a fenced-in outdoor court in the middle of a roundabout in the city while the others went to a nearby park. We played 3 on 3 against the young people around the age of twenty. More people started to show up, so we began playing 5 on 5. They play games to 52 here, so we're going to sleep well tonight. As we rotated in and out, we visited the folks watching the game with a translator to share why we are here. After I had just finishing sharing about basketball and who Christ is in my life to a group, a young man came up to me and asked, "Do you want to smoke some marijuana?" After politely declining, we made small about sports until he asked the question that I was trying to get him to ask, which is "So what are you doing here?" This gave me the opportunity to talk to him about Christ and ask him if Jesus was a part of his life. He said Jesus was a very small part of his life and that he only attended church once or twice a year during Easter or Christmas. We talked for a while longer about the importance of faith and having a strong relationship with God. We then prayed together, and the young man is looking forward to coming back to play and talk with us as we will be at the same court for most of our days here.

Every year I come on these trips I am amazed at how God gives us great opportunities to plant seeds. However, planting the seeds ironically helps me grow so much in my own faith. This experience also allows us to grow with our teammates in new ways by having the chance to see each other in a unique environment where we are sharing who God is in our lives. I am looking forward to watching the seeds that we've planted grow and seeing what else God has in store for us this week!

- Mick

Belmont University

About this Trip

The annual Sports Evangelism Mission Trip is scheduled for May 16-26, 2011 in Naples, Italy where we will be working with IMB missionaries Charlie & Shannon Worthy, using basketball as a platform for sharing Christ.


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