Here 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.
Our 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.
As 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.