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”:
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.
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.
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- 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- “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- 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- “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- “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-“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- “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.
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- “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.
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")