Belmont University

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

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