May 27, 2004
We Are Back!
The entire team made it through the night of air travel and arrived safely in Nashville around 9:30AM this morning. Just about everyone managed to ge a few hours of sleep during the 9 hour flight from Sao Paulo to Houston...but I wouldn't go as far to say that every one feels rested.
We had a terrific reunion last night at the Rio airport with Ray and Sharon Fairchild. The had just returned from the states and wanted to see the team off. Sharon's mom is showing signs of improvement. Sharon said that she had been out of bed and had managed to do some walking with the aid of a walker. Sharon and Ray also expressed their appreciation for the prayers that were said on behalf of their family.
There will be a few follow up posts coming to the Rio Journal, but for now, the trip is over. The work in Rio is far from over and hopefully there will be other groups and other chapters to add in the future. Thanks go to all of you who read, posted comments, and sent us email through the trip...it meant so much to all of us!
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 11:39 AM
May 25, 2004
The work does not end here
Our trip has now come to an end with one more sightseeing day remaining. None of our lives are the same, in fact we all certainly feel blessed. The things we have seen in the last 10 days have been eye-opening to say the least. But however sad the conditions, God did not fail to move. There is no doubt in my mind that the streets we walked would be walked by Jesus if He were in the flesh today. However, He has proven to each of us that he is in fact in the flesh, and we saw Him over and over again in the lives we encountered. In fact, we were Him, despite our limitations, for so many we encountered.
Pray for those who received Him as their Lord and Savior. Pray that they and those that were delivered the Gospel but did not respond will actively seek fellowship with other believers and communication with God through prayer and Bible study.
Thank you for your prayers. They were felt, and people know Jesus today because of your efforts. I pray that each of you will be able (if you have never) to see the look on the face of someone hearing the Gospel for the first time. The Holy Spirit is alive and well in Rio. I encountered Him all week.
Rio Das Pedras - Day Two
Today was a day to play with kids. It was also a day for the local church to gather information on new Christians to get them involved in a local congregation and area Bible studies. There was a soccer game played between the sports evangelism team and the local soccer club team. Both teams seem to enjoy the play in spite of the heat on the field.. In a show of good sportsmanship, the soccer team agreed to a brief scrimage that involved men and women players from Belmont's teams. The two days here were challenging, enlightening, and productive in terms of ministry. Eric and Ramona Reese, the International Mission Board missionaries for the area, felt that this was a huge success for the local congregation and challenged the team to continue the witness that they demonstated here no matter where they go. Eric believes that the impact of the team on the community will be felt for seveal months to follow. Lots of hugs and tears ended the day. This is the last day of work for the trip and in celebration, we stopped at the beach on the way back to the hotel to enjoy the cool south Atlantic surf.
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 06:33 PM
Rio Das Pedras - Day One
Eric, a Southern Baptist missionary (pictured in the yellow shirt), who lives in Rio Das Pedras classifies the 90,000 people in this area into three categories: the working poor who live in small terra cotta block homes, the poor who live in the wooden shacks that surround the working poor, and the desparately poor who live on the street or in flimsy temporary structures on the perimeter of town. Utilities are a mix of home remedy connections that sometimes include coat hangars as part of electrical tie-ins. Municipal water is scarce and unevenly distributed within the community. The street is a combination of muddy path, open sewer, and marginally covered sewage trench. Many of the 'streets' in the favela (slum) are not much wider than an American's outstretched arms.
Images on television do not adequately describe the living conditions, the smell, the near claustrophobic closeness of the spaces in Rio Das Pedras. According to Eric, the good news is that the drug cartels have been kept at bay and that the crime rate is very low in the area. For those who live here, there is no distinction in class, color, ethinic origin, or social status...they are all in the same boat and are doing their best. From what we witnessed, even the crudest of homes were clean and neat on the inside. The children are clothed and clean as possible.
If I were to tell you how many children showed up in the town square for this, our first, day in Rio Das Pedras, you would not believe me. The children were responsive to the basketball drills as well as the message that our team communicated. Barefooted (or wearing flip flops), these kids had a great time. No one complained. It was hot.. the paved court was very hot. After 6 hours of action on the court, the team left Rio Das Pedras having 'left it all on the court.'
If you do not already know that Betty Wiseman is a saint, then this is news. If you know even a small part of what Belmont's sports evangelism team knows, then this story is just another chapter in Betty's Christian Journey. If I wanted to show you what unconditional love looks like it would be a hundred more images just like these where Betty engaged the people of this town.
By demonstrating her affection for the children of Rio Das Pedras, Betty was able to connect, time and time again with the parents of these children to share God's love. In this brief post, I will not go further with this story...but here are questions that you should ask Betty the next time you see her:
Ask about the closet sized seemstress shop that she and Debbie visited...three women working on old Singer machines in hot, cramped quarters. Ask her about playing with kids on top of a play structure and the smiles that appeared on faces of children and parents alike. Ask her about an interrupted lunch break where a mom, hearing of Betty from another mom, asked for her by name to talk to. Ask Betty about how the love of these kids has rubbed off on the entire team...she will have pictures and video soon, you can see for yourself.
May 23, 2004
Tall American athletes dribbling basketballs through the streets are all it takes to draw a crowd...no advertising, no internet, no mailout, no brochure. Just the simple sound of activity is the queue that something is going on, and that whatever it is, it needs to be checked out. Saturday was another day of steep hill climbs to get to a community court where soccer and basketball seem to co-exist. From the older youth who showed up wanting to play soccer, seeing a bunch of Americans surrounded by several hundred children had to be a shock. Even with all of the excitement and noise surrounding the games and the basketball drills, people heard the message of Christ's love and responded.
The ministry of Pastor Douglas in this favela of some 26,000 people is pretty amazing. Construction teams from the U.S. have assisted in many ways to convert and expand existing structures to make them suitable for use by the church. The picture of Betty Wiseman and Pastor Douglas was taken at the rear of the church where a concrete baptistry was installed but not completed. The temporary wooden steps have become dangerous to use and 26 people are awaiting replacement steps as well as a roof over the baptistry before it will go back into commission.
The beaded crosses that the team makes when there are slow moments (and those are few and far between) provide a simple method using the different colors of the beads to represent the message of the gospel. Angel Jones and Destri Bockey are pictured here with a group of neighborhood children working on the beaded crosses. Amy Elrod, wearing the light blue top pictured in the foreground acted as Angel and Destri's interpreter.
A full day of activity ended with a cookout, a lively worship service, and hugs (and tears) as the group headed back to the hotel, an hour+ drive.
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 10:53 PM
Two Words... Mexican Buffet!
After four days of early morning wake up calls, late night worship services, and long return bus rides, the team really needed a break on Sunday. The pace of activity and exposure to some rough environments has a few of us sniffling or stopped up from something...but it hasn't affected the great mood of the team.
Just a short ride from the hotel is an all-you-can eat Mexican restaurant. Nothing phased us from satisfying any sort of leftover hunger pains from the prior hectic days. Three trips to the line even took care of Andrew and Dan... not even the Portuguese speaking waiters (in a Mexican restaurant) seemed to phase the group.
The afternoon was reserved for some shopping in an outdoor 'Hippie Fair' (I'm certain there is a correct spelling for that, but that is at least close to phonetically correct). High marks go to Angel, she found some pretty cools stuff!
Sunday night we partcipated in a worship service in an area where the population is transitory. It was described as the Bourbon Street of Rio without the glitz that you would expect in New Orleans. Nick Otis and Angel Jones did a terrific job with their personal testimonies and I delivered a message from Romans, using a lump of clay that I formed into a small vessel for an object lesson. Sunday was relaxing by comparison to most days... the killer for the day was the announcement on the ride home that Monday morning's wake up calls would be at 5:30AM and every one had to be on the bus by 6:30AM ('negotiated' to 6:45AM).
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 06:41 PM
May 22, 2004
Saturday in Rio
Greetings prayer warriors! It is a beautiful morning in Rio as we prepare to return to the community that so touched each of our hearts on Friday. I do not dance well (ask my wife), but I sure acted as if I were the most gifted dancer in the world as we worshiped our Lord with the Brazilian people last night.
We have so much to be thankful for and so much to be in prayer over. We ask that you will remember Jasmine and Eru (2 children that have prayed to receive Christ) as well as several other children who came forward at the end of last night?s service. We know that if we humbly come before the Lord in prayer that He will hear us, forgive us and heal our land (Rio, Tennessee, etc...).
Moreover, continue to pray for the hearts of those we have not come in contact with as of yet. Pray that God will open their hearts to embrace His message. Thank you for your support. God Bless you all.
Today We Loved a Few Kids into the Kingdom
There are no words for what happened to our team or the small community that we visited on Friday...so here are a few snapshots of what happened.
Deb & Betty - Just Outside Downtown
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 08:18 AM
May 21, 2004
Over the last few days, I have acquired a great deal of video footage of the team's journey. Editing time has been squeezed down to a few minutes each day due to the early morning starts and the late evening returns. Wake up calls here at our hotel have been around 6:30 each morning...and our return bus trips from the other parts of the city have ranged from 30 minutes to well over an hour, generally well past my bedtime. This morning, I am seeking out a high speed Internet connection at one of the cyber cafes close by, maybe this will help us all get more information to you.
Last night's team meeting followed a family service at the local Baptist church who sponsored the first two days of our trip here. Adam Mark and Nick Otis did a superb job of presenting their testimonies to the crowd that gathered... these are impressive kids, one and all. These young people will not be the same when they return to Nashville. I know that sounds a bit worn out, but it is true. Mom, dads, family, and Belmont community have every reason to be proud of these young people!
Update on Sharon's Mom
The quick trip to Houston ran into snags. Sharon had to spend much of yesterday, nearly a full day of delay, in the Sao Paulo airport waiting for another plane due to engine problems with the regularly scheduled flight. The last word that we have here is that Sharon's mom has taken a turn for the worse. Sharon arrived in Houston Thursday night and Ray should be there sometime today. There are decisions to be made regarding the treatment for her mom. Please continue praying for Ray and Sharon. These are strong and wonderful missionaries and they will need our prayers and encouragement over the next several days and weeks.
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 08:40 AM
We had played exhibition basketball in combined teams of men and women with Brasilians and Americans on each side for much of the morning. It was time for lunch and all of us were beginning to feel a little hungry and were ready to get a bite to eat. Our Brasilian host asked if we would play a little longer and the team agreed, inspite of the twinges of hunger. It was during this time that Brandon Owen, speaking through an interpreter, encountered 15 year old Yasmine and a small group of her friends. Yasmine began asking questions about why the team was here and was trying to understand the message the she had heard from the team's personal testimonies from earlier in the morning. Brandon sensed that Yasmine wanted more, but was not sure that perhaps she had just become intrigued by an energetic group of American boys, so, Brandon sent Yasmine to speak with me. On the bleachers in a noisy gymanasium, with the assistance of my translator, Ednan ('the edge'), I shared the simple message and invitation with Yasmine to accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Saviour. Yasmine understood the message and was ready to make her decision right there in the gym.
The smile that came to her face when I asked her if she knew what she just did and the resounding 'yes' that she replied made me know that this was real. I asked her about her parents. Jasmine explained that her father is Catholic and that her mother professes no particular faith. I asked, 'How will your parents respond to what you have done today?" She said, "I don't know, but I don't think they will be angry with me." I encouraged her to tell them that something wonderful had happened in her life today...if you have the same smile on your face and the joy that I see in you right now when you tell them, God will take care of the rest. I took my Bible and opened it to John's gospel and recommended that Yasmine begin reading there (she has her own Bible). I am confident that this was the real thing. This was not about me. This was about an entire team who had demonstrated through their actions, their play, and their words that this was about the love of Christ. This was about Andrew Preston giving his testimony in front of 400 students.. about Brandon being sensitive to this girl's spiritual journey and his response to the leadership of the Holy Spirit... about Brandon's setting the stage and passing the ball to me for the perfect score.
Pray for Yasmine.
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 08:37 AM
You Deserve Better
The signs and banners on the grounds of the Escola Batista (Baptist School) read Voce Merece, translated from Portuguese means, "you deserve better". If you saw the favelas (mountainside slums) that our bus drove through to get to the school, you might think that the banners are a call for social revolution. The school, celebrating 35 years of education, is an expensive private school but provides full scholarships to 60 young people who live in the surrounding slums (I hate to use that word, but there is no politically correct descriptor).
Speaking through an interpreter with one of the teachers in the school's technology center, the instructor explained that the banners are for students, parents, and teachers. For the students, the message speaks of the opportunities that come from learning in the classroom, but those opportunities come at the price of hard work. For the parents, it means that a strong and active partnership with the school can make things better in many ways for the future of the city. For the teachers, it means that 35 years of delivering quality education at this school is not something to 'rest upon', it is not enough, it is only the foundation for personal and professional improvement. What a contrast in outlooks: I looked at the envelope of the surounding area and saw poverty. The people at this school reflect upon themselves and see strength and hope.
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 08:33 AM
May 20, 2004
Sharon Fairchild?s Mom
Betty Wiseman presented a signed game ball to the host principal following a morning of classroom visits, a brief intra-squad demonstration, basketball drills with the older children, and a lively game of duck-duck-goose with the younger crowd. Moments after this picture was taken, Sharon Fairchild (middle), received word that her mother suffered a stroke. For Sharon it meant quickly departing the team and an overnight flight to Houston, Texas to be with her mom. The team has requested that you please remember Ray and Sharon as well as the rest of their family as they work through this crisis...they are a beloved couple among the people of Rio and much like family to the rest of the Belmont team.
Wednesday - Two Schools, Planting Seeds
Small groups of the team made the rounds to individual classrooms in two different schools today. Children were excited to see the team, were amazed at their height, and full of questions about basketball and life in the USA. Questions such as, "What size are your shoes?", "Have you met the Shaq?", "Do you play in the Olympics?" and "May I have your autograph?" were commonly asked. The children heard personal testimonies from the team and listened attentively...all in all, a lot of seeds were planted today.
Time with students was an important part of the day. Working with interpreters, the team members are able to engage these young people on several different levels. Sometimes just sitting with a class while someone else spoke presented opportunities for personal interaction...those opportunities were not missed.
The height of the team draws particular interest when we travel to schools (or anywhere in public). There is something about a tall man doing a Macarena-like basketball drill that is SOME sight to see!
May 19, 2004
Tuesday Night Orientation
Ray Fairchild led the Tuesday evening orientation session with a powerful demonstration of how the fingers of one hand can be used to present your personal testimony. With a traditional 'thumbs-up' Ray demonstrates the first point, "God loves you and wants you to have a wonderful and fulfilling life". Within a few minutes, Ray illustrated how quickly an individual can deliver the basics of the plan of salvation using this and other easy to deliver techniques.
Andrew Preston (l) and Nick Otis (r) practice the technique during a break in the presentation. The team begins work in the community with a full morning and evening schedule of events. Plans for Wednesday include visits in the classrooms of two elementary schools along with inter-squad demonstrations for the student body. Registration numbers for Friday's camp have already reached 300 and Saturday's camp may include over 1500 children.
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 04:56 AM
May 18, 2004
Rio, at Last!
Following a long overnight flight from Houston to Sao Paulo with a short hop to Rio, the team arrived safely, although blurry eyed. Andrew Preston (at 6?10") tried sleeping in an airline seat with his chin resting on his knees...but managed to unfold his tall frame in order to make it through Brazilian Customs.
Sharon Fairchild, the IMB missionary in residence here in Rio, has been mentioned in several posts on The Rio Journal. Sharons smiling face was there to great the team...and we were all relieved to see her.
The bus trip to the hotel on Copacabana was a rapidfire view of the city with all of its contrasts. As you can see, the team is intact and is in great spirits, awaiting orientation tonight with the Fairchild?s.
P.S. You should see Internet Explorer in Portuguese...this IS going to be a challenge.
May 17, 2004
A Journey of Prayer...Remember the Brown's
Sitting next to Betty Wiseman on the flight from Nashville to Houston was a man from Paducah, Kentucky who explained that he and his wife are headed for the M.D. Anderson Center for treatment of lung cancer. Betty and Mr. Brown chatted for much of the flight and Betty asked if it would be OK if the Belmont group could gather for a few minutes of prayer once in Houston. Pictured to the left are the Brown?s, their two daughters and the members of the team. Circled closely around the Brown's, Betty lead the group in a quiet prayer for strength and healing for the journey that the Brown family faces.
Mission trips certainly involve a destination, but ministry is a continuous part of the journey. Please pray for the Brown?s.
2 Corinthians 9
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 05:44 PM
...And They're OFF!
After a mid-morning session of filling out luggage tags and signing last minute forms, the 2004 sports evangelism team worked its way through security and successfully navigated their way to the first leg of the trip. Back row (l-r): Nick Otis, Jese Snyder, Dan Oliver, Adam Mark, Andrew Preston, Brandon Owen. Front row: Debbie Chenoweth, Vann Patton, Destri Bockey, Jenny Conkle, Betty Wiseman, Hollie Davis, Angel Jones. Everyone is well and ready to get movin'!
May 08, 2004
I'm Going Back to Rio
My name is Brandon Owen, and I am excited to be participating in my fifth sports evangelism trip through the TBC. This will be the second time Rio has served as our mission field. This is very exciting because my first experience with the team of missionaries that serve in Rio did a wonderful job planning our trip in 2002. I know that Ray and Sharon Fairchild and all of those that serve with them are prayerfully preparing for our arrival in anticipation of God using our volunteer team in mighty ways. Praise God!
My first four trips were as a student, but this is my first trip in more of a leadership role. I have learned so much from my experiences overseas. I ask that you pray that God would use our team to show the love of Jesus Christ to whoever we encounter. Most of all, please pray that our efforts do nothing but build upon the efforts of Ray and Sharon and all of their team who have devoted their lives to reaching the people of Rio for Christ. I look forward to updating you with exciting news about what God is doing in Rio while we are there.
Posted by at 06:38 PM
May 04, 2004
Remember Sharon Fairchild?
Our first orientation meeting at the Tennessee Baptist Convention building seems like a lifetime ago...but, do you remember hearing Sharon Fairchild, our missionary host from Brazil, speak several times from the back of the room? The more I hear of her and her husband Ray, the more that I am impressed with the quality of people that we will be working with. The following article in the Baptist Standard is several years old, but you need to read of Sharon and Ray's involvement in Sammy Tippit's Rio Crusade that drew 50,000 people to a stadium in Rio. Read the full article, but pay particular attention to the mention of Sharon's training and recruitment efforts for translators in the last couple of paragraphs. Here's the story: Tippit, teams draws 50,000 to Rio crusade
Posted by Paul Chenoweth at 08:54 PM