College students - from competitors to friends
Walking into a college gym with a basketball team isn't always a pleasant experience. Signs on the door welcome students to support the local college team scrimmage against the Belmont University team. In an aging gym at Maturin's Collegio Redagocio the Belmont team warmed up during a rain shower. The basketball goal was shifted toward mid-court to prevent any disasters from puddles on the floor. With each entrance by the hometown team the crowd cheered, whistled, and banged on drums. They came to see their athletes defeat a team of americans in serious competition.
This wasn't to be anything like a regular basketball game, however. No score was kept. Substitutions of men and women players were frequent. Playing time for each scrimmage lasted about ten minutes. The crowd that began the evening with a hostile attitude slowly evolved into an audience of appreciation and fun. Perhaps the ice-breaker for the evening was the 5-foot women's player from Maturin who attempted to guard 6'-8" Keaton Belcher, the laughter and cheers from the fans was heartwarming...there was a smile on her face and a look of surprise on Keaton's. By the time the last whistle blew, the players on the court acted like old friends. Competitive attitudes vanished and mutual respect was the order of the day.
The once noisy crowd circled the Belmont team on the court afterwards. Paul Scott, our missionary host, warmed the crowd and turned the floor over to Samuel (our interpreter) and the Belmont athletes. In spite of the noise and frenzied activity in the gym, the crowd was very attentive to Andy, Justin, and Keaton when they shared their testimonies. In true Betty Wiseman fashion, she closed the evening asking those who wanted to share the same faith they witnessed in this team to pray with her. I don't believe that anyone expected the wonderfully positive reception that request received. We should know better by now. God did some amzing things in that gym and we were all blessed to be a part of it.