It is difficult to write my closing thoughts on this mission journey to Venezuela. Processing is not easy while making the adjustment back to work and my real world. I find words difficult to describe. My thoughts are in the form of pictures: pictures of schools, crowds, faces, concrete courts, bent basketball goals with no nets, blistering hot sunshine, makeshift houses of tin, hunger, and barren land. I see contrasts of rich and poor with no in-between. And, I see thirteen Belmont students connecting with people of all ages through the language of love. There is laughter, smiles, hugs, tears, high fives, handshakes, and touches. I see God at work bringing together two countries, not through politics or religion, but through a relationship. There are no barriers, no hidden agendas, no egos, no power struggles. There is only the love of Christ being demonstrated and proclaimed through the platform of basketball.
There are now approximately 120 slides online from the ministry portion of this year's mission trip. If you'd like to see thumbnails of the whole collection and view selected shots, you may go to this page. Enjoy!
Whew! Friday was a long travel day but everyone (and their luggage) were back in Nashville by 10PM in spite of a short rain delay in Miami. Thank you to all of those family and friends who met us in the airport!
To say the least, there is a lot to catch up on. But first...the team is all well and we are waiting for the second leg of today's journey that will get us back on US soil. This morning started early (6AM) with a trip from our hotel to catch a Venezuelan air carrier flight from Porta La Cruz to Caracas. Everyone made it through immigration just fine. With a lonnnng layover here, the team is buzy in the secured areas of the airport doing some shopping and seeking food.
We have a short layover in Miami. By the time we get through customs, there may be little time for any more updates today. If all goes as planned, we should be back in Nashville at the regularly scheduled flight time (10PM, I think).
There are still unpublished stories waiting to hit the journal...including stories on why the flow of information slowed to a halt earlier this week.
Oh, by the way... parents: The darker skinned children getting off the plane in Nashville really are yours!
See ya'll soon!
On two different occasions, Betty was invited to be interviewed by local radio stations. The audio file on this post is a recording of the first interview, captured just before a day of ministry in Maturin. The interviewer struggled a little to ask his questions in English and explained that he would have to translate both his questions and Betty's responses for air play purposes.
The second interview, pictured on the left, happened at courtside during our last day of ministry in Porta La Cruz... a session that we weren't even sure would happen since most of the students left the campus after a day of testing. The young man in the red shirt is Samuel, one of the translators who worked closely with the entire team. The gentleman picturedon the far right with Betty and Samuel broadcasted Betty's message live via a remote telephone hook-up.
Team members are asked to speak in front of large crowds with just a little notice each day. Betty selects one student to introduce the team, and generally a couple of others who need to be prepared to share personal testimonies. No one hesitates. No one questions. It just happens, beautifully.
Prior to today, Betty was the one who closed with a clear and simple explanation of what the Bible says about how to have a personal relationship with Christ, and offers an opportunity for students to pray with her to receive Christ. Today, Will stepped up with his teammates in the nearby group of students and provided a powerful closing to the testimony time, the first time for an athlete on this trip. The response to Will's invitation to pray with him was well received. This felt like a turning point for the team.
The receptiveness and attentiveness of Venezuealan students of all ages is more than any of us expected...and the large numbers were not something that we even considered in advance. By Thursday, we'll try to make sense of what all of this means in terms of numbers (besides those on the thermometer). For now, Will and the rest of the team are concentrating on our message and keeping up the pace.
The team had quite a Sunday, probably the longest day the team has been out and about during the trip. The morning started with worship at the Baptist chuch directly across from the hotel. Matthew delivered a great sermon What follows are just snippets of what a few team member had to say over breakfast this morning:
Two solid hours of basketball in the park with men aged 18-15 was tough...but then there was another worship service and 4 or 5 prayed to receive Christ. Brittany
The 45 minute song service that preceded the sermon wasn't as long as we expected (normal is an hour+)...Matthew did great and really liked Geraldine, a girl his age who sang. I was with Brook, Will, and Matthew in the afternoon. We watched a championship game between 15-year olds and became part of the awards ceremont. Jenny
The most fun of the day came after the 2 hour basketball session. The family we visited prepared slice marinated steak and we danced. Josh
Relax moms and dads. All of the students are holding up great, although the heat is taking a toll at the end of each day. Saturday night, some combination of too much sun, dehydration, unfriendly food, or whatever caught up with me and I spent the next 24+ hours uncomfortably in a hotel room. It wasn't pretty. I am better today, almost up to 60%...but that other 40% would sure come in handy right about now.
Please keep the team's health as a matter of prayer. It is difficult to describe the physical challenge to be fresh at each stop along the way...but these athletes are putting forth an exceptional effort and doing a great work.
Paul and Shelley’s two youngest children, Sydney (10) and Josey (8) came to the airport with their Mom and Dad to greet us. They soon became family. Their oldest son, Jordan, is a student at Union University in Jackson. He finished his freshman year while we were in Venezuela and flew home for the summer, joining our team on Tuesday evening in La Cruz. It was a special treat to spend time with the entire Scott family.
Josey and Sydney were with us for evenings and then joined us on Saturday morning as we traveled to Anaco and La Cruz for the second week of work. Josey was everywhere! He loved playing with the basketballs and enjoyed riding in the vans with our guys. He thought he was just as big and useful as they. And, he bonded with a lot of kids in the crowds and ran relays every day.
Sometimes when I’m sharing the gospel I use the scripture where Jesus says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door…I will come in…” Paul told us one morning that he asked Josey if God was knocking at the door of his heart. Josey responded, “I think he is going to.” Nothing else was said.
It was Monday afternoon and we had just finished two sessions that day in two different schools. Many had just prayed the prayer to receive Christ. We noticed that Paul and Shelley were sitting under a tree with Josey and they were talking and praying. I was sitting in a chair watching our athletes “hang out”, sign autographs, and talk with students. All at once two little arms circled my neck from behind the chair and this little voice said, “Miss Betty, I just got saved. I ask Jesus into my heart.” It was Josey! I pulled him into my lap and hugged him tight. He told me he asked Jesus into his heart with the large group of school kids. It was a special moment! Of course, we were all excited for our “littlest” teammate.
The next day Shelley said she asked Josey if Jesus was still in his heart. He responded, “Of course! There’s a party going on in my heart.” Can’t put it any better than that!
While in La Cruz we worked with another missionary couple, Paul and Cathy Broom, on Tuesday night and all day Wednesday before completing our ministry. Paul and Shelley got a phone call that night saying that their 10 year old son, Nathan, had prayed that day with the crowd to receive Christ. Josey had asked him prior to the session is he had Jesus in his heart. He said, “All you got to do is believe, say a prayer, and invite him in.”
Pretty simple, huh? We make it so complex.
“….and the children shall lead.”
Printed schedules on mission trips just need a new name...they are really more like moving targets or outlines. Opportunities arise and you take advantage of those opportunities. Arrangements change and you simply adjust to what is coming up next. It is what makes a mission trip an adventure.
Yesterday evening was one of those "arrangement change" times. We were scheduled to go to a park located near one of the Baptist missions. Our driver (and my self-claimed, private Spanish teacher), Roberto, knowing that there were some less-than-friendly activites going on in the area, drove the route we would have taken and called to say that we shouldn't come. It happens. If you've been keeping up with any recent news about Venezuela then you understand that there is a shopping list of political, economic, and social issues that are troublesome. Last night, some of those issues got in the way. Our friends and hosts here have been exceptionally cautious to keep us safe and secure...and we are grateful to all of them.
I am absoulutely confident that this team and our ministry is being "bathed in prayer" by familiy, friends, churches, and people we don't even know! There is no way we could minister in this heat to the overwhelming numbers of children without God's care, protection, and divine guidance. I have felt God's presence and peace as we have shared the gospel with thousands already. It is God ordained and directed.
Parents, you would be so proud of your sons and daughters. Belmont, you will never know the kind of spiritual impact your athletes are making. They are bold and fearless and they are not shy when it comes to sharing their faith. They touch my heart deeply as they profess Christ and His love for the people. Can you imagine 600-800 kids of all ages on a concrete slab in 115 degree heat orgnized for play and fun...and then total quiteness as they listen to the gospel. It is like a great "hush" comes over us as tey listen and so many pray to receive Christ! I am in total awe of how God is working and I know your prayers are bathing us in the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for serving us so beautifully. Keep it up!,
I am not sure that our missionary friend, Paul Scott, did us a favor this morning by bringing a thermometer to the ball court at our second school stop. If you can see the thermomenter in the image on the right (or enlarge that picture), the thermometer is telling the truth. It was over 115 degress on the concrete playing surface where the rest of these pictures were taken. If it weren't for sunscreen, the words London Broil might be meaningful to the skin condition of our players...did I mention that it's hot???
Betty read scripture this morning about our visit being like a cool drink of water to the elementary students at La Escuela Basica Creacion. This is a less privileged area of the city. Many of the students are led toward drug trafficing at this age. Many may receive only one meal each day. Bringing a message of hope to these children made the heat seem far less significant than our purpose for being there. We played games and relays until it was time to sit near the shaded, second floor walkways. With heads bowed and the court quiet, the simple prayer echoed in Spanish from Betty's interpreter rang out again from the young voices seated around her. You really had to be there...and we know for a fact that many of you are here, with us in prayer, "If we've not said thank-you, it is not because those prayers aren't felt or appreciated. They are simplying working. Please don't stop praying." BW
We gave Paul Scott the bad news this morning. He can't keep Betty Wiseman in Venezuela, baked in the sun or otherwise.
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.
Simon Bolivar High School in Maturin has approximately 1,100 students. By conservative estimates, 800 of those students showed up in the stands and on the ball courts at the school to see the tall americans this morming. Any political or cultural differences that existed before the visit melted away when the students met the Belmont team, watched them in a skill's demonstration, and matched a few of their own to play basketball with them. How this large of a group ever organized to do relays is something just short of miraculous, but it happened and the activity and engagement between americans and their new Venezuelan friends made it much easier to keep their attention when everyone sat down to hear testimonies. Will, Laura, and Keaton did a terrific job leading into the plan of salvation Betty delivered. Many repeated the prayer to receive Christ.
One local pastor who met with Betty following all of the morning's activities thanked her for opening doors for his church. The visit by the Belmont team will make it easier for follow-up activities with students at the school. Many schools are completely inaccessible to churches and the doors that this team opened will bear fruit for weeks and months to come.
The size of the crowds that we have encountered on so many stops is more than any of us expected. Belmont has very reason to be proud of the way these men and women have demonstrated their faith and their leadership even when swarmed by curious and enthusiastic students....amazing!
It is a good question and one that we hear often when we get home and speak with churches. To start off, good advice during orientation generally keeps volunteers away from foods and situations that might hurt you. There are many food vendors on the streets, for instance, that are off limits. Tap water from many sources is not recommended...and ice from tap water can sneak up on you and cause any number of maladies.
Yesterday we visited a panaderia (bakery) for breakfast and enjoyed ham filled pastries (pastelitos), something that looked like american breakfast pizza called american empenadas and conchitos (ham and cheese filled pastries). Coffee is served in small cups...and is the equivalent of high octane american coffee. Fruit drinks are popular. Pineapple, orange, mango, and passion fruit are generally available year-round...the pineapple that is in season right now is especially delicious.
For lunch we have eaten a traditional Venezuelan meal: large pizza sized corn breads (cachapa) eaten with butter and creamy white cheese, roasted chicken (pollo azado), yucca root (think very large french fries), fried bananas ( platano maduro frito), roast beef, and guasaca (a green guacamole-type sauce for the meat).
At the home of one of the mission chuch members last night, we ate arepas (baked ham and cheese pastry sandwiches) followed by thes leche torta (three milk cake).
No one is going hungry and every one has adjusted well to different foods and new tastes. The only real surprises that we have witnessed are the looks of restaurant staff whenever we enter a restaurant. It is either a how can we ever feed all of the peeople look or wow, what a great looking group of tall americans (i.e. are they single?).
Wednesday morning's relays and basketball drills were accompanied by the percussion ensemble from the high school where we were visiting. Enthusiastic drummers surrounded by hard surfaced walls made for a little more pounding than we were accumstomed to...but all adjusted well, thanks to a little extra Tylenol. The heat (have we mentioned that it is HOT in Venezuela) and the pulse of the bass drum did not deter everyone from having a great day. Laura, Destri, Brittany, and Brooke joined the percussion session for a while... the consensus is that the pep band at Belmont has nothing to worry about. The afternoon at Christo Rey School was spent with the high school students. They were not quite sure about the tall Americans, but warmed up quickly to their smiles and the activities planned. The Belmont team connected solidly with these students and it was tough to say good-bye to new friends at the end of the day.
The busy afternoon at the high school turned into a busier evening at a park close to a Baptist mission church. The older young men playing a fast paced game of soccer when we arrived were a little intimidating...Venezuelan's take their soccer (futbol) very seriously. Darkness closed in on the basketball game. A twighlight game of soccer followed. Under the single light from mid-court there was a great time of sharing and all were amazingly attentive. There is another Betty Wiseman through the chainlink fence story to be told, you'll just have to wait and hear that from her. Around 8:00PM, the team finished playing a round of kickball and walked to a nearby home for a meal of traditional Venezuelan foods.
Long days like Wednesday will slow the number of posts coming on the journal...but believe me, there is much to tell. Your comments have been wonderful!!!! I cannot wait to share them with the rest of the team.
Remembering that high school Spanish that you thought you'd never use will only get you so far in conversation in Venezuela. There is a lot more to be said beyond, "Como estas? (How are you?)" and having someone to translate those conversations is essential to connections with individuals and groups. Spanish speaking missionaries and local translators quickly become your best friends. They are the link to questions asked by a curious child and your voice when it comes time to answer. This year's team is fortunate to have Shandra along with us...she's not one of the athletes, but is a Belmont student with ever increasing translating experience using her classroom skills in Spanish.
Seated opposite Andy in this picture is Shandra. Andy, who speaks to every one he meets (which should be no surprise to those who know him), found this 10-year old boy on the basketball court and began a simple introduction with him in something that at least sounded like Spanish. It was quickly apparent that blank looks on Andy and the boy's faces just wouldn't cut it so Andy waved Shandra into action. What followed isn't something that seemed terribly significant to the crowd standing around, but this young boy spent time chatting with an American student...something that will be a fond memory for many days to come.
What a way to start off my first mission trip ever! When we arrived to Maturin, Venezuela, it looked as if though it was in pretty good condition. But then we took some backroads to what I call "God's Country." Full of one room huts lived in by families of 6. They were surrounded by lots of weeds and dirt. However, the people are very friendly here and I respect that a lot. They don't have as much as we do back home, but that doesn't stop them from being courteous to foreigners.
This morning started at 7:30 am with breakfast and orientation at Paul and Shelly Scott's house. The food was great and instruction we got was very helpful. Don't drink tap water and don't teach the kids "dirty" words in English were a couple of the rules. After that we headed to a local high school to hoop with some kids and teach them the word of God. It was a blast. All of the kids speak Spanish here so we have translators to help us. The helpers are Paul and Shelly, Shandra (she came with us from Tennessee), Samuel , and Arturo. Those guys are our age and really helpful. I have gained friendships from both of them already.
When the team showed up this morning at a nearby school, there was already a level of excitement in the air. A small group of Christian students assembled a band at one end of the outdoor basketball court and were playing songs over the speaker system. Today would be launch day for a new organization of Christian youth at this school and the Belmont team would be part of that launch. It is difficult to describe the scene when 400-500 students are added to the mix and the sounds of basketballs and cheering children are added in. Amazingly enough, small groups were formed for relay games on three sides of the court. Just about everyone put a hand on a basketball at some point. There were plenty of smiles in spite of the rising temperature. The Belmont team gave a short skills demonstration and followed with scrimmage activity from volunteers in the crowd.
The connections that the Belmont team made with these young students provided a perfect way to focus their attention when the time arrived for sharing testimonies. Andy, Josh, and Justin gave personal testimonies of what God means in their lives.
Betty followed with a time of explaining how to become a Christian. When she asked if any one would pray along with her at the end, many seated and standing before her followed as the translator shared Betty's prayer.
"For some groups, being literally swarmed by hundreds of young people would have seemed overwhelming. These athletes were completely up to the task. They smiled and laughed when communications were difficult. They autographed every slip of paper and t-shirt when approached. They played, really played with children of all shapes and sizes. Their smiles were as contagious. What looked like an organizer's nightmare turned into a blessing of an experience! "
We are in the home of Paul and Shelley Scott this morning for orientation. Great food, fruit, and fellowship...these are great folks and the team is already becoming attached to the familiy (and the dog). This afternoon we will be in our first school. It will be an adventure and one that I hope to write about later this evening. Thanks again for all your prayers and the supportive comments you leave us here on the journal.
We all arrived safely (and a few hours ahead of schedule) in Maturin, Venezuela. The team is settling into their rooms at the moment and will head out on the town for a nice meal in just a few minutes. There will be more, later, but for now I just wanted everyone to know that everyone and all of the baggage is here.
Verrrrrry Early Monday Morning at Nashville Airport
There are always new things that team members learn on mission trips. From the sleepy-eyed looks on many of our faces, the first thing that some of our team learned on this trip is that there is a second, rarely seen, time when the hour hand of the clock reaches the four! We will spare you the yawning pictures.
Everyone made it to the airport. The team circled B-Dub (Betty Wiseman) for a few final instructions followed by a time of prayer. Deb busied herself getting signatures on meal allowance receipts. New luggage tags are in place. Passports are in-hand. We're hoping that boarding passes have us assigned to long-legged seating positions. The ritual of dis-assembling and re-assembling oneself at ariport security is over. We are at the American Airlines gate in plenty of time to get a team picture and scavenge the concourse for stale breakfast foods. Whew! As many times as we do this, the first real sigh of relief comes now; knowing that a year's worth of planning and preparation are over and it is time to put wings on those plans.
The next time that you hear from us, we will be in Venezuela. We know that Paul and Shelley, our missionary host familiy, have a full schedule planned for the team...so you may not hear from us immediately. However, just as soon as there is a break in the travel activity and Internet access is available, we'll give our families, friends, and prayer partners a shot at the second real sigh of relief: a safe arrival story. Until then, we covet your prayers and are incredibly thankful for your support of this mission.
Betty, Debbie, Paul, and the student team
The May 12th edition of ScotTopics gives us a glimpse of the busy life of our missionary host family in Venezuela. Take a few minutes to read Paul's Prayer and Praise topics...cause for celebration in the Toscana community, growing mission awareness from a prayer conference, an announcement about the Belmont team, and a number of specific prayer requests for familiy members.
We welcome visitors from ScotTopics and invite you come back often. If you would like to receive an occassional email alert when new stories are posted here, please use the simple subscription form linked from the right-hand column of this page (or click here).
I don't believe I have had a mission team so ready and eager to go! You only have to read their journal entries to catch a glimpse of their excitement. There are nine more like Jenny, Brittany, Brooke, and Laura who wait for the experience. Now that exams are over their main focus is on the "call" to ministry.
The stage (itinerary/plans) is set, the platform (basketballs) packed, and the instruments of God's love and saving grace (students) are ready and waiting. My next entry will come as we are "on mission" in Venezuela.
What can I say…. This upcoming trip to Venezuela is the greatest privilege of my life. It’s just an incredible honor to be used by God especially at this time in my life. It will be my first mission trip on foreign grounds, which makes me very anxious to go away from what all I’m used to and learn about their culture and how God works through them. I’m excited that we can drop our differences and enter into God’s work as a unit. Telling others how they can have eternal life and the good news about God’s grace is going to be the greatest experience. I was made for a mission and to help finish God’s work here on earth. I know this will be an emotional experience for me and I’m very excited to go with this group.
Wow, so many thoughts are running through my head! I have been on three mission trips now, and from past experiences, I already know that this one will be even more different than the other ones. I have mixed feelings about this trip. I am both excited and sad. This will be my last mission trip with Belmont. However, I am very ready and willing to give myself away for Christ while I am on this trip. Like Brittany said, I am very excited about the team we are going with this year. Every person in this group has something different to offer and I am pumped to see what that is. I know that God is smiling down on us right now because he too is so excited to see what an impact we can make while we are over there! Every mission trip I have ever been on, I have come back learning something new about myself even though that is not my intentions. I am excited to see what God has in store for me this year. The time is approaching quickly... Woo Hoo!
I do not really know where to start…I guess I will just say that I am very excited about this trip! I was fortunate to be apart of the team that traveled to Ukraine last summer, and I must say that it was by far the most fulfilling and one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was thrilled when I was asked to join the team for Venezuela this year; I thank God for another amazing opportunity.
As we prepare to leave, I still have no idea what to expect upon arriving in Venezuela- but that’s ok because it is all in God’s hands! I had no idea what was going to happen last year until I was told each morning and I felt like many were able to learn and see how God works in our lives. Having the chance to share God’s love is one of the most amazing gifts, especially with those who may have never had the opportunity to learn about Him. You never know how you might impact one’s life. It is awesome to see the bright smiling faces of so many children and know that God used you to make a difference in their lives. I hope and pray that we are able to, through the talents that each of us have been blessed with, share the love of God with all the people that we come in contact with. I am anxious to get to Venezuela and do that again this year!
Thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers ahead of time! God Bless!!!
Alright, this is only my second mission trip ever..and i am so excited. i traveled to Croatia last summer and it was a blast. This trip is going to be a bit different i anticipate. The excitement is leaning a bit towards not knowing what to expect when i get there and just wanting to help out as much as i can. The Lord has given me so much and everyone here on this team, and this is something that we can do to help out people who dont necessarily know the love of God and the wonders it can do. Like i said i am so pumped about this trip...its approaching so fast! The group we are going with couldn't be more ideal...they are so fun and encouraging...what more could you ask for! i pray that we can touch the hearts of many over in Venezuela and tell them about the ways that God has worked in our lives. I want to let them know that they can have a relationship with Jesus Christ...it is there waiting for them and i want to help them gain it! I am excited, nervous (goood nervous!), and hungry for this trip to come....so lets go! :)
Following a long standing tradition, the last sports evangelism team meeting before a mission trip is held at Betty Wiseman's home. Some came early and discovered some pretty fair fishing in the lake. Some arrived a little blurry eyed from a final exam and found a comfortable seat on the patio among friends. Most arrived hungry and found a feast of freshly grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.
Fun, food, and fellowship were followed by a time of focusing on the mission before us and how each of us can be better prepared for ministry. Betty spoke of the acolades that the basketball teams received this year and how that exposure shown a spotlight on each athlete, putting them on a pedestal. Then, she shared several verses from Act 21: "I served the Lord with great humility and with tears...if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." There will certainly be humbling moments on this trip as well as times where tears are a testimony to what is happening. Betty then asked the group to begin a journey of humility now, setting aside those personal acolades and focusing on the ministry opportunity before us, quoting 1 Timothy: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Each member found a place in Betty's living room and kneeled as Betty led in prayer.
With less than two weeks remaining before departure, there are still details to address...and those details can be as miniscule as counting out beads. Those beads and leather laces will be converted into simple cross shaped gifts to use as an object lesson for sharing the gospel. Small details...major impact.
Betty and four of this year's team gathered Friday morning for the bead counting project. The video on this post is just a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes activity that surrounds a mission trip...it is not the kind of thing that you'll see on the evening news, but it does illustrate that there are no 'unimportant details' and that there are jobs for anyone with a passion for ministry. You can count on seeing these same beads in future posts, and I'm willing to predict in advance that there will be smiles and inspiration attached.
If You Have Ever Wondered About 'Divine Appointments'...
Betty Wiseman speaks frequently about "Divine Appointments" on mission trips and asks team members to pray specifically for those times, somewhere in the future, when God connects you with a person who needs something that you are equipped to offer. Sometimes, that means sharing the gospel at a personal level, sometimes it is just a hug, sometimes it means going to 'one more school/church/playground' when you are already exhausted, sometimes it is no more than a friendly smile.Through all of these trips, team members learn not to question the importance of those connections but to just be keenly aware of what is going on when those opportunities arise.
This post may be the only one you will see that features Debbie. She isn't one of the tall, athletic-types that draw instant attention when they appear anywhere the team shows up...but Deb is definitely there. Somewhere in the background she is taking care of business, seeing that logistic details are covered, handing out a Tylenol, providing water, sewing on a button, or being her life-long resourceful, servant-leader self. The picture you see on the left was taken in 2005 in Koresten, Ukraine while the student athletes were playing volleyball and soccer with a group of church youth leaders. Debbie found herself in the middle of one of those Divine Appointments that Betty talked about. Sure, there were language barriers in this case, but the young Ukrainian women surrounding Deb found fellowship with an American visitor who shared a common love for knitting. Pretty amazing if you think about it. When Deb took needles and yarn on the trip, she had no thoughts that somehow that might lead to an opportunity for ministry. Her plan was to make a scarf during some of the quieter moments. Before this particular day was over, one of these women smiled and waved at the departing bus, holding a set of Deb's knitting needles. All of the women parted, understanding their common faith with a deeper appreciation of how big the familiy of God is...something that probably woudn't have happened if Deb had not been in that specific place at that specific time, half-way around the world.
May 15th is our departure date for Maturin, Venezuela where we will be working with career missionaries, Paul and Shelley Scott. This venture into South America began over a year ago with a request from the TBC Partnership Missions Department in celebration of their 25th Anniversary of Partnership Missions. All previous partnerships of the TBC have requested a team from Tennessee to come and minister during this year of celebration. Missionaries in Maturin, Venezuela requested a Belmont Sports Evangelism Team. I met with Paul Scott, this year's missionary host, prior to last year's trip to the Ukraine and agreed to bring a team of Belmont athletes to use basketball as a platform for sharing Christ. This will be a "first" for the Scott's to host a sports evangelism team.
Regular year-long communication with Paul and Shelley by email and phone has generated added excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead. It is obvious that First Baptist Church of Maturin and local lay leaders have been working hard to formulate plans and lay the groundwork for our ministry.
"You will be going into various communities throughout our stay using the uniqueness of your 'platform' to draw on the community's curiosity and provide a willing audience to the Gospel that otherwise would have been a closed door. Your presence is the key to the witness. They will ask 'Why would these gringos spend their time and money to come all the way down here just to tell us about Jesus?" Paul Scott IMB Missionary - Venezuela
Our team has been meeting periodically since early February to get all paperwork in order, travel documents ready, and passports in hand. Team members are enlisting prayer partners as they prepare themselves spiritually for the "call" to ministry. Prior to exams the team will have a meeting at BW's house for final instructions, encouragement, and challenge. Departure time is 6:58 a.m. on the morning of May 15.
In less than a month, Belmont's 2006 Sports Evangelism Team will be on location approximately 250 miles east of Caracas, Venezuela in the city of Maturin. The 16 athletes and staff on this trip will work with IMB missionaries in several area locations holding clinics, sharing testimonies, participating in worship services, and providing whatever support that is needed.
We Need Your Help:
We invite you to be a part of this year's team by reading The Venezuela Journal while the team is in Venezuela. You may receive regular email notices when new entries are made to the jounal by completing a short subscription form (see GET UPDATE NOTICES BY EMAIL in the right hand column of the home page).
Beneath each story on the journal is a link for Comments... your encouraging words always mean a lot to the team during and after these mission trips. Please take a moment to share your thoughts with the team, it is as easy as completing a simple form and hitting the Post button.
Most of all, we covet your prayers for the safety, health, and ministry opportunities on this trip. Conditions in this region of the world (particularly the temperature) may be taxing on athletes and keeping everyone in good shape for ministry needs to be a priority in prayer.
Thank you, to all of you who have provided support for this trip, whether that has been financial, planning, prayer, or logistics!
Some of you have already asked, "Who is going on this year's mission trip?" "Who are we praying for?" The pictures below are the 16 athletes, staff, and support people who will go from Belmont just after May's commencement ceremonies. There are others not pictured here: key members of this year's team are already serving as missionaries, pastors, and church leaders in Venezuela...they are essential members of this team and we are already blessed to be a part of their ministries.
The 2006 mission trip to Venezuela is the latest venture lead by Betty Wiseman to take a group of Belmont University athletes to foreign soil. These young, Christian men and women athletes share their time, talents, faith, love, and compassion in support of local IMB missionaries. Thank you for your interest. We encourage you to read along as we journal our experiences.