Brazilians embrace soccer team

By Hannah Lutz, Staff Writer

The soccer team tours Rio, Brazil, stopping for a photo in front of the Christ The Redeemer statue. Photo by Diego Santos

“We partnered with the Igreja Batista De Laran Jeiras church and acted as a tool as a community outreach,” said Clovis Simas, men’s soccer coach.

The team helped to establish a relationship between a deaf institute and the church by playing soccer with the children. The men were able to give jerseys and equipment to their opponents.

“The deaf institute is not a Christian institute but a non-profit organization,” said Diego Santos, junior business management major. “We were amazed at how smart and outgoing they were as they were amazed that Americans were visiting them. It doesn’t happen very often.”

The men went to two slums of Brazil — Morro Azul and Pedreira Da Silva. While they were there, they played soccer with the children and fellowshipped with them.

“We got to preach the Gospel to the kids we played against. It was sad to see how many resources there are in America and how people in Brazil struggle,” Santos said.

Of the five games played during their visit not one of them was played on grass.

“We played on concrete, artificial turf, basketball courts and dirt,” said Michael Lee, men’s soccer assistant coach. “You don’t need to know their language. Just put a ball on the ground and they come.”

Not only did the men witness by playing the game they love, but also they went to a jailhouse to witness to prisoners. The jail was divided into two galleries, the non-Christians and the Christians. The security in the prison is strict, and the soccer players were not permitted to wear certain colors, and they had to check in their passports before entering.

“When I walked into the prison’s church I was astounded at what I saw,” said Daniel Decker, sophomore cell and molecular biology major. “The (inmates) were singing, praising and worshiping the Lord and it showed me that God has no boundaries, and as long as you are willing to accept him he will change your life forever.”

Not only did the Union soccer players receive a life-changing experience out of their mission trip, but it also gave them the opportunity to bond as Christian brothers.

“I view the coaches differently now,” Santos said. “They tell us to have integrity in everything we do and spending a week with them away from the field made me realize they live what they preach.”

The team plans on maintaining a partnership with the Brazilian church and is planning another trip to Brazil next year.

“The people in Brazil were very hospitable people,” Lee said. “They received us well and wanted to talk to us.”

The players and coaches also toured the city of Rio and visited the mountains and the beach.

“Everything was new and we were impacted by the big city and how accelerated it is,” Santos said. Simas said the trip helped him understand his players on a more intimate level and allowed them to deal with many struggles they had in their relationships prior to the trip.

“It was an experience to see how much my players love and want to serve God,” Simas said.

The men agree that if students have an opportunity to go on a mission trip to take it.

“I say if the Lord presses it on your heart to go on a mission trip, do it without hesitation, make it happen,” Decker said. “From not only my personal experience but the experience of others, any opportunity to go on a mission trip should not be wasted.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.