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Our 2023 Sports Reach Basketball Trip to Brazil was fantastic. The Lord had his hand on this every step of the way. Although several challenges arose early and somewhat often, it all worked out in the end. We didn’t specifically highlight the individuals who traveled with us but we wanted to take this opportunity to do just that. In serving alongside on-the-ground missionary friends, David and Aimee Hammond of RockSportz, for 40+ years, God ordained a special trip. Pastors Nilson and Roberto came down with gallbladder issues just a few days before our arrival. Pastor Roberto remarkably recovered quickly and was able to join us for the entire trip. Pastor Nilson was able to join us locally in and around São Paulo and hosted us for an evening of fellowship and worship at his church. His daughter Grace and her fiancé Ayrton could also join us for half of the trip and were excellent! Ayrton is fluent in nearly 6 languages! Vincius, a 17-year-old tennis student of David’s, joined us for the entire trip this year as well. He is being called into sports ministry and was a great help to our group. Right before we departed for the airport to return home, the entire team surprised him with an early birthday cake and sang to him in a mall food court. He was grateful. Vincius has since been leading many Bible studies in Valinhos and has been building great relationships through tennis and pickleball.

Our driver for the second consecutive year was Jackson Xavier. What can we say about Jackson but that he goes above and beyond in his service and involvement with our team. He’s spent many years working in the US and is fluent in Portuguese and English. He was very helpful with translating, planning, coordinating, and helping do a lot of the behind-the-scenes things not expected of a hired driver. He was very engaged in our Bible study times and has been growing in his walk each day.

Vince Taylor served as our head coach again this year and did an excellent job. He had the perfect balance of instruction, letting the guys play, and building trust. In the last game, which was a close one, he really got up and was coaching to win, which we did 78-77!

John Rogers joined our trip after traveling with us to Belize several times and Ukraine once. He thoroughly enjoyed this trip. They’re all unique and special, but this one truly had an extra element. John is so good at connecting with and building relationships with the players. He genuinely cares about them and is a great encourager in their walks. John is always a great addition to our teams.

Our players this year included two local Brazilians, Leonardo Ramos and Anderson Gigo, who were with us last year. Anderson played at a prep school in Florida and has just signed to play at a JUCO in Kansas. He’s fluent in English and helped translate for us. Leo served as a three-point shooting guard and our team trainer. Leo has studied physical therapy in school and is a solid basketball player. He plays great defense and can shoot the ball. He got hot in Praia Grande and made 6 straight, including a Steph Curry-like turnaround three! The crowd and our team went wild. Leo spoke a little English and was a natural fit with our guys.

Our roster was rounded out by 6-7 Tyrone “Woo” Marshall Jr and 6-5 Jaylen Dorsey from WKU, 7-1 Micah Handlogten, the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year at Marshall, who just transferred to Florida. 6-8 Kyran Ratliff from Louisiana, 6-6 Seth Cullen who took a gap year and will play for King’s College this fall, and 6-5 Payton Hulsey who played collegiately at WKU, Eastern Florida, College of Charleston and FAU. I served as Payton’s chaplain at WKU and now he serves as an Asst at Campbellsville University. These guys truly came together and gelled from day 1. They played their roles well and looked like a team that had played together for years. They played unselfishly, understanding their purpose of representing Christ, and willingly led camps and clinics that were out of their gameday norm. They were exceptional. Hear from a few of them in their own words:

“This trip meant more than just coming to a foreign country to play basketball. The kids wanting pictures, the conversations with parents, and the friendships I’ve made, alone have made my trip special. Adding on to all that, seeing the difference in cultures has shown me the power of God’s Glory and it makes me happy that we were able to spread the Word to a completely different part of the world. I have to admit, I am a people person but something about flying 5000 miles away from home to a country where nobody will understand what I’m saying, with a group of people that I have never met in my life, kinda scared me. However, the friendships and memories I’ve made will stay with me for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t hesitate to come again if ever invited.” – Micah Handlogten

“This trip was amazing for a person like me because not many people where I’m from can say they went out of the country and visited the things we saw on this trip. It was real eye-opening for me. It definitely helped me on my basketball game and helped me get back my confidence.” – Tyrone “Woo” Marshall

“This trip has meant a lot to me. Giving back to the underprivileged and seeing those little kids’ faces light up meant the world. It really puts life in a different perspective. Our problems back home aren’t as big as we might make them sometimes. Spreading the Word of God and making these lifelong connections are everything. Super blessed and thankful I got the chance to experience a mission trip like this. God works in mysterious ways and I’m so grateful he chose me to be part of this trip! ” – Payton Hulsey

“This trip to Brazil can be highlighted in one story. I decided to go on this trip last second. I’ve been struggling. God has placed me in a new season and it’s been tough. I felt like he wasn’t talking to me. I was praying, I was reading my Bible, and trying to cut the sin out of my life. Instead of continuing to pray to God to renew the old, I asked him to renew my heart. I prayed: ‘Father, I’m done with my will. I’m done with what I want for my life. I’m struggling with these issues. My heart is broken, but I will still worship you with a broken heart. Father, will you take my heart? Will you give me a new one, where I don’t care about my will for my life but only want yours? In your holy name.’ I had prayer music on and I truly felt like he was like “finally”. I felt his Spirit. It was so surreal. He is still rebuilding my heart as I’m still writing this text.

One of the final days in Rio, Micah, Seth, and I decided to walk the beach late one evening, and Seth ask me about a conversation with my mum about how I finally felt like God talked to me. This conversation led to me ministering to Seth and Micah while we all cried together about His love for us. I brought up one of the first bible studies we did on the trip: In the book of James, it talks about still praising and worshiping the Lord in a valley. When it feels like the world is crumbling around you. I felt like God was using me as a messenger to these two. I was talking about how sometimes God lets you hit the bottom so you realize he is still the rock at the bottom. That conversation with total strangers was the reason God brought me on the trip. Not to score 30 against the pro teams. Not to see the Christ Redeemer. Not to try all the food. But for that reason of being there for Seth and Micah as they’re going through a similar situation as I was. And I truly believe he repaired their hearts as well.” – Jaylen Dorsey

Thank you so much for your prayers, support, and encouragement throughout our trip. It’s because of you that we can do what we do and that these trips go as they do, for God’s Glory! Be sure to follow these young men this season and pray for them too!

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