Sharing Christ through sports in Rio

This summer 19 young adults from the Central Territory joined 100 other volunteers from 10 countries for sports and outreach in Rio de Janiero during the Olympics. The mission teams were split into two blocks, each covering a week of the games and working with a domestic team comprised of cadets, officers, young people and volunteers. According to Lt. Colonel David Bowles, sports ministry coordinator for Europe, the focus was to impact the local neighborhood with the gospel and to make disciples for Christ using the tools of sport and play.

The Central Territory global mission team was part of the second block of ministry. After a warm greeting and extensive orientation, they were split into two groups which then spent the week working at the Meier Corps and the Rio Comprido Corps.

The team at the Rio Comprido Corps hit the ground running on their first day by passing out flyers advertising the sports camp. The beginning part of the week the team was involved with planning and organizing Olympic games for children. The majority of the children who participated in the camp came from a nearby favela (an impoverished outlying community) with which the corps is building relationships. In addition to picking up the children for the camp and taking them back afterward, the team had the opportunity to visit with them in the favela.

During the week there was an evening party that included many children’s games, face painting and getting to know the young people of the corps. A highlight for the team was joining the corps youth in friendly soccer competitions.

The Meier Corps team focused on children’s ministries with the neighborhood kids. The first day about 50 children showed up, many more than expected! Though the language barrier was challenging, the team quickly learned that sports ministry can overcome it, and by the end of the day friendships were kindled between them and children.

Team members maintained the routine of mornings spent preparing for each day’s activities or handing out the Brazil Territory’s magazine which included the Olympics schedule to encourage passers-by to take one. They would meet neighborhood children for lunch and then hold Olympic-inspired competitions throughout the afternoon. Each day ended with a soccer game before concluding with devotions. The team at Meier was blessed by the corps’ passion and dedication for the children and their community and felt privileged to be able to partner in their ministry.

“Rio de Janeiro has left an impression on us in a way that wasn’t expected,” said Audrey Hickman. “The people greeted us and invited us into their fellowship and community. We felt safe and at home despite the stories we heard before leaving the U.S. The 2016 Olympics will be remembered by many for the athletic competitions in the games, but we will remember it by the faces of the people we met and the stories lived out during our time in Rio.”

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