SHAWNEE — Welcome banners greeted soccer team members from a local university as they rode through the streets in an open-air truck when they visited Brazil just days before the start of the FIFA World Cup.
But what really pleased several members of the Oklahoma Baptist University women’s soccer team was the Brazilians’ passion for soccer and their equally enthusiastic response to the Gospel.
“Definitely my favorite part was getting to play soccer with the kids and sharing the Gospel with the kids through soccer,” said Allie Preston, 21, a senior biology major from Abilene, Texas.
“It was nice to be in a country where they love soccer as much as we do.”
Sarah Zeckser, 21, of Midwest City, agreed. “We invited people to our games, and there were between 300 and 400 people who showed up.
The OBU team visited Brazil May 26 through June 2. The World Cup began June 12 and concludes Sunday.
The team’s trip to Natal and surrounding cities such as Ceara-Miram was one of several evangelistic efforts in Brazil coordinated by the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board in conjunction with the World Cup.
Assistant coach Jeremy Hymel said he and head coach Michael White led the 10 soccer team members as they competed against a Brazilian women’s soccer team called Global Ceara-Mirim. (The OBU team claimed a 5-0 victory against its Brazilian counterpart).
Hymel said the group also presented the Gospel to youths at soccer clinics and schools. Team members also shared the Gospel with families by going door-to-door to homes.
Zeckser, a senior majoring in pre-allied health and rehabilitation services, said families seemed to enjoy the worship services the team held in conjunction with local Baptist churches in Brazil.
Zeckser and Preston said the team’s accommodations weren’t far from the stadium where the USA soccer team would play Ghana in a World Cup match on June 16. Zeckser said the area was decorated in anticipation of the international sports event.
Hymel said the Brazilians were very hospitable and seemed to enjoy visiting with Americans.
He said one of his favorite parts of the trip was when he and White began an impromptu soccer game with two boys.
“Language barrier and all, they figured out that we wanted to play, and we just played two-on-two with these boys probably for two hours. It was just neat, because sports can overcome any boundaries,” Hymel said.