by Alex Riberio
What a joy!
We made it to the finals!!!
The thought crossed my mind immediately after we finished celebrating the victory over Germany at the semi finals of the Cup of Confederations.
For seven weeks we'd been doing our best to serve the athletes of the Brazilian National team in their struggles against pressure, stress, defeat, frustration, anxiety, and weariness. We also taught them about their position in Christ and eternal destiny.
With the final game being broadcasted to the World, the question now was:
- What could we do to share the love of God with billions of fans that would be watching our guys battling their worst adversary?
As I discussed the mater with Jorginho he suggested the use of the T-shirts. But what would be the ideal message? After consulting the multitude of counselors in Germany they came up with a consensus that "Jesus Loves You" in the most current languages of Europe would be appropriate.
Our graphic designer in Brazil worked hard to create the shirt and e-mailed the files to Bernd Breitmaier from SRS who found someone to print them in Germany. Bernd asked us to pray because every time the name of Jesus is involved in any project, a huge opposition is raised.
Jorginho and I got down to our knees immediately. We prayed for the shirts and for the athletes to wear them with a joyful heart (because we hadn't asked them yet). Then we drove to Frankfurt where we checked in at the same hotel where the team was staying.
The most committed players showed up for the meeting at our room. They were six. We addressed on David and Goliath's duel. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the practical lessons extracted from I Samuel 17 became very powerful not only for the challenge against Argentina but for our every day life's battles.
After the Bible study, Jorginho explained Atletas de Cristo's mission. Then I shared the vision of reaching the World and showed the T-shirt's lay out. The athletes decide to wear them with great passion. After praying they left the room with the right spirit to face Argentina.
Next morning Jorginho flew to Mexico to play a tournament with the Brazilian National Senior Team together with Silas, Bebeto, Taffarel, Paulo Sergio, Careca and many other soccer stars of the past.
On the evening preceding the game Pr. Anselmo and I had gone to see a player who was so stressed that he had to get down to his knees every 10 minutes to plead with God for peace and for things to work out ok in the game. I reminded him the words of an old Brazilian hymn:
Oh how good it is to be able to lay at the foot of the cross.
This hard to carry heavy load of mine
And walk anxious of nothing, but
Bring everything to God in grateful and supplicating prayer
Then, the peace of God will guard mind and heart in Christ Jesus.
As we ministered to him on Psalm 37 and prayed, his facial expression changed and he looked like a new man. Then we were able to talk, joke and laugh like Brazilians like to do.
As we prayed at the grand stands before the game's start, a member of the team staff came to us and said: - Let me seat with you guys, because I've never been so nervous.
Adriano opened the score strait away with a half height torpedo. A few minutes later Kaká scored another beautiful goal. Within 17 minutes the score board showed 2x0. Oh happy day! The whole team was in state of grace!
We jumped for joy again when Ronadinho scored the third at the beginning of the second half. Adriano sealed the victory with one more ball in the Argentinean net. The adversary reacted with the honor goal closing the score on 4 x1.
Praising the Lord with shouts of joy, our athletes took the initiative to have all the team on their knees to thank and glorify God. On the chest of seven of them, the world could read the message Jesus Loves You in various languages. Many Christians were in tears of joy for their courage to share the love of Jesus and for the seeds sown in the hearts of so many people.
We celebrated a lot at the grand stands and thanked God for the victory. Then we went to meet our athletes at the Hotel to praise God, pray with thankful hearts and laugh all night long.
By the time I hit the pillow, the sun was coming up. My mind entered sleeping mode with flashing images of players wearing t-shirts with arms stretched towards heaven. As I woke up I kissed the remaining T-shirt and started to sing with a joyful heart:
Yes I love the message of the cross/ till I die I will proclaim it.
My cross I will bear/ until exchange it someday for a crown.
Having been involved with sports since I was a kid, I learned:
1 - Wining and loosing are part of the game.
2 The victory doesn’t always belong to the strongest, or to the fastest runner. Ecclesiastes 9:11
You can have the fastest car and yet loose the race. Brazil is the number one in the ranking and the ball never hit the adversary's net in our defeat toMexico 10 days earlier. But following the national team as a chaplain in 33 games, 5 finals and 3 championship titles, I never saw things work so well in a game like this one.
The player's talent flowed in a natural way, the tactic scheme worked so well, the athletes made very few mistakes, the artillery was right on target and the ball hit the net at the right times.
The headlines talked about the come back of the art-football, dream team, fab four, prayer meeting, and a thousand words of compliment. - But how could a team so heavily criticized for being defeated by México, and having tied the game with Japan become a dream team in only 10 days, playing with the very same guys? - And how in the world did it change so easily?
It has to do with the fact that there are people who still believe the word of God is true, that God is alive today and interact with his children when they act according to his will. What we saw, was the faith of athletes joining the power of God to put into practice the lessons they learned from the story of David and Goliath:
1 - Despite of being a stone throwing champion, David did not dare to face the giant trusting his own aim skills, but trusting the Lord Almighty whom Goliath was defying.
2 - Then the whole world will know that Israel has a God and every one here will see that the Lord does not need swords or spears to save his people because the battle belongs to the Lord. (I Sm 17:46 e 47).
It became a reality when David defeated Goliath in Socoh. It happened again in Frankfurt June 2005 as the World watched Brazilian athletes on their knees, crediting their victory to God, and declaring the love of Jesus Christ to each single soul watching them alive or via satellite.
I hope that in the same way David's victory encouraged Israel's army to become bold enough to wipe out the Philistines, what happened in Frankfurtwill encourage Christians all over the world to be bolder in the proclamation of the gospel. Then the world will know that there is a God in heaven who loves mankind and rules the Universe.
For me, the privilege of being His partner in what He is doing is priceless.
Hallelujah! What a joy!