Jackie Georgoulis Blogs from Brazil

KU soccer’s freshman midfielder, Jackie Georgoulis, is in Brazil for the next month as part of a mission trip with Athletes in Action (AIA), an organization that helps athletes take their passion, faith and sport to locations around the globe. She, along with a team of around 50 people, will travel to Ipatinga and Belo Horizonte. During her travels she will be teaching soccer camps to kids, ministering to teens, and diving into the lives of the Brazilian people. As she and her team travel to the different cities, it is their goal as a team to influence the people of Brazil, and to be influenced by them.

Post #8 (Saturday, June 21st)I’m on my way home from this amazing trip and my heart could not be more full. I want nothing more than to stay in Brazil and continue doing God’s work, but that’s obviously not realistic. So, to wrap things up, I just wanted to say that this has been the best three weeks of my life. Giving, loving and bringing hope to people in Brazil has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

From the moment I got to Brazil, to the last day I was moved by the beauty of the land, the charm of the people and the love from everyone I encountered. There is so much joy in serving other people and I think that is something that God calls us to do on a daily basis. No matter where you are in life, it is important to be kind and gracious, serving and giving others the love you would want in return. For it is said “love your neighbor as yourself”

In order to make this world a better place we need to just love one another. What I learned most on this trip is that the way you act and treat others around you can change their life more than you could ever imagine.

The people of Ipatinga, Brazil have a special place in my heart and they are all so lovely, warm and kind. I can’t thank God enough for placing me on this trip. If you ever have a chance to visit Brazil, I would say ‘go’ because it’s beautiful! Thanks for your support! Enjoy the rest of the World Cup and God bless!

Post #7 (Wednesday, June 18th)Yesterday, we got the chance to go to the Algeria-Belgium World Cup game. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever been a part of. The atmosphere was outrageous. Everyone was cheering and into the game. Watching soccer on television is fun, but in person at the World Cup is a once in a lifetime chance. All the fans had face paint, weird hats, crazy signs and wild costumes. I tried to go around and get pictures with as many crazy people as I could. Some Algerian fans took a picture with me and then gave me their flag. Also, I was proposed to by an Algerian fan and I respectfully declined because he was around 50. It was such an awesome experience. If I ever get the chance to go to another World Cup game I will not hesitate. It was hands down one of the best memories that I will never forget.

After the game we walked to dinner, played some games and then split up to have girls and boys time. The girls talked for about three hours just encouraging one another for the return home. It’s hard to be on such an awesome trip and then come home. So, we just talked about ways to stay connected to God and the friends we’ve made when we head home.

This morning we woke up at 5 a.m. and headed to the airport. We have around 30 hours of travel ahead of us. 

Post #6 (Monday, June 16th)Two days ago was our last full day in Ipatinga before heading to Belo Horizonte. We woke up, went to church and then got ready for our games. The girls played at 3 p.m., and the boys played at 5p.m. The game was called “The Big Game”. Everyone in the town was invited and it was in a huge stadium. This game was a huge deal because it was the icing on the cake for this whole trip. Around 1,500 people showed up to the games. Seeing these people support us was so encouraging and I felt so loved. I went into the game with full confidence, knowing that no matter what happened, I had made a difference in the lives of many people. We ended up winning our game 3-1, and after we traded jerseys with the other team. We prayed with the other team, encouraged them by sharing how God has changed our life and simply created relationships with them. The boys ended up losing, but they were okay because the Brazilian boys grow up playing soccer, therefore they are all so talented.

After, we headed to church where we ate dinner and said our goodbyes. I have never felt so loved by so many people than I did this week. The people that I met have a special place in my heart and I will never forget them.
Today, we’re headed to Belo Horizonte for the World Cup game between Algeria and Belgium. I am stoked to have the chance to be at a World Cup game, it will be a once in a lifetime chance.
 As I sit here on this four hour bus ride, I am going to share a few things that I observed and learned about Brazil while I spent my time here. For starters, Brazil is said to be crazy about soccer and that is true for most men, but the women don’t play it much. It was hard to find a women’s team to play. The women here view soccer as a more masculine sport, so the women either play futsol or hand ball. Hand ball is the more dominant sport for women. I thought that was interesting because I came to Brazil thinking that everyone played soccer all the time, but that’s not the case.

Secondly, the hospitality and generosity of everyone I encountered was above and beyond my expectations. No matter where my team and I went, we had people serving us every step of the way. Gods love was displayed through these people.

Another thing I learned is that even though there was a language barrier, it did not stop us from creating relationships. I think there is so much beauty in that. Yes, I may not know exactly what someone is saying, but by their actions, I can tell how much love and care they have for me. And to me that is such a beautiful thing.

Finally, it is amazing to see that even if two different groups of people only have one or two things in common, God and sports, can still accomplish so many things. God has every part of that. This whole trip could have had so many ups and downs, but God put all the pieces together to make it run smoothly.

Tomorrow, we are headed to the Belgium vs Algeria World Cup game! I will let you know how it goes 🙂 

Post #5 (Saturday, June 14th)
 Today was our last day of hosting soccer camps for the kids in the city and it was bitter sweet. I have such a heart for all of these kids that saying goodbye was difficult. But, after the camp we got to play a game of futsol against a Brazilian team that is preparing for regionals. Futsol is a lot different than full field so the adjustment was very weird. The whole game we were very evenly matched until we gave up a goal at the end. Once the game finished we got to hear some of the girls talk about their lives and how God has impacted them. After, we went and had dinner, hung out and had a very quiet, uneventful night which was much needed. Everyday in Brazil I learn something new. I have learned many phrases in Portuguese, along with the different clothing styles, hairstyles, and lifestyles. Everyone is so friendly and warm which makes our stay here ten times easier. Tomorrow both the men’s and women’s team have a big game against top teams in Ipatinga, so I will keep you updated. 

Post #4 (Thursday, June 12th)
Today I got to participate in a 5v5 futsol tournament! My team consisted of my friend Sara, along with six Brazilian boys. My team made it all the way to the semifinals and then lost, but it was still an awesome experience. I will tell you that it’s not easy to play soccer with a language barrier but, despite that barrier, I had a lot of fun. I realized that soccer means the world to this country because losing was unbearable. I think it is cool how passionate everyone seems to be about soccer.

Going off of that, today was the first day of the World Cup, which meant Brazil had a game. So, we got to have a party with the town and enjoy the game. We set up a bunch of chairs, speakers, TVs and food in a gymnasium. The enthusiasm echoed throughout the gym and everyone had the time of there lives. The love that the Brazilians have for their team and country was truly displayed and I am so thankful I got to be a part of it. I ended the day by talking to one of the Brazilian girls who has become very dear to my heart. She told me that she was enduring a lot of struggle and pain in her life, so I got the chance to talk and pray with her. I feel blessed with the chance to witness and influence her life. Stay tuned and enjoy the World Cup!!!! 

Post #3 (Sunday, June 8th)Yesterday, my team and I got the chance to run in a 5k with the people from the city of Ipatinga. Before, during and after the race I had the chance to talk, visit and love on these people. As I reflect on the day I am overcome by the power of God. We came here to impact these people and I know that we are doing that, but in return they are impacting my life more than I would have ever thought.

I got a chance to get to know three Brazilian girls all around the age of 15 and throughout the day I got to learn about them and just love on them. I became very close to those girls in just a matter of hours and they are so dear to me. That night we went to church and the sermon was very moving and it hit home for one of the girls that I had been getting to know all day. My heart melted just knowing that I have had the chance to impact her life, and she has impacted my life more than she will ever know. I am so thankful and blessed to have a God that works in ways we could never imagine. Overall, my joy and love for this city multiplied. 

Post #2 (Friday, June 6th)Today was a wonderful, fun filled, sight-seeing day. Breakfast was early and then we headed to the field for practice. The field is only a block from the hotel, which is convenient because we will be there most of the time. Practice lasted only an hour due to all of the other things planned for the day. After that we had no time to shower so we grabbed our stuff and headed to the bus. The bus took us to a beautiful lake that had everything you could imagine. It had a water slide, a swimming area with a dock, a beautiful restaurant with a wrap-around porch, a sand soccer field and a playground along with other places to explore. We had lunch together and met some of the Brazilians that are hosting us. After lunch we had an hour of free time, which allowed the team to explore and relax. Once the hour was up we packed our stuff and headed to another tourist spot.
One awesome thing that we get to do is play professional Brazilian teams, so today we were taken to the stadium that we will be playing these games. They made flyers for the city to come out and watch us play. The stadium holds around 21,000 people. It all seemed so surreal.

After that we went to a nearby park that was beautiful. It had little ponds and a hill with a gazebo on top where you could look out and see the city. A cool thing about Brazil is that many of the houses are on hills so you can see them from miles away. The pictures do not do it justice.
Next, to wrap up the day we went to the church that partners with us where they had dinner prepared. We ate, sang worship songs and had time to read the bible and talk about the week so far.
Tomorrow will be another full packed day.

Post #1 (Thursday, June 5)
To begin, our team met in Canada on May 30th, where we had a five-day training camp in Vancouver before heading to Brazil. The trek to Brazil from Canada began at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 4th. We packed up all of our luggage, had breakfast and headed to the airport. We got to the airport five hours before our flight took off, just to make sure everything went smoothly, because there are 50 of us and you never know if something could go wrong. Once we all passed through security, we had another three hours to kill before we took off so we used that time to relax, hang out, play some games, FaceTime our families and sleep. Once we boarded, our flight was four hours to Toronto where we had an hour before the 12-hour flight to São Paulo.  We had dinner at about 1 a.m., and then we all chatted until about 3 a.m. before began to fall asleep. The morning was rough. We had breakfast, landed at about 11 a.m., and had to go through security again to get on another flight to Belo Horizonte. Once we made it there we had a 5 hour bus ride ahead.

At the Belo Horizonte airport we met fellow AIA friends from Brazil. They took us to our bus and helped us with the language barrier.

Now have you ever seen a restaurant attached to a shell gas station? Me neither. This was one difference that stuck out right away. For dinner on our way to Ipatinga, we stopped at the Shell station where they had a buffet-like food place. The meat was outstanding and the cool thing was that it was on a hill which overlooked land where the animals lived and were then used for dinner purposes.

We didn’t make it to Ipatinga until 12:30 a.m. At this point, we had been traveling for 42 hours-straight (not something I want to do often) but we definitely bonded as a group. I went to bed right away because we had an early start the next morning.