Latter-day Saint Youth Share Gospel at Brazil Soccer Training Camp

Contributed By Bentlee Rice, ChurchofJesusChrist.org Church News staff writer

  • 18 July 2019

Members of the Utah Allstars FC soccer team, (from left to right) Emma Chipman, Zoe Sim, Julia Ashton, Isabela Andersen, Shayleigh McArthur, Emilee Morgan, Anton Doan, Elias Linthalath, Ezekial Linthalath, Mercedes Enciso, and (front) Ephriam Linthalath, pose in front of the São Paulo Temple Vistors’ Center.  Photo courtesy of Angel Enciso.

Article Highlights

  • Latter-day Saint youth invited Brazilians at the soccer camp to attend church with them.
  • The team attended seminary with Brazilian youth and visited the temple.
  • Team members shared their beliefs with a teammate and others they met.

“The entire team expressed true charity and Christlike love to all they came in contact with.” —Elayne McArthur, parent of soccer player

A missed flight is usually not a good thing—unless it results in avoiding a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and getting opportunities to share the gospel.

Latter-day Saint youth Shayleigh McArthur and her Utah Allstars FC soccer team, almost all of whom are young members of the Church ages 11 to 16, were due to attend a soccer camp in Brazil on May 26. During a layover in Florida, they spent some time at the beach but then missed the flight to Colombia, the next layover destination. 

The disappointed team thought it was the end of their journey until a few parents stepped up to help. “We were all discouraged and were thinking the kids would need to come home and the journey would be over,” said McArthur’s mother, Elayne.

“On the car ride back, all of us were crying,” said Emilee Morgan, another member of the soccer team. But not all hope was lost. “We got a call from one of the player’s mom saying they had found a flight.”

Miracle after miracle occurred and McArthur’s parents were able to book the team flights with some tips from a travel agent. 

During the two days in Florida awaiting their rescheduled flights to Brazil, the team had the opportunity to attend church with a team member’s relative. They were shocked to learn that because of the missed flight, the team had avoided the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that hit Peru and surrounding areas, including Brazil and Colombia.

“We were very thankful that the kids were in Florida nowhere near the earthquake danger,” said Elayne McArthur. She believes there were other blessings that resulted from the missed flight as well.

Coach Angel Enciso, a member of the Church and a Peru native who has lived in Brazil, said he knows that they arrived in Brazil at the right time because of the opportunities to share the gospel that the team experienced throughout the rest of their trip. 

For example, the team arrived in Brazil safely, but not without drawing the attention of the president of the soccer club where they were practicing. After hearing about the series of delays and near-misses, the impressed official invited the team over for a barbecue at his home that evening. Some of the teammates took the opportunity to share their faith with him, and a friendship was formed. Enciso suggested that the team invite the club official and his family to attend church with them. He accepted and showed up with his wife and daughter the following Sunday.

Team members also invited one of their Brazilian trainers who had been baptized but no longer attended church regularly, as well as another family involved in the soccer camp. All came multiple Sundays while the team was in Brazil.

“It was a really cool missionary experience, inviting people to church. It was like being on a mission,” said McArthur.

Enciso said the young team noticed needs around them everywhere they went. When player Emma Chipman saw that one Brazilian soccer team player’s shoes were worn out, she took her own off of her feet and gave them to the soccer player.

Anton Doan, the only player on the team who is not a member of the Church, noticed a child following the soccer team around during training sessions. Doan took off his team-branded sweater and gave it to the child, who was so happy he ran into his mother’s arms crying. 

“The images of Emma, Anton, and Shayleigh giving up what little they had is ingrained in my mind,” said Elayne McArthur. “The entire team expressed true charity and Christlike love to all they came in contact with.”

The Utah Allstars FC soccer team toured São Paulo and the surrounding areas during a soccer trip to Brazil. Photo courtesy of Angel Enciso.

Members of the Utah Allstars FC soccer team tour São Paulo and the surrounding areas during a soccer trip to Brazil. Photo courtesy of Angel Enciso.

Members of the Utah Allstars FC soccer team trained with other teams in São Paulo and the surrounding areas during a trip to Brazil. Photo courtesy of Angel Enciso.

Team members also had the opportunity to share their beliefs with their teammate Doan. They spent time in the São Paulo Brazil Temple Visitors’ Center learning about the gospel and sharing their testimonies with him. 

“Going to the temple was probably one of the coolest experiences,” said McArthur. “Being able to visit the temple in Brazil, being baptized by a priest from Brazil who was speaking Portuguese, just really added to my experience.”

“After going to the temple, we all were so much closer and happier. We weren’t tired from practice earlier in the day,” said McArthur. “I felt like I got closer to Anton because I shared my testimony.”

While the team spent most of their time training with other teams while on the trip, they also took time for spiritual activities. The youth attended seminary with fellow Brazilian youth and attended church every Sunday. 

McArthur was surprised to see that “every single person in the congregation shared their testimony during fast and testimony meeting. And even though I couldn’t really understand what they were saying in Portuguese, I still felt the Spirit.”

Emma Chipman noticed that one Brazilian soccer team player’s shoes were worn out, so she took her own off of her feet and gave them to the soccer player. Photo courtesy of Elayne McArthur.

Many of the people the team invited to church are still attending. Some are taking lessons with the missionaries, said Enciso.

Morgan knows her faith grew because of this trip. “I am going to be able to do more missionary work at home because of how much my faith grew in Brazil.”

The team’s impact as representatives of not only their country but also of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was notable. 

Embau das Artes, a small city outside of São Paulo, honored the team with a plaque because of the warm way the youth treated locals, and a local newspaper wrote about their visit. 

“They’ve become mini-ambassadors,” said Elayne McArthur. “They didn’t do anything flashy or earth-shattering but they stayed true to who they were.”

“I took them to Brazil because I knew they would make a difference with the people, said Enciso. “I wanted to teach them that [life] is not about you; it is about others. It is about giving.” 

McArthur was surprised by the culture of Brazil. “Everybody just accepted us and I didn’t think that was going to happen. We were included in everything,” she said.

Morgan said that the trip also made the team a lot closer. “We’ve all grown so much closer. We’re not just teammates anymore. We’re friends. We hang out outside of practice and it's really fun.”

Enciso said he hopes to make the trip again with more soccer players because he knows the impact the youth have on the people they meet in Brazil, and he wants to teach the youth to love everyone they meet. 

“My point was for them to learn soccer, but also for them to learn to share their love with the people there,” said Enciso. “You don’t have to do big things. You just have to love. You just need to be there for people. Treat everybody the same and show them love.”

Members of the Utah Allstars FC soccer team visited the São Paulo Temple Visitors’ Center. Photo courtesy of Elayne McArthur.

Members of the Utah Allstars FC soccer team visited with missionaries as they did missionary work with the people they met in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Elayne McArthur.

The Utah Allstars FC soccer team played at a soccer club in Embu das Artes, a small town outside of São Paulo. Photo courtesy of Angel Enciso.

Utah Allstars FC team members became much closer throughout their soccer trip to Brazil. Photo courtesy of Elayne McArthur.

Utah Allstars FC team members became much closer throughout their soccer trip to Brazil. Photo courtesy of Elayne McArthur.

The city of Emu das Artes recognized the Utah All Star FC soccer team for their kindness. Photo by Angel Enciso.