Levi Shifflett stood outside the 65,807 capacity Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo, Brazil waiting for the game to end.
He could see various restaurants and bars lining the streets with their garage-like doors pulled up. With no sidewalk to separate the restaurants from the street, people flooded in to grab some food and catch a glimpse of the World Cup on television. The smell of the staple Brazilian food, rice and beans, drifted through the air among the cheers.
As the game let out, Shifflett found himself surrounded by thousands of English and Uruguayan fans, many of whom were drunk, he said, as he tried to pass out some books.
A few days later, Shifflett watched Brazil play Cameroon on television in a one-level house that had been converted into a church. Every time the home country punched in a goal, he could hear fireworks and horns.
“The whole city just erupts for like five, 10 minutes,” he said. “Then finally they realize the game is still going on and they go back to the game.”
More fireworks followed the 4-1 win.
Witnessing the World Cup spectacle was all part of Shifflett's mission trip with Bearing Precious Seed, a scripture publishing ministry in the First Baptist Church based in Milford, Ohio. Shifflett's group passed out John & Romans, a book used to introduce people to the word of God. They also worked at different churches to encourage the missionaries.
The trip, which took place June 17-27, was purposely planned for the same time as the World Cup. This way, the group could reach as many people as possible from across the world.
Shifflett, who was raised in Graham, said his group passed out over 44,000 copies of John & Romans, which was written in over 20 languages, by standing outside the stadium at the end of soccer games in Sao Paulo. They also passed out copies in downtown Sao Paulo.
Being in Brazil during the World Cup highlighted the stark contrast between the money-infused soccer spectacle and the rest of the poverty-stricken country.
Traveling 88 miles north from Sao Paulo, Shifflett and his group left the big, beautiful stadium and all the crazed-soccer fans. They entered Taubate, and another 30 minutes past Taubate, the soccer mystique had disappeared.
“It was more peaceful,” he said. “I kind of enjoyed it more.”
The farther away from the stadium the group drove, the more favelas, or socioeconomically depressed districts, they encountered. Homes were stacked on top of each other, with the bottom ones sitting on trash.
Read the full story in this weekend's Graham Leader.