As our church continues A1:8 Missions month, it is our hope that you will talk about missions and service together as a family. We are excited for you to hear a few first-hand accounts from our NCC missionaries who are serving in the countries about which your family will be learning! In 2002, Jonathan Jakubowski began designing the model for what would eventually become one of Central America’s most innovative development organizations. In 2008, after several years of building relationships and researching the model’s feasibility, Champions in Action was officially founded as a nonprofit organization. Today, Champions in Action has eleven camps and impacted the lives of over 1000 at-risk youth. But this is just the start. In 2015 and beyond, Champions in Action will expand to other regional sites and scale programs to reach even more youth.
Michelle Fisher took her first NCC missions trip to Guatemala with Champions in Action in 2013. From the first trip, the organization and the country captured her heart. She has continued going back each year and has served throughout the years through fundraising and other activities. She now volunteers as a volunteer coordinator for the summer camps and prayerfully hopes to serve in-country next year. We asked her to share about Guatemala and the incredible work of Champions in Action. Here is what she had to say.
Guatemala is beaming with beauty from vast rainforests, black sand beaches, ancient Mayan sites, and mountainous countryside. Nothing is uncolored in Guatemala, everything from traditional Guatemalan dress to even Guatemala’s national bird, the Quetzal, carries with it a vibrant spectrum of color. The country is also known for its rich and distinct culture, which is characterized by a fusion of Spanish and Indigenous influences.
Guatemala City is a busy capital city with roughly four million people living across its 23 zones. More than half of the population in Guatemala is under the age of 18. Many of the oldest children will not finish basic studies because their parents will need them to help support the family. The parents and oldest children will typically work across the city, leaving younger children on their own after school. The scarcity of money and lack of supervision have produced youth vulnerable to gang exploitation.
The vision of Champions in Action is to connect at-risk youth with a year of soccer and mentorship, specifically targeting those most susceptible to gang participation, drug and alcohol abuse, and violence.
Many of the children that Champions in Action work with live in single parent homes. I asked one of the kids, a friendly 11 year old who plays defense on one of the teams, about his life at home. He lives in a house with mom and three siblings. “Where is your dad?” someone asks, his eyes find something on the ground, and he tells us his dad lives in the U.S. for work.
This answer is not that uncommon, although more frequently, the child may not know the whereabouts of the absent parent.
Champions in Action serves some of the poorer and most dangerous areas of the city, referred to as red zones. When talking to kids from a school in zone three, we found out two brothers take several buses each day in order to attend school there, because it is safer than their home in zone 18. As we continued, we found out about their frequent absences due to their mom not always have the money to send them.
Soccer is a passion of Guatemala, whether on a field or in the street. It is a shared love and a bridge to build relationships between the mentors and the youth.
Champions in Action partners with local churches to find mentors. Each mentor then identifies ten boys living in the area and commits to coaching them in life and soccer for the year. The mentors live near the kids and are in the same communities.
Easy year Champions in Action hosts soccer camps in the summer to kick off the year of mentorship. Volunteers come down to Guatemala from the U.S. to help make the camp a success.
NCC has partnered with Champions in Action since 2010 and sends a group of volunteers to Guatemala each year. During camp, the volunteers are paired up with mentors and teams to cheer them on in soccer and build friendships — together making a long term impact in kids’ lives.
If you think back, you probably have pivotal moments along your faith journey, events you look back to and realize their significance. We pray that each child looks back to camp as one of those moments. After camp ends, the more arduous work begins as the mentors pour into the students over the course of the year. One relationship can change the trajectory of a child’s life.
Will you partner in prayer with Champions in Action?
Please pray for our existing mentors and for the Lord to be preparing and equipping new mentors as we seek to reach more children throughout the city.
Please pray for the staff and full time volunteers as they drive the vision and strategy for the organization.
Please pray protection around the youth and their families. Pray that the teams will bond and that God will be able to use the friendships they build with one another.
Please pray for the children in Guatemala who do not have fathers. Pray that they will find God and see Him as their loving Father.
Other ways you can help:
- As a family, visit www.championsinaction.org to learn about the soccer-based mentoring program in Guatemala.
- Consider purchasing an item from a wish list, put together based on the needs of the kids and mentors in Guatemala. These items will be delivered by NCC volunteers. If you would like to bring them yourself, we would love to have you and your family come as volunteers at one of our camps!
- Write encouraging letters to the Champions in Action mentors who serve disadvantaged youth.
- How much does a soccer ball cost? Look it up and consider donating this amount to Champions in Action to help kids in Guatemala get on the right track. Donate here.
Michelle Fisher attends NCC and serves as the coordinator for the summer camps with Champions in Action. She wakes up with one million thoughts and words to share, which can be slightly overwhelming to friends who wake up slower.