Three weeks ago, twenty-three friends from Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church (CCPC) gathered in the chilly pre-dawn to pray before heading south down the interstate. Caravanning in four cars and pulling a trailer loaded with tools, soccer gear, and VBS decorations, the team headed to Juarez, Mexico, for a week-long mission trip.
CCPC has been serving alongside the same pastor and church in Juarez for the past twenty-eight years. Pastor Jorge Mata, La Iglesia Maranatha, and CCPC together build a house for a family in need and lead Vacation Bible School for the neighborhood children. Most years, only a few of the Americans can speak any Spanish – but through their common goals, lots of hand gestures, and plenty of good humor, the two groups manage to work things out.
One activity never requires much interpretation, though: Soccer. Each year, the week in Juarez kicks off with a Sunday morning worship service followed by an all-church picnic in the park. It never takes long for a soccer game to develop. Pastor Jorge is always still in his church suit, the teams form ad hoc, and the game can last for hours. This year, however, CrossTraining sent down donations of clothing, equipment, and balls from the Colorado Rapids – and the teams looked quite impressive! After the game, our Mexican friends each kept their new uniforms, excited and appreciative of the gift.
Back at the church, where people from the neighborhood often gather, a problem was evident. The church had two wooden soccer goals for the frequent games played there, but both were missing their netting and falling apart. Kids continued to use them throughout the week – chasing balls into the street that had passed straight through the backsides. As CCPC began constructing the house, two team members – both engineers – could not stop thinking about the goals. Knowing how important soccer is to the community and the church’s presence there, they soon were calculating the Pythagorean Theorem in a quest to design indestructible goals. Their plans evolved over two days and then the work began. Kids from the street would lend a hand or sit and watch with eager anticipation. When the goals were finally completed, a game quickly ensured and continued into the late hours of the evening.
That same day at Vacation Bible School, each child received a t-shirt from the Rapids. Even though the shirts were more like dresses on some of the wee ones, they all beamed with pride in their new gear. With the goals completed, La Iglesia Maranatha also received a generous supply of soccer balls so that future games among the neighborhood kids could continue.
By week’s end, CCPC had repainted the church building, which included an elaborate Disney mural, repaired the main gate, played dozens of games of soccer, and nearly finished the house (rain the final day prevented the roof work). As the team wrapped up and prepared to head home the next morning, some local kids and the youth from CCPC, who had been playing soccer together all week, grabbed some of the extra paint and began working together impromptu to refresh a faded mural on the wall surrounding the basketball court and soccer field. “La Vida Joven” (translation: Young Life).
It was a beautiful capstone to a week spent together – crossing cultural and language barriers – in fellowship, play, and service, as one body united in Christ.
(written by Parker Dragovich)
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