Cristo Obrero and HTLC’s Jacob Lee Team Up for Kids

In the middle of May Cristo Obrero, one of our ministry partners, posted on their Facebook page, “Volunteers needed to teach soccer.”
Jacob Lee, a junior at New Prague Area Schools and a captain of the school’s soccer team, volunteered because he thought it sounded like fun. He answered my questions over emails.

What made you volunteer? “I thought it was perfect for me because I enjoy playing soccer. It didn’t feel like a job to me.”

How did you make it work with COVID-19 precautions in place? “Initially, due to COVID, we were unable to meet so I made videos of me teaching a soccer drill that Pastor Jorge would send to the youth families. For the first month, this is what I did. Then in July we started Monday and Tuesday each week. Tuesdays were the older kids but due to low numbers we ended up only meeting on Mondays with the younger kids.”

What was the highlight of the experience? “For me, the highlight was to just play soccer with the kids. I enjoy working with young players.”

How did the coaching go? “It was a good experience. We had about 4 boys and 8 girls in the Monday group, ages 3rd-5th grade. All the kids listened and wanted to be there to have fun. Going back each week was an easy decision because I was having fun, and I gave them my word that I would come each week.”
How did this strengthen your faith? “Overall, this was out of my comfort zone. Going somewhere I’ve never been and helping with people I’ve never met.” Jacob studies Spanish at the high school but, despite his classes, he found the language barrier a challenge. “If I had to say one hard thing, it was understanding Pastor Jorge when he spoke Spanish during practice. But this experience was a great example of ‘it doesn’t matter where we come from or who we are, we all just love the game of soccer and come together to play.’”

We Are a Better Church Together

“So…why soccer?” I ask Pastor Stephanie Espinosa over the phone. She is married to Pastor Jorge Espinosa, Cristo Obrero’s mission developer, and their English-speaking representative.
“We chose it because it is very well-loved in the Latino community, so we knew if we offered it, we could get to know the community better. One of the ministry goals of Cristo Obrero is providing an opportunity for our ELCA congregations to reach out with us to our Latino neighbors. We are a better church together!”
Pastor Ben agrees with her. “In a time of divisive polarization, there is an organization that seeks to bring reconciliation, healing, and unity: that’s the church. Here is an example of two churches setting aside cultural, socioeconomic, and language barriers in order to do something profoundly inclusive: play soccer together. As I listen to the negativity pervasive in our world….if Jesus were walking among us today, I believe he’d leave the bickering and belittling behind and join Pastor Jorge, Jacob, and these kids out on the soccer field.”

Woodworkers and Tutors Needed


Soccer may be over, but there are other ways to help the Cristo Obrero ministry. “We really need woodworkers right now!” Pastor Stephanie says. “We’re creating a ‘Snowman Project’ this fall. The plan is to have the mobile home park covered in wooden snowmen just after Thanksgiving.” For more information, go to their Facebook Page (see August 4th) or sign up on the SignUp Genius.
Tutors will also be needed soon. “As soon as the schools allow us, we need tutors for the kids.” A few years ago the Chaska and Shakopee school districts asked them to help the kids struggling with their homework. That information will be on the Cristo Obrero Facebook Page as soon as they are cleared to continue.
“Teachers told us that when COVID hit, a third of the kids [from that area] did not or could not log on [to virtual school]. They are going to need help. One woman came to us exhausted and crying. She was a single mother with four kids, working six days a week. She did not have time or the support to make sure her kids were doing well in school.”

Cristo Obrero is a Mission Development of the Minneapolis area synod. What does that mean exactly?

“Good question!” Pastor Stephanie laughs. “Cristo Obrero’s mission is to show that God’s love and grace is for all. We are going to a group that is not usually part of the Lutheran Church. And the Lutheran Church, especially in this area, is not very diverse, so we want to get to know them and bring members of other communities together. The church is stronger together.”
Written by Rose M. Fife, HTLC Communications Specialist
September 17, 2020

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