Local soccer players talk to Guatemalans about faith and hope

Soccer games were also on the schedule 

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

From June 10 – 19, eight people from Morrison County joined with eight others from around the state and traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip. The group had both soccer and their Christian faith in common.

Several of the travelers are part of the Little Falls Flyers soccer team. They are Jake and Riley Loukinen and Thomas Bell. Other members of the group included Josiah Lojovich, a senior at Upsala High School, Joe Kornbaum and Luke Majerle, both 2013 graduates of Little Falls Community Schools (LFCS), Josiah Tonder, a 2008 LFCS graduate and Bobby Loukinen, the director of ES (Every Student) Sports.

Practicing with a team from the Dream Center in Antigua, Guatemala, the Minnesota soccer players kept up their skills on the field. Pictured are front row (from left): Thomas Bell, Omar Guzman with the Dream Center and Riley Loukinen. In the background is Jonathan Moseley.

Practicing with a team from the Dream Center in Antigua, Guatemala, the Minnesota soccer players kept up their skills on the field. Pictured are front row (from left): Thomas Bell, Omar Guzman with the Dream Center and Riley Loukinen. In the background is Jonathan Moseley.

Riley, Jake’s brother, said he loves soccer because it’s fast. The bonding with his teammates was also a draw for him.

Jake said he’s been playing most of his life and his friends all play the sport. This was an opportunity to combine his two loves, soccer and his faith.

While the team went to San Luis, a suburb of Guatemala City, to play soccer, they also went to talk to others about their faith and about hope.

“Our purpose was to open doors for the future using soccer as a tool to get into the schools and talk to students,” said Jake.

“This was an opportunity to talk about the important things. Life is more than sports. We wanted to bring a message of hope to every student,” said Bobby.

The Minnesota team was able to play soccer against the Guatemalan teams from the local high schools. It was a treat for the Guatemalans for they had never played against a team from the United States before.

During half-time, the Minnesota students would talk to the stadium of fans and to the other students about their faith.

“We handed out cards to people on the street, asking them to come to the stadium and watch the game,” said Jake.

Members of the ES Sports team from the Morrison County area included (from left): Josiah Lojovich, Riley Loukinen, Joe Kornbaum, Bobby Loukinen, Jake Loukinen, Thomas Bell and Luke Majerle. In the background is the Guatemalan Volcan de Aqua, or water volcano.

Members of the ES Sports team from the Morrison County area included (from left): Josiah Lojovich, Riley Loukinen, Joe Kornbaum, Bobby Loukinen, Jake Loukinen, Thomas Bell and Luke Majerle. In the background is the Guatemalan Volcan de Aqua, or water volcano.

“We went 6-2 against some very talented teams,” said Bobby. They lost against a team from the top division in Chichicastenango and again against a high school team where the goalie played for the Guatemalan National U18 team and other members of the team played for various national youth teams.

“After each game, we had the opportunity to talk to members of the other team. We talked about making wise decisions in life,” said Bobby. “The message was that ‘Your choices today always affect your tomorrows.’

The team also spoke in several high schools with the same message. They answered lots of questions about being an American teen.

The Minnesota group held two soccer clinics at an elementary school and on the field in Chichicastenango. They also conducted a service project, cleaning up a local soccer field that also served as the local pasture for horses and cattle.

“That was kind of a mess,” Bobby said.

A highlight of the trip was attending a professional game where the Guatemala national team played against Argentina.

“Playing for Argentina was Lionel Messi, the best soccer player in the world,” said Bobby.

Jake said they saw Messi make three goals of the 4-0 game.

The group stayed at the Dream Center, a few homes outside Antigua, Guatemala, owned by the missionary they were working with. This is an annual trip and the Loukinens plan on attending the next one.

“Our goal is to find hope in life; hope in our relationship with Christ,” said Bobby. “You can live up to 60 days without food; you can live up to seven days without water; you can live up to five minutes without oxygen, but it’s hard to live one second without hope.”

“Soccer brings every student together,” said Jake. “It was fun trying to talk with the other players, who only spoke Spanish.”

“It was also fun to watch them try to speak Spanish. Everyone would gather around and listen,” said Bobby. “The love of soccer and the love of God, a great opportunity to talk about our faith.”

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