Soccer in Sight: Chapter 4 Kickstarts Creative Collaboration in California
By Carl Stagner
Tatiana Ramos didn’t know what she was getting into, but whatever it was would have a profound impact on her life. The daughter of Jesus Mena, longtime pastor of Iglesia de la Comunidad in Santa Ana, California, was quite familiar with church life and had a relationship with the Lord, but was totally unfamiliar with the Chapter 4 Institute. Presented with the opportunity to enroll in the experience proved providentially powerful in her own walk with God, kickstarting creative collaboration with peers to determine solutions for society. Though COVID brought the process to a screeching halt, the goal of a soccer club for students remains in sight.
Based on Luke 4:16–21, the Chapter 4 Institute is “an immersive, cohort-based leadership experience that creates passion for spiritual and social renewal.” By inspiring, teaching, and training leaders to “reimagine how the church might earn its place as an essential ally” to the community, Chapter 4 seeks to “change the story” in communities everywhere. Chapter 4 “fellows” like Tatiana Ramos accept the challenge to identify projects tailored to the specific needs of the neighborhood in which they serve. In the case of Ramos and her peers in the program, soccer just made sense.
“We were asked what would capture the attention of the community,” Tatiana recalls. Originally, the crew had a recreation center in mind, but Chapter 4 leaders like Natalie Royer and Ben Sand urged refinement and the casting of attainable vision. “That’s when we realized our church is only a block away from where students play soccer on a regular basis,” Tatiana explains. “There are four apartment complexes within a block from the church, and the elementary school is across the street from the church. The kids walk right through the church yard to get to the school. I only live a block away and can hear the parents cheering their children as they play soccer. I said, ‘You know, having a soccer club would be amazing.’”
COVID restrictions, especially strict in California, disrupted the momentum of the project. Though the soccer club isn’t up and running yet, the logo has been designed and embers that once burned for the launch of the project are being stoked yet again. In the meantime, God’s getting the glory for the soul work he’s done through the training that Chapter 4 offers.
“I think I can speak for the majority of us,” Tatiana reflects, “Because we started a bit before COVID we were kind of just like, okay, yeah, the church needs something, but weren’t sure exactly where to start and we had really different ideas. We thought maybe we could build a better food pantry. But Natalie and Ben asked all the right follow-up questions. The workshops helped us answer what the church needs to do and how we could find a great solution for the issues of the community. Chapter 4 was great in pinpointing where we could start. Overall, the connections I made had a huge impact on my spiritual life.”
Tatiana Ramos isn’t in vocational ministry, but her pulpit is a teacher’s desk—and that is certainly an incredible ministry in itself. But she’s also a part of her local church, and she loves watching what the Lord can do through the church in her community.
“There’s a lot of positive things out there that can help in living a better life,” Tatiana concludes, “but nothing compares to Jesus, and nothing can fill the void that we all have for Jesus. Nothing else will do. We can chase so many worldly things that can give us temporary joy, but hope comes from Christ. We were created to seek him.”
People need to know that, and soccer could very well be the means of such communication. Through Chapter 4, Tatiana and Iglesia de la Comunidad are one step closer to the goal.
Learn more about the Chapter 4 Institute at www.jesusisthesubject.org/chapter4. Learn more about the Hispanic Council (Concilio Hispano) of the Church of God (in Spanish) at www.conciliochog.org. Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15.
The Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our Movement to act in one accord for the future of the church. Together we can support young leaders and help bring God’s plan to life on earth as it is in heaven. Fund these critical ministries—Chapter 4, CARE, and Leadership Focus—to train and sustain the church long into the future. Learn more and be a part of The Plan at www.jesusisthesubject.org/the-plan.
Feature (top) photo: Tatiana Ramos beams proudly with two nephews—varsity soccer players.