Motivated by a dream and the book In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, Jonathan Jakubowski said “yes” to God’s vision for Guatemalan youth, founding Champions in Action in 2008. Champions set out with a wild dream to empower adult Christian mentors to connect with boys and girls in the “red zones” of Guatemala — marginalized inner-city areas where father figures and positive adult influence are scarce, and where poverty, gangs, violent crime, broken families, and domestic abuse are realities that many children see.
In Guatemala and throughout the world, soccer transcends lines of class, ethnicity, geography, and language, and it brings people together like few other things can. So, seeing the vast potential of mentoring in the lives of at-risk youth, Champions set out to connect thousands of disadvantaged youth to life-changing mentors — using soccer as a catalyst. Mentors make a difference in kids’ lives physically, socially, educationally, and spiritually. Mentors don’t just coach soccer; they coach life too.
The idea behind everything is that the Church can and should get outside of its four walls and take Jesus’s message of hope, healing, joy, and restoration to the streets, literally. Soccer field by soccer field, Champions is reclaiming places that used to be breeding grounds for crime, gangs, and gender-targeted violence, and turning them into places where boys and girls are encouraged make good decisions, and follow their dreams, and know Jesus Christ. Champions dream is to see a generation empowered — by mentoring, by soccer, and by the gospel — to transform themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation.
The organization launched operations in Guatemala City in 2010, and since then it has touched the lives of over 1,000+ youth with over 50,000+ hours of mentorship and counting. The organization has a US Board of Directors and a US Prayer Board to provide governance, funding and oversight. However, it’s locally led and operated by a Guatemalan Board of Directors, a team of Guatemalan staff, and all mentors are Guatemalan as well, residing in the streets where the youth live.