West End and Brazil team up

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Anselmo Alves, left and his son, Marcello Alves, have both served on the team of Brazilian missionaries that will be coming to Suffolk in mid-August to lead two free soccer clinics, featuring a Christian focus. The team includes former World Cup players on it, and while Marcello cannot come this year, his father, the current chaplain of the Brazilian national team, will be here. The clinics will be sponsored by West End Baptist Church. (Photo submitted by Bob Pipkin)

Anselmo Alves, left and his son, Marcello Alves, have both served on the team of Brazilian missionaries that will be coming to Suffolk in mid-August to lead two free soccer clinics, featuring a Christian focus. The team includes former World Cup players on it, and while Marcello cannot come this year, his father, the current chaplain of the Brazilian national team, will be here. The clinics will be sponsored by West End Baptist Church. (Photo submitted by Bob Pipkin)

West End Baptist Church pastor Bob Pipkin wants church to be a priority for families and their young athletes, who often have soccer tournaments on Sunday. He has 27 Brazilian missionaries that want to help him reach out to those families and soccer players in a unique way.

A group of former professional and semi-professional soccer players takes a month each year to come to America, ministering to children ages 6-18 through soccer clinics. They will be in Suffolk on Aug. 12-13.

Several former World Cup team members will be in the group, as will Anselmo Alves, who currently serves as the chaplain for the Brazilian national team.

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Pipkin said that while most of them have moved on from soccer as a profession, “they have such a passion for not only soccer, but teaching children that you can still be involved in church, still be a Christian and still be an athlete, that they all take a month off of work.” They come to the U.S. at their own expense to be a witness to young Americans.

Families from each church where they work feed and host them.

A press release from West End explains that the missionaries’ purpose will be to bring soccer training to Suffolk’s youth with a Christian focus through two free, three-hour clinics on Aug. 12 and 13. Halfway through each clinic, the missionaries will give a devotional, testifying of their experiences in the world of professional soccer and how their trust in Jesus helped them through troubled times.

The clinics began 12 years ago and continue through a partnership between the Virginia Baptist Mission Board and the Parana Baptist Association in Brazil.

Pipkin had a pre-existing relationship with the Brazilian missionaries when he pastored in Virginia Beach, and he explained why he feels like their ministry is particularly important.

“One of the big things that I have seen the past 10 or so years is the importance of sports with families,” he said.

“When I was growing up, the only thing you had to do on Sunday was go to church,” he said.

However, many select or advanced traveling soccer teams have frequent tournaments taking place on the weekend, including Sunday.

For someone looking to play soccer at the college level, these tourneys have become crucial. Pipkin said he expected his son to be in church on Sunday, which limited his play to only recreational leagues.

When his son wanted to try out for collegiate soccer, the coaches were not interested in him due to his lack of travel team experience, Pipkin said.

Since the tournament scheduling seems to have almost created an either/or scenario on Sunday between church and soccer, Pipkin hopes to bridge the gap with those that have chosen soccer through the upcoming clinics.

He wants to “have a soccer clinic sponsored by a church, and hopefully it helps people get into a church.”

The missionaries minister with a church in Tampa, then head to Virginia to partner with three different churches, including West End. Before coming here, they will be on the Eastern Shore doing clinics for migrant worker children.

The Suffolk clinics are free and open to all children ages 6-18. They will take place on Aug. 12 and 13 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. with the location still being determined. For more information, contact West End Baptist Church at 539-8771.