When a man’s wife questions him about his $800 credit card pizza expense we might wonder: Poorly balanced diet? Pizza mania? Pizza addiction? But no, this is the running tab for Traco Rachal, retired football player, now mission partner with FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and Cornerstone Church. He is a recent addition to our mission partners ministering to young students in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, 85% of whom are unchurched. There is a desperate need for young people who have little guidance in their lives and negative circumstances to consider the subject of life within a safe environment. What is life all about? Can God make a difference? Can His Love motivate and change kids?
Since the world of sports carries its own language there are special terms that have specific meanings. The huddle is a special space and moment in sports, when players gather together and are given the latest maneuver to counter the opposing team’s plays. But unlike a sports huddle, Traco’s huddles are created to address a sad reality: 78% of his students are hungry. They don’t eat lunch because they don’t want their friends to know that they can’t afford it. If you are hungry and your stomach is growling, free pizza becomes a real inducement and you just might pay more attention to the message. Jesus showed several times that food is one way to reach people. Would you agree that there’s a real loaves and fishes aspect to this ministry?
All schools require faculty permission for use of a classroom and a teacher/coach sponsorship to run a club. Traco contacts a coach or a teacher for permission to speak with the students (or he may be invited) and a new huddle begins to come alive. He meets with the students and invites them to come every week for pizza, friendship and help. The goal: A huddle to include all grade levels with its own leaders. Soon enough, the Holy Spirit begins His special way of touching hearts.
FCA is not just for boys but also for girls. Recently, Traco was asked to talk to the girls’ volleyball team at Milliken. At the end they asked: “Would he come each week?” “Would he come to their games?” It’s a very hard request to turn down but also very hard for a student not to respond to such love and concern. At this time, Traco reaches 1,000 students. In 2017, 390 students prayed to receive Christ.
The main goal of FCA is to bring the Good News on campus and to create what is basically a student-led ministry through athletics. Another goal is to develop student leadership because the ministry couldn’t function properly without leadership development. One student presides, another leads prayer time, another makes announcements, another passes out the pizza and so on. It takes courage to conduct these housekeeping duties and to proceed in an orderly manner. Building confidence in each student is a third key goal; there is an additional Leadership meeting specifically created to further the development of these student leaders.
Since so many students don’t have the courage to join a church with a functioning youth group, many important life issues are left untouched. FCA speaks to these issues. Each huddle has a main speaker, usually an older student from a higher grade, a graduate, an invited speaker or Traco himself. Subjects include life issues and school issues: how to be a friend, how to respond to peer pressure, how to avoid drugs, how to remain pure personally, and how to show you are one of His in the classroom or a party. The talks also include current events and recently there was a discussion about the hurricanes and subsequent floods in Texas and Florida. As students graduate, they often come back to help and mentor.
Here is a partial list of Traco’s ministry: Milliken, Mayfair, Poly, Wilson, Washington Middle School, Los Alamitos, Compton High, Buena Park, Rancho Dominguez and Downey. Traco has 14 schools with 3 on the waiting list.
You may wonder with so many other Christian ministries on campuses, do they get in each other’s way? No, they coexist happily and students attend several. As Traco told the Cornerstone Missions Committee, they live by Romans 12:4-5: For as in one physical body we have many parts and all of these parts do not have the same function or use, So, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ and individually we are part one of another.
The Story Behind the Man
Traco Rachal was born and raised in Los Angeles to a loving Christian mother who sang hymns to her children. He graduated from Carson High School where he excelled in sports and went on to Fresno State’s football team before transferring to Texas A&M. As a young college athlete he was busy enjoying the life-style, oblivious to life’s deeper challenges and the spiritual vacuum he was living in until he suddenly became a father to his daughter Kayla, now 19.
Kayla became his main spiritual and parental challenge. He faced the issue of what it means to be a young father and Christ used this baby to lead Traco to Himself. Sadly, Kayla became a battleground between her parents. For two years mother and baby disappeared and Traco dropped out of school to earn the money necessary to locate them.
Two years passed and he was finally successful. After that Traco dedicated himself to be a father in Kayla’s life and took her to church and other activities. She was involved in FCA during high school and accepted the Lord during one of the summer camps. She is now a freshman at Pierce College and Kayla’s mother, watching her fireball daughter in her Christian walk, has also become a believer. As wise people tell us, it isn’t how you start off but how you end up that really matters. The Lord prevailed!
Traco has been married for 14 years to his wife, Tiffany. The couple met when they were working for YMCA. Tiffany is a teacher at Bonita Elementary School in Carson and their three children: Michael 9, Caleb 3, and little Grace 1, keep them hopping.
Football has taken Traco many different places. He played professionally for the Canadian football league as well as several indoor football leagues here in the U.S. He retired from football in 2008, healthy and determined to use his connections and all that he learned to help youth become believers.
In addition to full time ministry with FCA, Traco is also the assistant youth pastor at his church, Mission Ebenezer Family Church. There, his mission is to teach the young people how to make Jesus’ name great, that they may become a living testimony to God’s love and a walking instrument of God’s plan. There are many students that he has influenced through the Lord, to make better choices and have better lives.
When asked if he could tell us about one student in particular who has benefited from FCA, Traco chose K.H. This young man came from a stable home, not a gangbanger, not into drugs or getting into trouble. Rather he was a student struggling to avoid bad influences, managing to keep a 3.8 grade point average through high school and fighting off peer pressure at every turn. K.H. was awarded Outstanding Student of the Year at an FCA awards banquet.
K.H. has a family with father, mother and siblings. Dad was a very present father, determined to keep his children away from the life he had known growing up. This remarkable father was wise to realize that Traco’s walk with his son as a friend and spiritual advisor was a gift from God. Traco was a special friend to K.H. and the entire family, especially during the dark times when his mother was struggling with cancer. Today K.H. has graduated from college and is being hired as a Sheriff’s Deputy.
This writer hopes that you may get to meet this remarkable Christian man. His energy and talent for ministry with young people is God-based and God-honored. Please hold Traco in prayer that he will be able to develop the leadership necessary at current schools so that he may add waiting schools to those already on his schedule.
He is thrilled to be part of Cornerstone Church and its Missions Outreach and to experience the spiritual support and the financial support that is forthcoming. The Lord has never failed to provide 100% of the support that FCA requires from its staff. The Lord has been good and continues to bless Traco and his family in a mighty way.
If you have questions or would like to help in some way, he would be happy to speak with you at 310-413-8077 or Trachal@FCA.org.
To God Be the Glory
(written by Yvonne Troutman, CCLB Missions Team member)
"There is a desperate need for young people who have little guidance in their lives and negative circumstances to consider the subject of life within a safe environment. What is life all about? Can God make a difference? Can His Love motivate and change kids?"
"He meets with the students and invites them to come every week for pizza, friendship and help. The goal: A huddle to include all grade levels with its own leaders. Soon enough, the Holy Spirit begins His special way of touching hearts."
"Traco is thrilled to be part of Cornerstone Church and its Missions Outreach and to experience the spiritual and financial support that is forthcoming. The Lord has never failed to provide 100% of the support that FCA requires from its staff."