Soccer specifically, and sport generally, have been baked into the DNA of Vapor Ministries from the very beginning. The idea to link soccer and gospel work was planted in the mind of Micah McElveen when he was in college and began hosting soccer clinics in underprivileged neighborhoods near his university. It quickly became evident that he had stumbled onto a model of ministry that could have dramatic physical, as well as spiritual, benefits.
Over time, this idea began to germinate into a vision for the current league model used at the Vapor Ministries’ centers. Each center has two different seasons in a calendar year that each run approximately 20 weeks. The first spans from January to May and the second from July through November. Age groups range from U8-U18, and a champion is declared in each age group during each season. Teams are coached by volunteer and part-time coaches from the local communities, and every soccer event begins and ends with discipleship.
A large percentage of volunteer and part-time coaches are alumni of the very leagues they are instructing. The retention and transition of one-time league participants into coaches reinforces that the soccer leagues have a real, lasting impact on the lives of those in them.
In season, teams gather for practices and discipleship during the week and participate in league matches on Saturday. In addition to league practices and matches, the culmination of each season also includes a league-wide Bible quiz, which is an opportunity for each team to display the knowledge they have gleaned from their coaches. Incorporating the Bible quiz competition into each season of every league allows for more participants to be recognized for their success, and helps reinforce the Biblical lessons learned throughout the course of the year.
The first soccer league opened in Kawangware on October 14, 2006. On that seminal day, approximately 450 children signed up to participate. Today there are more than 5,400 league participants across the Vapor Ministries’ footprint.
As the leagues began to grow, the athletic talent and potential of specific individuals within the centers became evident, and the need for additional resources to develop this talent was identified. Thus, Vapor Football Club (FC) was born. There are Vapor FC clubs in Haiti, Kenya and Togo, comprised of some of the best players from each area.
The leagues not only allow participants to play the game they love on real grass fields with authentic, legitimate equipment, but also allows them to hear about the One who loves them, and develop a personal relationship with Him as a result.