We are amazed at top level athletes. We marvel at the feats of strength, speed, and acrobatic skill that will accompany the performance of an athlete that is at the top of his or her game. What separates them from other athletes that may have as much talent, is the dedication to follow their calling. No matter what kind of pain that faces them, they work harder and longer to chase the dream. Something drives them a little bit harder. How far would you go to serve Christ? What would be the maximum pain threshold before you call it quits and stand on the sideline? Many of us have a defining moment that launches us in the game, but we may fall short of the finish line. For Micah McElveen, he had that moment and realized God wanted him in a game he had never dreamed of. This is the story of Micah and how God is using him in spite of many trials to make a lasting difference with Vapor Sports Ministries.
Micah was an aspiring athlete as a youth and then in the fall, October 9th 1996 to be exact, an event occurred that changed Micah’s path forever. “I had come to Christ at a young age. In school I loved sports and was pretty good and in great shape. One day I was going out surfing. I dove into a wave and hit the wave wrong. My hands were behind my back and the force of the wave pushed me down into the ocean floor jamming my head into my neck and crushed four vertebrae in my neck. I was instantly a quadriplegic. I woke up in intensive care and couldn’t move any of my limbs.” Over several years of therapy and determination, God brought most of Micah’s use of his legs and arms back. “The ordeal and time in the hospital made me realize that life is and can be very short. It is like a vapor. I prayed to God and said that whatever abilities He blesses me with I will use for His purposes. My vapor will be His because life is such a gift and I will use it for the Him.” I asked Micah why he didn’t do what the world would say to do and live life to the fullest! Go out and gain as much stuff as you can. Micah responded, “Psalm 39: 4-7 says…
4Show me, LORD, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you…
God has a different purpose for me. The world doesn’t always align with the ideas of my creator.”
Micah went back to school but with some paralysis still present in his arms, Micah decided to pursue a sport that focused on the use of his legs. Micah started to compete in soccer. In college Micah had the opportunity to go to Africa. “I had an accountability partner that I went to see during my first semester of grad school for counseling. He was not there, but another gentleman was that had a lot of experience with going to Africa. During that dialog, he shared with me some of the details of a slum in Kenya. I asked if he would go to dinner and discuss the details more. After that discussion I decided that I had to see it and learn more. I flew over and stayed for a month with a family that he knew that had moved there. I was in this slum in Africa and it was my first experience with abject poverty. God opened my eyes and broke my heart to extreme poverty.” Micah wrestled with this experience. “I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life either trying to forget what I saw or try to do something about it. It was because of this tension, God gave me the vision that became Vapor.”
The basic frame work and vision of Vapor is to alleviate poverty and care for the poor, multiply disciples, take the good news of Jesus Christ to the lost and ultimately help them function in a way that is more sustainable. Getting to this status was not without challenges. “I dropped out of grad school and moved into my car. A couple of my friends helped apply for a non-profit organization and I traveled around the country living out of my car for that eight month process trying to talk to anyone who would listen. At the end of the eight months the non-profit was in place and two weeks later I moved back to Africa. I lived on the edge of a slum with two Kenyans. Eating on a $1.50 a day and didn’t take a hot shower for a year. We partnered with a group of Kenyan leaders in the area and built a center. The five acres we acquired was owned by this group called World Hope. One of the ways we reach out to people to help make them disciples is through self-contained sports leagues at a center. And soccer (football) is a great way to reach out because of the passion with the sport.”
During this process Micah had another… non-ministry challenge… to wrestle with. “My now wife was a close friend when this whole process started. She wanted to get married and come with me to serve in Africa, but I wasn’t ready for that! So she stayed back and held down the non-existent fort back home. She was running Vapor from her dorm room. Audrey was handling the finances, e-mails, updating the people on Vapor, and helping so with all the basic needs of Vapor. After living in Africa for a year, I was able to get some of the local indigenous people established to run the first center. I flew her over and proposed. Once we empowered these people with jobs and the center was sustainable, we flew back home, got married and moved into her car for the next year. We traveled around sharing the vision of Vapor while living out of her car. Now because of the network of people and churches we were blessed with not having to sleep in the car very often. We could sleep at churches, or people’s homes, but occasionally we slept in the car. This was intentional; because we needed to make sure we had enough money to pay for operating expenses and salaries at the center in Kenya. I promised my guys that I would not eat before they would eat. We came back to the US not knowing what was going to happen. We had three months of salary covered when we left so it was make or break within those next three months. By God’s grace we made it. We never missed a payment and we all ate.”
The vision continued to be blessed and Vapor expanded. Vapor has grown to five centers in Africa and Haiti and with the use of soccer and running tracks Vapor feeds off of the desire of the locals to compete. “We leverage the leagues and teams to help with our mission. Coaches are life coaches and disciple makers. Sports is so culturally relevant and a huge part of their lives. The centers provide water, jobs, opportunities to interact, and economic stability. Within the centers we establish micro-businesses for people to help sustain the centers and provide for the people. This provides stability. This whole process works together and at the center of it all is Christ. That is where people find the ultimate hope and grace.”
We all have moments that can set us on different journey. As Micah says, Life is a Vapor… Are you in the game or on the sidelines? Micah and Vapor Sports show what kind of an impact you can make with the Vapor we have. To learn more about Vapor ministries and how you can get in the game go to http://www.vaporsports.org/ . God bless you Micah!