By David Irby
Here I was attending Mission ConneXion (MC), the Northwest’s Premier Missions event, for the second time. I smiled to myself and gave an inwards chuckle, as I was one of the last people you would ever expect to be here, not only as an attendee but as the head of a mission agency.
I had grown up in a Christian home and we attended a church that was committed to world missions. I still remember how weird I thought the missionaries were who visited our church. At the age of twelve I became convinced that if I fully trusted Christ – “He would make me a missionary, send me to deepest darkest Africa and make me get up in front of people and speak.”
Twelve years later I was living the “American Dream”. I was a rising star as a soccer coach at the collegiate level, even though I hadn’t played soccer until I was 19 years old on the very first team at tiny Azusa Pacific College in Southern California. Now I owned my first home, a new car, and was working my way towards becoming a full time professional soccer coach, or so I thought.
There was only one thing missing from my rise to “stardom”, as soccer began to catch on in the USA – I was spiritually bankrupt, because even though I attended church – I was still at war with God over who would direct my life.
Finally at the age of twenty-five I realized no amount of wins on the soccer field, no amount of coaching licenses were going to bring me the inner peace I so desperately sought. So I knelt in my home and pleaded:“Lord I believe, help me to believe, if you are real and can straighten out my life, I will become a missionary, go to deepest darkest Africa and get up in front of people and speak.”
Well I took a few baby steps of faith and over thirty years later I am still being used by God to assist ministries around the globe, using the power of soccer, the world’s most popular sport.
While all eyes were on Brazil and the World Cup this summer, I and a group of soccer coaches and players from six countries “celebrated” the World Cup in Burundi, Africa. Using soccer matches, pastors and coaches’ training, visits to orphanages and a widow’s ministry to share Christ…we played a small role in keeping Burundi on the path to peace and not lapsing back into civil war.
As a career missionary and the “head of a small mission agency” there are so many unique aspects that I appreciate about Mission ConneXion! MC has a passion for bringing churches, individuals and missionaries together to “think outside the box and become all things to all men”. Mission ConneXion is truly a great place to find your calling, with mission agencies helping to point the way, so that those who are seeking, as I was, might learn about the many opportunities to serve Christ around the world.
Dave Irby (Surge International) is a US Soccer “A” Licensed Coach with a Master’s Degree in Teaching. He and his wife Susie live in Salem, Oregon and have three grown children. Dave splits his time between the NW, Southern California and the Surge base in Vienna, Austria. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.surgesoccer.org