Micah McElveen was only 14 when he found himself staring at the ceiling in the ICU, unable to move.
A surfing accident almost took his life; he survived but with a broken neck. His new life as a quadriplegic signaled what he thought was the end of his sports-playing days.
Well, that’s what he thought.
Micah spent the better part of his high school years in rehab and physical therapy. In what can only be described as an act of divine intervention, Micah eventually regained the use of his arms and legs. He even went on to play soccer in college.
But he regained more than just his mobility. His accident and recovery gave him an entirely new perspective on life: just how short it is. That’s when he decided he wouldn’t waste the rest of his life—something he knew he might not have had.
He built a deeper friendship with Jesus and realized his life was preserved for a reason: to serve the poor and advance the Gospel.
So when Micah was in Africa ten years after his near-death experience and saw the faces of poverty and human suffering, he says his life came to a crossroads.
“I would either waste the rest of my life trying to forget what I saw,” said Micah on his non-profit organization’s website. “Or spend it trying to do something about it.”
He knew he’d be back.
He came home knowing he had to do something but wasn’t exactly sure what he would do. As a graduate student, Micah kept dreaming until his vision began taking shape. When it finally became clear, he quit graduate school, moved into his car, and Vapor Ministries was born.
Micah’s plan went beyond a short-term missions trip to bring food or clothes to the slums. No, it was more than that. He envisioned bringing sustainable, long-term employment, access to clean water and better health resources.
All that alongside mentoring and sharing the Gospel.
With the help of Micah’s now wife, Audrey—who first began running the Vapor Ministries’ office out of her college dorm room—and several friends and supporters, Vapor Ministries launched its first center in 2006. Kawangware in Nairobi, Kenya, was the slum Micah first visited, and it became home to Vapor’s first center.
Vapor Ministries establishes relationships with communities in some of the world’s poorest countries with the goal of alleviating poverty through sustainable community centers. The Vapor Centers are built by locals, staffed by locals, and used by locals, creating long-term employment in the area. The centers facilitate sports leagues (usually soccer) where the Gospel is shared and mentoring happens regularly. The centers also host community events as well as health, nutrition and disease-prevention training.
And with every center comes a water project, so the community has clean drinking water.
Oh, and about the ministry’s name—Vapor? Micah chose it because after his accident, he realized that’s what his life was—a vapor. Here only for a moment.
“The truth is our time on Earth is like a vapor,” said Micah on the Vapor Ministries website. “When you realize that, you are afforded an opportunity to live it differently.”
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