Vapor thrift store funds global mission

Audrey and Micah McElveen began sports ministry centers in Kenya, Togo and Haiti with Vapor Sports Ministries, which they began in 2005. (Contributed)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY – Micah and Audrey McElveen lived out of their car for a year in order to give all they had to their new international sports ministry. Now, six years later, they’ve opened three Vapor Sport Ministry centers in Africa and a thrift store on U.S. 280 to fund the ministry, and the ministry continues to expand with no signs of slowing down.

The thrift store, located at 5443 U.S. 280 South, offers everything from clothes to furniture to electronics. Free Bibles are also available to the community. The store holds a vision-casting center, Audrey McElveen said.

“People come here to shop, and then get excited about our ministry and go out and volunteer or get donations. Even our staff is very mission-minded,” she said.

“The thrift store’s main mission is to provide a source of revenue for Vapor Sports Ministry. The money goes to the ministry to help build new centers,” Audrey said. “An amazing side benefit is reaching out to the community.”

Audrey and her husband were given a headquarters and place to call home in Fayetteville, but Audrey said they chose an empty building on U.S. 280 in North Shelby for their thrift store due to traffic and opportunity.

The sports ministry itself targets areas with third-world environments, but not necessarily third-world countries. Vapor has two sports ministry centers in Kenya and one in Togo, the “voodoo capital of West Africa,” Audrey said.

“We use the platform that sports create for disciple-making,” Audrey said. “The sport draws in the crowd, the young people. They’re going to come and play the sport they love.”

In the slum of Kawangware in Nairobi, Kenya, the Vapor Sports Center has an estimated 5,000 people who have become Christian believers since 2005, and 900 children play in the center’s sports leagues weekly.

The centers also offer leadership training, discipleship ministries, hygiene awareness classes, a clear drinking water well, agriculture training and literacy programs.

“Discipleship is more than a Bible study,” Audrey said. “It’s meeting needs, personal development and pouring into each other.”

The goal of Vapor Sports Ministries is to have 40 centers in 40 slums by 2017.

“We realize it’s a huge vision,” Audrey said, “but we’ve seen God do some amazing things.”

The McElveens hold eight trips a year for volunteers to travel to the sports centers for service. For more information about the trips or to learn more about the ministry, visit Vaporsports.org.