Passion. Priorities. &. Balance.


By: Evan Bolton


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As some of you may have noticed, some maybe not, things have been pretty quiet with mission:soccer over the past few months or so. I wanted to take a few minutes share about some big changes that have happened recently. Changes that I am really excited about.

From the very beginning, the organization has been an expression of my passions, my beliefs, my ambitions, and my desire to leave an impact on this world. And soccer has been the vehicle to carry that out. The organization has also been an expression of the time that I have had to put into it. Obviously I wish the organization was something I could do full time and have support me, but that it is a difficult feat. As a result, the organization ebbs and flows with the changes within my life and with the amount of time that I have to invest into it. I think the past few months is a perfect example of that.

So why do I say all this?

Over the past few months I have had some big life changes happen that have reshaped the landscape of my life, and in turn, mission:soccer. I got engaged over the Holiday’s to an amazing woman. I relocated to Chicago in the end of January, and then began a new job just few days later. These are big life changes. They are changes that have taken my time, my energy, and my attention. As a result, my ability to invest the same amount into the organization as I was, say 6 months ago, is far less. However, it hasn’t been solely an issue of free time, but also order of priorities.

I am a strong believer in order. There is an order to how things are done. I love cooking, however, there is an order of steps that needs to be followed in order to produce a successful meal. For example, you need to turn on the oven before you cook a Thanksgiving turkey – unless salmonella poisoning is your end goal. The same applies to our lives. I truly believe that there is an order of priorities that we must have in our lives. God first, then family (wife, kids etc.), then ministry and outreach.

For the past two and half years mission:soccer has been my top priority after God. It is where I have invested my time, my efforts, and my finances. And rightly so, for the past two and a half years that was the proper order of things in my life. However, a few months ago those priorities shifted. Getting engaged dramatically changed the course and priorities of my life. I recognize the responsibility and duty that comes along with getting engaged and becoming a husband. It is a huge responsibility to provide, protect, lead, and take care of someone else. It is something that now impacts every aspect of my life. I am no longer considering only my own well being, but now someone else’s above mine. My choices no longer impact just me, but they directly impact someone else. This level of responsibility requires a realigning of priorities, and this is what I have been trying to do.

I am also a strong believer in balance. Although getting engaged has placed a new priority into the mix, and seems to push mission:soccer to the back burner, there still needs to be balance. Yes, the majority of my effort is going into being the best fiancé and soon-to-be husband I can be. Much of my energy is focused in my job and making sure that I am excelling in it and able to provide for a family. However, that doesn’t mean mission:soccer get’s neglected or forgotten. I still need to invest into, even if it is in small ways. This is a balance I am trying to find and figure out. So what form is the organization supposed to take? How active are we supposed to be? These are questions I am working through.

All of my passions to change the world and leave an imprint are still here. Probably more-so then ever actually. However, I know that if I am not a faithful and responsible husband, a provider, and a leader within my marriage, then I will struggle with changing the world. That is the truth.

This is the next step in my story. A chapter that will further teach and prepare me to make mission:soccer into the organization that is supposed to be. Whether that is a huge global non-profit organization or a small passion-project. Whatever the future is, I am excited for the journey. And I am thrilled to have a kick-ass (hope that’s appropriate) wife by my side!

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Evan Bolton is the Founder/Director of mission:soccer. Fiancé and soon-to-be husband.  Writer. World Traveler. Storyteller. Follower of Jesus. 

You can follow him on twitter @EvanBolton_

Follow mission:soccer on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Vimeo for updates and news about our upcoming projects, events and trips

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A Day in Mathare


By: Evan Bolton                                                                                      (@EvanBolton_)


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During our time in Kenya we spent an afternoon with a community school in Mathare, the third largest slum in Africa. Some of the students took us on a tour of the slum, leading us through the narrow paths nestled between the tin-metal structures that they call home. The paths were filled with trash; mothers were washing clothes in the muddy water that was running down the hill we had just descended-water that had probably been used to bathe and wash countless other items of clothing. As we walked we had to duck under clothes that were drip drying on the lines strung between the homes. And as we bent underneath to pass, the dirty water would drip on our heads and run down your backs. But this was every day life for them. The entire walk I was surrounded by ten or so boys, and all we talked about was soccer, who their favorite players are, and what positions they play for the school team. I think we talked soccer, told stories, and laughed the entire time. Even though I was surrounded by extreme poverty and was walking through tight alleys filled with trash and most likely human waste, I felt comfortable.

We had the opportunity to go into some of the kids’ homes and meet their families. Their stories hit deep. Here are people, living in a 10×10 shack with eight other family members. No windows, no AC, no cool breeze, no ventilation. The homes were hot, humid, and beyond overcrowded. Yet this was their home. They would buy fabric to cover the corrugated metal, they would hang photos, and they would add small decorative touches to distract from the harsh circumstances of the slum waiting just outside the door.

Even though it was a different environment and one very foreign to me, and even though I was avoiding human waste and tip-toeing over piles of garbage as I walked, there was something familiar in all of it.

The more I travel, the more I realize that we are all the same. Regardless of wealth, ethnicity, background, or social status, we are all human. We share the same emotions. We share the same hope. We share the same dreams to give our children a better future. We share the same desire to learn and grow. We are separated by far less than we realize. We are all human and that connects us to each other’s stories and each other’s struggles.

Our afternoon in Mathare ended as it should. On the soccer field. They say that soccer is a game of the slums, and I would agree with that. A soccer ball is not a respecter of status or ethnicity; it only responds to the will of the player. On a soccer field, everyone has equal opportunity and outward identity does not necessarily apply. Even though the field was only a stones-throw from the slum, there was a different atmosphere. It was as though the boys understood that they could apprehend the opportunity presented and become something more.

 

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Evan Bolton is the Founder/Director of mission:soccer. High school soccer coach. Writer. World Traveler. Storyteller. Follower of Jesus. 

You can follow him on twitter @EvanBolton_

 

 

Follow mission:soccer on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Vimeo for updates and news about our upcoming projects, events and trips

Barefoot and Dirt Fields.


By: Evan Bolton                                                                           (@EvanBolton_)


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In Western Kenya, nestled up against the beauty of Lake Victoria, is the community of Homa Bay. It is a small but developing fishing community that has been transforming in recent years. Within this community is a small soccer academy called “Aspire Mega Soccer Academy”, or simply “Aspire” as they are known by those in the community. The academy is run by two coaches, Francis and Shem. They are humble, genuine, and caring individuals. Their stories, to you and I, are unknown; however, within the community they are heroes; they are educators; and they are role models.

During one of the training sessions we were participating in, several of the boys came over complaining about their feet. They had been playing barefoot because they could not afford proper cleats or shoes, and the dirt field was blazing hot from the beating noonday sun. The boys said, “Coaches, we can’t play anymore. The stones are cutting our feet and the dirt is burning them as well. We can’t run.” This broke our hearts – this would not happen here in the US.

To understand the full weight of this, we need some background. In Homa Bay, as well as in most areas of Kenya, soccer is an outlet and an activity that keeps the boys off of the streets, out of drugs, alcohol, and crime. Soccer, for many kids, is the only thing that will keep them from being idle and falling subject to these addictions and engaging in a life of trouble. So what happens when kids don’t have the resources for proper equipment and cannot play because their bare feet are burning on the dirt field? Potentially, they do not invest their time and energy into something safe and productive like playing soccer; and instead, their attention may fall elsewhere to drugs or acts of violence. Further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and culture of addiction already eroding the potential and success of the community.

For Francis and Shem, a soccer ball and a pair of proper cleats can be the difference between success and failure for the kids living in Homa Bay. They can be the difference between players participating at Aspire or them engaging in other activities in the dark alleys of Homa Bay. This is why we are so passionate about what we are doing. This is why we believe that soccer can bring positive change to a community.

Consider becoming a monthly donor. Your gift will enable us to provide the proper equipment needed for our partners to be successful and have the desired impact in their communities.

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Evan Bolton is the Founder/Director of mission:soccer. High school soccer coach. Writer. World Traveler. Storyteller. Follower of Jesus. 

You can follow him on twitter @EvanBolton_

 

 

Follow mission:soccer on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Vimeo for updates and news about our upcoming projects, events and trips

Celebrating Two Years

Today, July 27th, marks two years since we launched mission:soccer. We are currently working in Kenya and wanted to make a quick video to celebrate. We hope you like it!

-The missions:soccer team

 

 

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A Letter From Our Founder


By: Evan Bolton                                                                               (@EvanBolton_)


Hello!

Evan here – just wanted to send a quick update on mission:soccer and tell you about our upcoming plans.

In a little less than two weeks I will be traveling to Kenya for a month long trip. My main focus for the trip is to meet with our partners and establish stronger relationships with them. No amount of emails or phone conversations can replace simply sitting down at a table and sharing a meal together. It is experiences like these that I am so excited for. Being able to sit and listen to them talk about their families, their hopes and dreams, and their plans for their communities – that will be powerful. As we transition into larger scale projects, I know that this relational aspect is incredibly important, and we cannot overlook it.

While there I will also be meeting with new contacts and organizations to expand the network of people and resources that we have within the country. This is something else that I believe to be absolutely essential. Part of these efforts will be to identify Kenyan manufacturers and distributors of soccer equipment – through developing relationships with them, we will be able to source soccer equipment in country, saving time, money and the headache of international shipping.

I also believe that this trip marks a turning point for the organization itself. We are expanding beyond just providing soccer balls and equipment and are taking on larger scale projects. At mission:soccer our goal is to partner with communities, coaches, pastors and local leaders to help develop and implement high-quality soccer programs that are leveraged to influence key social issues. We believe that soccer can be a platform to address issues of education, poor health, drug abuse and employment. We plan to work with local leaders to develop and structure soccer programs in a way that will uniquely impact these areas of the community; to do this, it will take a comprehensive approach and collaboration with the communities we are working with. We are no longer just providing soccer balls, we are now providing the field to play on, the soccer curriculum to teach from, and the qualified coaches to carry out the training.

This is big. We are planning to begin this process in two communities. The first is located in Nairobi, the capital city, and the second is in the town of Homa Bay, located in the south-west part of the country. They are two very different environments – one is urban slum, the other rural countryside – and we know they will each bring their own set of challenges, but we are excited.

In recent months we have gotten success stories from our partners in Kenya. Stories of players receiving scholarships, and being recognized for academic excellence, securing their spots in secondary schools and university. We have gotten reports that HIV/Aids cases are dropping, school attendance is rising, and drug related disease is going down in one community. That is amazing! We simply want to empower our partners to do more than they could have done by themselves –  and this what we are hoping to begin pursuing during this trip

Although this is an ambitious task, we are confident that we will be successful. However, we cannot do it alone. We ask for your thoughts, your prayers, and your generosity. We ask you to become a monthly donor – committing $10 a month to support our efforts. It is a small sacrifice, but it will make a world of difference in these communities.

I look forward to sending updates and photos back while I am in Kenya, and I am excited to share all the stories upon my return.

Sincerely,

Evan Bolton

 


Mission Soccer Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 organization. All contributions are tax-deductible. If you would like to become a monthly donor and support our work in Kenya please click here:


 

12773_10152180147870184_1897138362_nEvan Bolton is the Founder/Director of mission:soccer. High school soccer coach. Writer. World Traveler. Storyteller. Follower of Jesus. 

You can follow him on twitter @EvanBolton_

 

Follow mission:soccer on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Vimeo for updates and news about our upcoming projects, events and trips.

Tales of a Blowfish.


By: Evan Bolton                  (@EvanBolton_)


 

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If you know anything about me then you know that I love food. I love cooking it, and I love eating it. One of my favorite parts of traveling is the food; I want to eat my way through a city and experience the culture through the food. I was in France three years ago visiting my best friend who was living just outside Paris. When I arrived he asked what I wanted to do and what I wanted to see – I replied, “ I want to eat”. So that is what I did. I always had a pastry, crepe, kebab, or something in my hands as we walked and traveled. It was amazing.

I recently lived in Japan for a few months for my job. Again, just like in France, all I wanted to do was eat my way through the country. My Japanese co-workers quickly caught on to my love for food and my adventurous palate and went above and beyond to take me to restaurants and introduce me to all forms of Japanese cuisine. I was in heaven. However, something began to happen while I was there. Foods that seemed so foreign and strange at the beginning became normal. I would eat eel, jellyfish, cow tongue, sea weed, blowfish and an array of other foods without even thinking twice. I came home, and people couldn’t believe the things I had eaten – to me it was just as normal as having a grilled cheese.

It is interesting how our perspectives change when we are in a different culture and environment. For me, I no longer viewed strange food as strange (within reason that is), and I began viewing food a little bit differently than everyone back home. Regardless of where we are from, we are conditioned to think a certain way about food and what we should eat. In Japan I ate fried cartilage – it was honestly pieces of cartilage that were battered and fried. There was nothing wrong with eating it – but it seemed to go against the grain of how I was raised and my view of food.

Sometimes we can be conditioned to think certain ways about things – especially about ourselves. It can be easy to look at ourselves and downplay our potential, abilities, successes and talents – just like we can be conditioned to think that fried cartilage is strange and not desirable. At least this is the case for me. It can be easy for me to feel like I am not doing anything worthwhile, that I’m not accomplishing or contributing anything of value. It can be easy for me to doubt myself, doubt my creativity and even doubt my ability to lead an organization. However, when I feel like my efforts have little value or that I am not making the type of impact I want to, I need to step back and look at things from an outside perspective. Even though it is easy for me to overlook how crazy it was to eat poisonous blowfish in Japan and put my life in the hands of the chef, I need to step back and appreciate that memory for what it was – absolutely wild! Similarly, we need to take a step back and look at our lives from someones else’s viewpoint, from a perspective outside of our own. We may be surprised by what we see.

I hope that I never lose sight of all the crazy things I have eaten. Not just because I love food, but because it will become a habit that will echo in other areas of my life – both personal and professional.

I want to be humble and never think too highly of myself. However, I think it is also good to step back, get a new perspective and recognize that you really are eating some bizarre and crazy things. It is a recognition that what you may see as simply ordinary is actually extraordinary in the eyes of those around you.

 

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Evan Bolton is the Founder/Director of mission:soccer. High school soccer coach. Writer. World Traveler. Storyteller. Follower of Jesus. 

You can follow him on twitter @EvanBolton_

 

 

Follow mission:soccer on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Vimeo for updates and news about our upcoming projects, events and trips

Accomplished


By: Evan Bolton                   (@EvanBolton_)


 

I am learning to find a sense of accomplishment even in the daily, small, mundane behind the scenes tasks. This may seem pretty elementary but it is so important. Don’t get me wrong, I still get discouraged and feel unaccomplished quite often, but I am getting better at finding the value in everything I do.

Over the past few months much of my time has been spent planning, setting long term goals, writing, charting a course for the organization and answering the “how do we get there?” questions. I am doing things that don’t have instant gratification, reward or feedback. From the outside it isn’t the most exciting work. It takes a while to do, it is tedious – and it requires a good amount of soul searching, internal struggle, patience and a lot of “word vomiting” just to get thoughts out on paper. However, even though I may not always feel accomplished after a long day of starring at my computer screen, I am learning to appreciate the value in what I am doing.

Traveling the world, providing soccer equipment and building soccer fields is always exciting. It is incredibly rewarding and you see the result of your efforts right away. But that isn’t always what needs to be done. Sometimes you need to sit in front of a computer answering emails until your eyes are about to explode. Sometimes you need to balance Quickbooks and pour over bank statements for hours to account for every penny. Some days you need to deflate soccer balls all afternoon and spray donated cleats with Lysol. This is just life. The key is to recognize the value in what you are doing. To be honest, this is something I fail at more than I would like to admit.

What I am learning is to realize that every email I send, every spreadsheet I balance, every ball I deflate and every interaction I have is deeply important to the growth and success of the organization. If I spend my entire day writing out a plan for building a soccer field but don’t physically build a soccer field, that doesn’t mean that the day was a failure or a loss. It is a necessary step. I am laying the foundation and building the framework for success down the road. This is a mindset I need to keep.

If you are taking steps toward an end goal, it does not matter how large the steps are – each and every one is an accomplished step towards success. I am speaking to myself as I write this –  this is something I am learning and better understanding.

Many times the difficult, non-exciting, time consuming tasks are the most important. So dive into them. Take ownership of them. Recognize the value of your efforts and allow that to motivate you to do more. You are sowing into something long-term, be patient, and in due time you will see the fruits of your hard-work.

 

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Evan Bolton is the Founder/Director of mission:soccer. High school soccer coach. Writer. World Traveler. Storyteller. Follower of Jesus. 

You can follow him on twitter @EvanBolton_

Follow mission:soccer on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Vimeo for updates and news about our upcoming projects, events and trips.