Life is a Vapor
After suffering a paralyzing neck injury during a surfing accident that nearly left him dead, Micah McElveen’s eyes were opened to the brevity of life. God used this tragic moment to turn Micah’s eyes from his own success and goals to the needs of others, which began to shape him and his wife’s future in ministry. “I had to break my neck to wake up,” Micah said, “God taught me my mortality.”
Through intensive rehabilitation and by God’s grace, Micah was eventually able to make a near full recovery and he was determined to make his second chance at life count. He wanted to direct his short life to what God says matters.
“God says over and over again to care for the poor, to go advance the gospel. And then He says the gospel is tied to caring for the poor. They’re inextricably linked,” Micah said. This became the driving philosophy of Micah and his wife Audrey’s life of ministry.
On Lord, help me understand my mortality and the brevity of life! Let me realize how quickly my life will pass! Look, you make my days short-lived, and my life span is nothing from your perspective. Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but VAPOR. Surely people go through life as mere ghosts. Surely they accumulate worthless wealth without knowing who will eventually haul it away. But now, oh Lord, on who am I relying? You are my only hope!
Sent to the Impoverished
God gave both Micah and Audrey a heart to help people in physical and spiritual need. They felt called overseas, particularly in Africa, where Micah had witnessed unimaginable poverty.
“Picture 300,000 people living on top of each other, raw sewage flowing through the streets. They’re in shanty dwellings or homeless with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or running water,” Micah illustrated. “There is trash built up that people are playing in and feeding off of. You can walk and see boys that are like skeletons. If the wind blew just right, you could see their exposed ribs through their tattered clothes.” After experiencing the depth of poverty in Africa, Micah did not want to spend the rest of his life forgetting what he saw, but serving God’s children in the toughest places and working to improve their livelihood.
For Audrey, it was the simplicity of the gospel being for everyone that motivated her to serve people overseas.
“When I came to know the Lord, it was one of those things that I felt like if God could rescue me and give me life, it’s not impossible for anyone. I saw throughout Scripture how Jesus constantly would touch the untouchables, who society or culture would reject. God sent me to the untouchables,” Audrey said.
“It’s breaking generational mindsets of poverty and even spiritual lostness.” – Audrey McElveen
Perhaps even more despairing than the physical suffering taking place was the lack of hope for the future. Micah explains that people grow up in these remote communities never knowing anything different.
“There’s a fatalistic mentality that is birthed in the context of ‘All I have known is this, all I see is this, and we surely can’t get out of this, so now we have to figure out how to just survive in the dump,’” Micah said.
“It is an endless cycle, and it is not as simple as a lack of willpower,” Micah said.
Providing Purpose & Hope
Micah and Audrey’s work culminated into what is now Vapor Ministries, a humanitarian organization that develops sustainable community centers designed to alleviate poverty and make disciples in Africa and Haiti. They work to break the fatalistic mentality in these communities by introducing the love of God and making disciples through platforms like soccer, providing basic human needs like clean water, education, and health services, and developing sustainable economic opportunity through entrepreneurial training and micro-businesses.
“We see the impact of one child being able to go to school and get an education and at the same time be spiritually fed, their eyes are opened to purpose. It’s breaking generational mindsets of poverty and even spiritual lostness,” Audrey said.
“You come inside the center where you have food, water, education, health services, and you have disciple-making in the context of sports that you love,” Micah said. “Now you know you can actually hope for something more.”
The programs are not the end, but a means to get them to independence. Vapor Ministries’ goal is to give them the ability to shift their attention and energy elsewhere. “The impact is not just that a person now has access to water, but now their daughter doesn’t have to walk four miles to get water, and now they’re dealing with less typhoid or yellow fever,” Micah said. “They are no longer starving or illiterate but they can actually now sustain life and step into their God-given human potential.”
Micah and Audrey have seen how these components can break generational poverty in communities who had grown accustomed to living without hope. “It’s hard to have a vision towards something that you don’t have a concept of,” Micah said. “You give them these opportunities and suddenly they come to the conclusion ‘I matter.’ And that is huge.”
Philosophy for Enduring Communities
In order for this transformation to endure, Micah encourages disciple-making in Haiti and Africa to become indigenously-led. “I’m a big believer in indigenously-led outreach. You have amazing men and women that are full of the richness of God’s creative wonder. There’s unbelievable talent locked in God’s people everywhere,” Micah said. “We need to raise them up and empower them to lead, to not minimize the Word of God but allow the expression of ministry to make sense in their context. It is the natural expression of the biblical call to make disciples in all nations.”
“I think of success as being Maria, Eddie and Charles, who by the sweat of their own brow, are now providing for their own family,” Audrey said. “They’ve come to know Christ, been discipled, and are now disciple makers in the community, winning people to Christ.”
Micah shared that since they started 15 years ago, there are kids from their soccer leagues and education programs now in leadership roles in their regional offices. From the average Haitian perspective, the programs are all Haitian-led. The “we can do this, we’re transforming, we’re bought in” is what Micah believes is key.
Meeting Needs and Changing Lives
In 2020 alone, Vapor Ministries served 56 million cups of clean water and 1.8 million meals, provided medical treatment for over 250,000 children and adults, and made over 1 million gospel impressions among the under-reached and unreached. Families at The Signatry partnered with Vapor Ministries to support basic program initiatives as well as several special projects, including the construction of their West African regional office and funding a new thrift store to provide sustainable revenue.
“So, will you invest your short life, or will you waste your short life? To invest is to direct life’s energy, time, talent, treasure, influence your resources to steward all that you are, and towards that which will matter forever,” Micah said. “And so, we want to invest our lives, spend our lives in such a way where that investment will echo in eternity and will matter forever.”
Join the Mission
Interested in investing in humanitarian work and gospel outreach overseas? Go to the “Charities” tab in your fund’s portal and use the Cause filter “Humanitarian Aid and Relief” to become a monthly supporter, sponsor a child, support a specific project, or make an unrestricted grant to charities like Vapor Ministries. Visit the Vapor Ministries website for more information on their special projects.