Andrew Souter, a rising junior at Clayton High School, has been on mission trips before representing Horne Memorial United Methodist Church. None of those trips, however, saw him leave the country so when the opportunity to go on a weeklong mission trip to Haiti arose, he jumped at the chance.
Eight youth members and four adults traveled just outside of Port-au-Prince the last week of July to the Ryan Epps Home for Children, an orphanage that opened in 2007 with members from Horne Memorial routinely visiting ever since to lend assistance and help instill a strong Christian foundation.
The main objectives for the group were to help build desks for the orphanage as well as replace well batteries with new ones that store solar power. However, after attending an informational meeting leading up to the trip, Souter decided he wanted to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip as memorable as possible.
With the wheels turning in his mind, the soccer-crazed Souter came up with an idea.
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Knowing language differences could cause a barrier to what he wanted to accomplish, Souter’s thoughts went to the sport he loves more than any other as a way to connect.
“Before we leave (on mission trips), our church has meetings and gives us all the information,” Souter said. “So I went up to Butch and said I kind of want to do something extra special for the kids. I’ve never been before and I kind of want to make a lasting impact. I’ve been playing soccer forever and down there, it is very popular.”
Butch Huffman, a senior church member encouraged Souter’s vision and suggested that Souter look for donations.
Souter remembered seeing some information at a soccer showcase about the Passback Program and decided to send a speculative email. One day later, a representative from SOCCER.COM contacted Souter, asked for what was needed and agreed to help the 16-year old missionary out.
Brothers Mike and Brendan Moylan created Sports Endeavors Incorporated in 1984. SEI is now the parent company for SOCCER.COM. The brothers created the Passback Program in 1991 as a way to supply less fortunate children throughout the world with new and lightly used soccer gear. To date, the program, which is now administered in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, has delivered over a million items worldwide.
If I make an impact on one kid’s life and say, ‘Hey, even though you’re an orphan, you’re still loved by God,’ that would be great.
Clayton High School student on his soccer-themed mission trip to Haiti
“We continue to find more ways to collect and redistribute gear, but always we try and help those individuals locally that are looking to use soccer as a tool to make change,” said Passback Director Mike Thomas. “Andrew’s information was passed along to us through the SOCCER.COM President’s office. We were happy to help Andrew out with his project.”
While out at a soccer game, Souter received a call from his brother stating there were two huge boxes waiting for him at home.
Inside the boxes were over 75 soccer jerseys, two dozen pairs of cleats and 18 soccer balls.
The donations provided Souter the chance to organize some soccer games and instruction with the children.
“I want to play pick up games and try to get some organized games going,” Souter said just before embarking on the journey. “Maybe have a tournament or too. The biggest part is the language barrier. I still don’t know how that’s going to play out.”
Days before his trip, the Clayton teenager described his hopes and expectations for the journey.
“If I make an impact on one kid’s life and say, ‘Hey, even though you’re an orphan, you’re still loved by God,’ that would be great,” said Souter. “I’m just going to try to show them that God works through so many different ways including sports and athletics and just visiting with one another. He wants us to be with one another, to help one another so that’s one expectation that I have.”