My wife Annie and I are the proud parents of Elijah Brice Shaner. Together we love hiking, reading, being outside, spending time with friends, and laughing together. We were both collegiate athletes, but our greatest passion is Jesus Christ and creating spaces for people to encounter Jesus.
How and Why I became a MAI Missionary:
From a young age, I developed a passion for soccer and Christ. Throughout my life, the Lord began to merge these passions together into a calling to use sports ministry to advance the gospel. MAI played an intricate part through the Summer Academy in Chicago and later through the residency in Charlotte. God began to further this calling during our early years of marriage as we both served on staff through the Bridge Community Church in Indiana. There, I launched a sports ministry and saw the importance of “equipping the saints for ministry” as Paul writes. God soon began a new calling for the our family to help launch an MAI office in Orlando. The calling was clear and we are excited to use the many ways God has equipped and prepared us to impact the city of Orlando for the sake of the gospel.
The Christian Union Sports Club (CUSC) (in Colombia known as the “Social and Sport Corporation of Colombia”–COSDECOL), officially founded in 1991 in Medellín, evolved out of a neighborhood soccer tournament that was organized as a way to reach out to young men who were being recruited into the life of violence and crime spawned by the Medellín Drug Cartel. Mark Wittig, an American who arrived in Medellín in 1986 with his family to teach at a university/seminary, founded the tournament along with other local friends.
A young leader from the neighborhood, a participant in the tournament, turned his back on the “cartel life” and began to work with Mark in developing a soccer program for adolescents. While Alvaro Cano would coach the team of young soccer players, Mark would teach them values and principles from the Word of God. Out of this initial group several became Christians and entered a period of discipleship with Alvaro and Mark. They later became coaches in the program, and more teams were organized in other neighborhoods of the city. Over a process of time, the CUSC grew and today has 32 full-time and part-time staff, 130 soccer teams with 3,400 participants from the poorest neighborhoods of the city, a citywide soccer league, a brownie, cookie and cake business that employs 28 young people full-time, and a developing sports and retreat facility. The CUSC has also established sports programs in sixteen vulnerable areas of the country, mainly rural.
Chie and I have two children Joe and Jen. I accepted Jesus when I was 18 years old at Word of Life Bible camp in Schroonlake NY. This is where I met Chie for the first time.
God opened the doors for me to study abroad. First he went to Word of life Philippines for 6 months to learn Bible and English, then I went to Word of life NY for 2 years and Israel college of the Bible for a year. I then attended Grace college for 2 years and Seminary for a year and half to finish my degrees in Intercultural ministries.
Chie accepted Jesus when she was 13 yrs old through a missionary from Indiana. She went to Lancaster Christian high school and went to Word of life Bible institution. She went back to Japan and worked at mission organization for a year and went to Israel college of the Bible for a year.
I am married to my beautiful wife Hayley and God blessed us with 3 wonderful children. I am all about God and family. I am a PE teacher, Men’s head soccer coach, and Women’s head soccer coach at Page High School in Franklin, TN. I grew up in south Nashville in Antioch, TN and because of the diversity and their love for soccer in Antioch I found myself falling in love with soccer as well. My heart has always wanted to give back to the inner city areas of Nashville because of that love for soccer that it gave me. I love God and love others. Oh and I cheer on Liverpool FC! YNWA
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home with great parents. The area I grew up in Nashville had many different families of different Nationalities. Growing up and loving my friends around me I always was excited to learn about their culture. Falling in love with soccer and it being the worlds top sport God put a heart and desire in me to link my faith and soccer together. God has had it on my heart for years and has finally brought the opportunity and timing for me to get involved with the Nashville Urban Eagles. I was blessed to be involved in 3 Brazil Tours with the Eagles and MAI. In prep for those tours we did our pre camp with the Charlotte Urban Eagles and I felt like God was showing me what we could bring to Nashville inner city soccer. When God opened the door to work with the MAI and the Eagles Brazil Tour, after that first night in Brazil a passion for missionary work rose up in me that I really can’t explain. The only way to put it in perspective is, I overwhelmingly knew I was right where God purposed me to be. God has continued to open opportunities for me to do mission work to Brazil and now he has opened the gates for me to go back to Nashville and serve in that community. I have always had something stirring in my heart for Nashville because it was the diverse soccer in Nashville that made me fall in love with soccer and God has brought me into my career through that experience.
Tom’s resume includes a combined total of 31 seasons from a multitude of organizations, both boys and girls. At the high levels, he has head coached in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and assistant coached at Tusculum University (NCAA Division II). Tom has also head coached high school boys at Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) and Christ Presbyterian Academy (CPA), girls high school soccer at CPA, and both boys and girls Division I club soccer. Tom has been named “Coach of the Year” 15 times, he’s had 14 state final appearances, 9 state championships, and he holds the record for the most consecutive high school state championships (5). When it comes to community and committee involvement, Tom has an extensive list. He is the Director of Eagles Academy Nashville and International Youth Tours with the Charlotte Eagles (both part of Missionary Athletes International). He sits on boards including the United Soccer Coaches Association Faith Based Coaching Board, the Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association Executive board, the United Soccer Coaches Association Award of Excellence committee, and chairs the Pinnacle Award for the United Soccer Coaches Association. He also chairs the Division II-A All State rankings as well as the All State team. He will also be a presenter at the United Soccer Coaching National Convention in 2019 and 2020. Tom resides in Nashville, TN with his wife, Jodi, and two children.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
My life was drastically changed when I went on tour as a player, and I saw that some of my own players could have the same experience if I was able to provide that opportunity for them. Through connections with the Week of Champions and my college soccer coach Stephen Jones, I was able to contact David Sanford and pursue my passion for sports ministry.
Grew up in Maryland
Grace Brethren Christian School – Clinton, MD – graduated 1990
Liberty University – Cross-cultural Studies – graduated 1994
MAI tours and camps in USA and Europe since 1989
Full-time MAI staff since 1997
1999-2003 Moscow, Russia
2003-2007 Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
2007- Rivne, Ukraine
Married Olena Forsyuk (Merchant) 2001
2 daughters – Michelle and Melody
Partnering with and assisting the Christian Football Club “Nadiya” (Hope) and supporting soccer ministry in Ukraine as a founding member of the Christian Football Union of Ukraine (CFUU / ХФСУ)
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
I joined tours to Denmark, Norway and then Russia and all over Europe. I also worked some camps in the States before focusing on Russia and Ukraine. God showed me that I can and should use the skills and talents that He has given me to serve Him and society. My life has been saturated with soccer and God has inserted me into the Slavic map. Pray for these people. Life here is not all about fun and games. It’s tough. People have eyes but do not see; ears but do not hear. And many seem to prefer being blind and deaf. But there still are some honest seekers and youth that need God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of sins.
- Originally from Northern Virginia
- Grew up playing all sports (I love to compete) and soccer is my favorite.
- Graduate of James Madison University
- Moved to the Holy Land (Israel) in 2014 and have been working in youth ministry since. (Young Life and MAI)
How & why I became a MAI Missionary?
Jesus, soccer, international…these are the 3 things I want my life to be about and I found a way to mix them together serving with MAI. I think soccer is a beautiful game and it brings me joy to watch, coach and play it. My experience in Nazareth and Haifa made me fall in love with the local culture (Palestinian and Israeli) and God continues to show how good He is day by day.