Jen and I first participated in MAI as college students in the summer of 2009 through the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy. Both collegiate soccer players, we fell in love with sports ministry. We saw the huge impact “rolling out a soccer ball” could have in relationship building and ministry opportunities. We were married in September of 2012 and now live in a low-income neighborhood in the city of West Chicago. God has called Jen and I to the nations living in our neighborhood. Our neighbors are predominantly Hispanic immigrants and Iraqi refugees, who all seem to love soccer! It is an ideal place to be a soccer player, coach, friend, mentor and neighbor to the people around us. We are excited about the things that God is already doing in and among our neighbors and all that is to come!
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
The Chicago Eagles Summer Academy opened our eyes to how soccer can be used as a tool to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We each had felt the Lord calling us to missions and ministry in other cultures. As we finished college, we pursued areas of ministry overseas and God continued to put a soccer ball in our hands. Soccer is a talent the Lord has given us to use for His Kingdom. We love being part of Mission Athletes International, an organization that seeks to train leaders in ministry and equip and empower people to serve through the game of soccer. A game with an impact that changes lives.
I was born in Denver, Colorado and have lived around there my whole life. I have been raised in a Christian family by loving and caring parents with 3 younger siblings. I started playing soccer when I was 3 years old and have been in love with it ever since. I also had some incredible missions opportunities in high school, and on some of them I started to learn how to use soccer as a tool to bring the gospel in a way I had never known. After high school I decided to play soccer at John Brown University, a small Christian school in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. My time at JBU has probably been the best 4 years of my life. I have built incredible relationships and have been on an incredible team that seeks Christ in everything we do, both on and off the field. I also first joined the Chicago Eagles after my sophomore year for the first time. Overall the last several years have been a great time of growth and challenges, and I feel ready for the next step I am taking with the Eagles.I was born in Denver, Colorado and have lived around there my whole life. I have been raised in a Christian family by loving and caring parents with 3 younger siblings. I started playing soccer when I was 3 years old and have been in love with it ever since. I also had some incredible missions opportunities in high school, and on some of them I started to learn how to use soccer as a tool to bring the gospel in a way I had never known. After high school I decided to play soccer at John Brown University, a small Christian school in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. My time at JBU has probably been the best 4 years of my life. I have built incredible relationships and have been on an incredible team that seeks Christ in everything we do, both on and off the field. I also first joined the Chicago Eagles after my sophomore year for the first time. Overall the last several years have been a great time of growth and challenges, and I feel ready for the next step I am taking with the Eagles.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
I decided to join the MAI staff after two life-changing summers at the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy. During this time I felt the Lord slowly changing both my heart and my own plans. I felt a calling to serve His people and kingdom in some way, and I was given the opportunity to do this through soccer with the Eagles. I feel confident that this is where the Lord has me for this next season and that He will continue to do a great work through this ministry like He has already done. I am very excited to join this ministry and the vision that it has going forward and to use the gifts I’ve been given to join them in spreading the gospel.
I had a great childhood. I was involved in a great church with people who had authentic relationships with Christ. It was normal to be a pastor’s kid. Life was good. Then, in third grade my dad was diagnosed with a glioblastoma. A glioblastoma is a really bad brain tumor, a grade four. He had virtually no chance of survival. It was very difficult for me to see my dad get sick, lose his hair, go to the hospital all the time, and be at friends’ houses all the time. Through all the hard times I began to realize God was really there for me. He never left me. God was directing my path even when I did not understand where that path was leading. After i graduated high school I found myself at a small Christian college called Columbia International University in Columbia South Carolina. I was able to play soccer while I was studying to become an elementary teacher. God changed my plans once again and I ended up finishing grad school with a Masters in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for me in the future.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary?
I went on my first missions trip to the Dominican Republic in the 8th grade and discovered my love for kids. The next year I was invited to be a part of a mission trip to Colombia South America with the Charlotte Eagles. There I discovered I could use the sport I love and share Jesus at the same time. I immediately was hooked. From that point on I went on the Charlotte Eagle’s Youth Tour any chance I got. I ended up going on the Youth tour from ’10 to ’13. As I began my life in college I became too old for the Youth Tour and was pointed towards another branch of MAI, the Chicago Eagles Academy. I participated in my first Academy in ’14 and have never looked back. I fell in love with the kids who would come to our camps, and blessed to see their lives changed forever because of Jesus. I found my niche up in the Chicago Academy and I plan to help in any way I can in the future. I love being able to use the sport I love to glorify the God I love.
I have always been a fairly disciplined guy. Both my parents were pretty high up in the Military and raised me with good morals as well. My mom was a Full Bird Col and my Dad was a LT Col.
But I wasn’t raised in a church. Both my parents believed in a creator but never showed me him. When I was in 8th grade on November 30th 2008 I accepted Christ at a church lock-in. Since that night I have considered myself a Christian and a follower of Christ. But it wasn’t until tragedy happened did I realize I was so focused on law keeping rather than relationship. My junior, year of high school my Grandmother was diagnosed with lung caner. A month Later my mother was also diagnosed with lung cancer. Then I broke my foot and needed surgery and then tore my achilles. Then, during my senior year of College my father was diagnosed with Lung cancer. Only 3 months later I tore my ACL, LCL, MCL and meniscus playing soccer. I asked myself: What will law keeping do for me now? What good was being clean and looking clean? Looking back on everything I can clearly see God’s hands parting the waters and protecting my heart during those times, but it taught me a valuable lesson. My “perfect” law keeping would leave no room for Jesus on that cross. God would rather have relationship, than me trying (and failing) at being perfect.
How & why did I became a MAI Missionary
I heard about the Eagles through one of my coaches and his wife my sophomore year of college. After seeing the affects it had on some of my teammates, I finally decided to give it a go going into my junior year. The experience was life transforming. The community is like the community Paul speaks of in Acts. I couldn’t get enough of it- I truly felt alive and thriving when I was in the Eagles environment. I know this is where I’m supposed to be and there’s no doubt in my mind God is going to be doing some amazing things!
I was born and raised in Brazil, but moved to the US for missions training when I was 22. I played soccer at and graduated from Grace College (Winona Lake, IN) with a degree in Psychology and Intercultural Ministry. My wife, Tasha, and I have four children. Together we served in soccer ministry in Japan for 3 years. I joined the Chicago Eagles staff in January 2015, with the primary responsibilities of being the on-site camp director and an Urban Eagles coach. I now primarily focus on coaching and discipling the U11 boys team, but also help to lead the Summer Academy trips to Brazil.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
My first experience with MAI was while at Grace College. My team traveled to Japan with the Southern California Seahorses in 2005. My heart was drawn to soccer ministry, and God called me and my family to serve in Japan from 2010-2013. We helped Masa and Chie Yokota to establish the Seahorse Soccer International Club. Though this experience, God’s call to long-term sports ministry became clear. After I joined the Chicago Eagles’ Summer Academy trip to Brazil in 2013, Tasha and I felt led to join the ministry in Chicago.
I grew up in Wheaton, IL, attended Taylor Univ. and graduated from North Central College in Naperville, IL. I taught elementary physical education for 10 years before attending Ravenscrest Chalet Bible School in Estes Park, CO, one of the many Torchbearers Centers worldwide. I then spent 8 years running a basketball ministry through the Torchbearer Center in Holsbybrunn, Sweden called Fackelbararna. I met and married Margreet while in Sweden and their oldest son was born in Sweden. Margreet was born and grew up in IJmuiden, The Netherlands, a coastal town just west of Amsterdam. She worked in the sales department of one of the largest steel companies in Europe before heading to Bible School in Sweden. While in Sweden, we hosted six different Eagles soccer teams from both the Charlotte and Chicago offices. Since moving to the USA (2002) we have been working with the Chicago Eagles soccer ministry. I work mostly with the camps and Golf Outing, and Margreet recently stepped away after many years of helping with camp registration and general office work. We have two boys, Wesley (2001) and Luuk (2004)
After a season of coaching and pursuing a Master’s degree, I am shifting roles to be more involved with strategic Gospel work, here in West Chicago. Originally from Staunton, VA, I bring a mix of skills and life experiences – having worked in higher education, public service, and, most recently, my local church.
I obtained a B.A. from Bluefield College (2013), majoring in Graphic Communications and minoring in Christian Studies. I then completed my M.A. in Intercultural and Urban Studies (2018) from Moody Theological Seminary.
I currently hold a USSF D License.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
From my initial involvement with MAI in 2011 until the present, I’ve had an array of positive experiences with gospel workers who make up this organization – first as an academy participant during college, then as a research partner in seminary. The people I’ve known and worked with for the past eight years are dear friends, devoted co-laborers, and they seem to always look for ways to improve. The thought of engaging people and communities with the intent to communicate Christ during this period of MAI’s history, with the available resources and support staff, is one that excites me very much.
|I love people, I love sports, but most of all I love Jesus.
I was born into a missionary family on the island of New Guinea in Indonesia. As I grew up I was privileged to be a part of my parents ministry of discipleship to many youth in the area. Along with that, my dad would often take me to the gym on Saturday afternoons and coach me in all manner of sports. Out of these influences grew a desire to see people come to know the love of Jesus through sports.After graduating from college I returned to Indonesia to be near my family for a time. Because of needs at the nearby international school I found myself teaching PE and art. Through the first year I only taught part-time and I fully intended to return to the US by the end of that first year. But God had much better plans for me, which included another two years in Indonesia, developing a love for teaching (which I continued to do throughout my time there), and meeting my wife (who filled in at the clinic at the school where I taught). After getting married Mykie and I moved to Chicago where she is attending grad school and we have been pursuing the Lord’s guidance on what comes next.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
|My sister and her husband have been a part of the Chicago Eagles for some time, and it is through them that I learned of the ministry. During the summer of 2014 I participated in the program for college students. Ever since that time I have felt drawn to the Eagles, sensing that God is at work among and through these people.|
I was born and raised in Knoxville, TN in a Christian home with very supportive Christian parents. I went to Christian private schools all the way through high school, but I never really understood the Gospel. My junior year of high school, one of the former soccer coaches asked me to go on the Charlotte Eagles Youth Tour to Brazil that summer. I accepted his offer because I loved playing soccer and playing in Brazil sounded like a dream. Little did I know that this trip would completely change my life. In Brazil was the first time I ever witnessed the ability to play soccer for the Lord, and that is when the Gospel finally clicked for me. Because of that, on the third night in Brazil, I fully surrendered my life to the Lord and gave everything up to Him. Ever since then, I have been a firm believer in using soccer as a tool to spread the Gospel, and I have obtained a passion for sports ministry. After I graduated high school, I was able to attend Transylvania University in Lexington, KY where I had the opportunity to play soccer all four year, meet a beautiful woman of God that I am lucky enough to call my wife, Charlotte, and continue using my passion for sports ministry to reach others. With the opportunities God has given me in my past, I am stoked to see what He has awaiting Charlotte and I in the future.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
The summer of my junior year in high school, 2013, I went to Brazil with Charlotte Eagles Youth Tour and that was my first ever missions/sports ministry trip. On that trip is where I gave my life to Christ and learned the joy that comes form playing for Jesus. Then the following summer, 2014, I went back on Youth Tour with the Charlotte Eagles to Brazil to learn more about sports ministry and how I could use the sport I have been playing all my life to reach the lost and spread the Gospel. After that trip, I was hooked on sports ministry. As I graduated high school and went to college, I felt like I was too old for Youth Tour, but I still wanted to spend my summers playing soccer and serving the Lord. So the summer of 2015 I decided to go to Germany for a couple weeks with a few guys from the Charlotte Eagles. After running soccer camps in Germany, I felt like God was calling me to sports ministry. So I dropped my plans for an engineering degree, changed my major to psychology, and told God, “Here I am, send me.” Then the next summer, 2016, I was pointed to the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy and I absolutely loved it. I fell in love with the kids in the neighborhood and being able to watch them experience Jesus and have their lives changed. Also, in the same summer, I went to the Olympics in Brazil with a small team from the Charlotte Eagles and used sports ministry to share the Gospel with Olympic athletes, coaches, and fans. It was incredible to see that no matter how old someone gets or how successful they become, their life can still be changed by Jesus. The summer of 2017 I found myself back with the Chicago Eagles to see if this was where God wanted me. I felt at home up in Chicago and knew that was God’s way of telling me that I am home. I am excited to see how God uses me in Chicago and I am ready to serve in any way I can.
I was born and raised in Brazil as a missionary kid. My parents always told me about Jesus and how he saved me from my sins, and one afternoon I decided to give my life over to Him. However, because I was so young, I still didn’t completely understand what it meant to be a Christian. I was a good daughter and obeyed my parents mainly out of habit and fear of being disciplined, not out of love for the Lord. My family values were what defined me.
When I turned thirteen, my family had to go back to the United States to raise support. Going to a new school, a new church, having different friends, and being immersed in a new culture terrified me, but it was a turning point in my relationship with God. The Lord allowed all of these changes for a reason. I knew that I had a choice to make–either I would finally decide to follow Jesus and have a faith of my own, or continue on as a girl who obeyed simply out of habit and family values. God changed me that year, He gave me a faith of my own and a new identity.
Throughout high school, God put the desire in my heart to become a missionary. When I graduated, I had the privilege of studying at the Word of Life Bible Institute in Brazil for a year during which I met João Pedro who is now my husband. Soon after, I headed to college as a nursing major.
Today, I seek Him first. God, and not my family values, is my motivation for living. All that I have and all that I can do I wish to use for His glory.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
I came to know about MAI through the Chicago Eagle Summer Academy in 2016 during which I came to love sports ministry. I already knew God had called me to be a full-time missionary, however, I didn’t know where or when. I married a man who had the same calling and as newlyweds, we began a process of becoming missionaries with an organization in Brazil. However, after a year, we realized that God was calling us to something more specific–sports ministries. After much prayer and counseling, we decided to leave behind our life in Brazil and dive into soccer ministry with MAI. I am very excited to see what God has in store for us.
I had the blessing of growing up in home that served the Lord, but did not learn about a personal relationship with Jesus until college. My first experience with MAI in the Summer Academy brought me to a deep understanding of a life driven by my faith in Jesus, learning how He is the center, rather than just a part.
After I graduated in 2016 from Greenville University, in southern Illinois, with my Bachelors Degree in Special Education, God brought me to my one year residency with the Eagles. Initially, this was to me a buffer year to “figure out what I wanted to do with my life”. But boy, was I wrong in my intentions, quickly learning about my own passion for sports ministry and seeing it as a full time desire.
Following residency, God took me back to Greenville, coaching for a program that gave so much to me as a collegiate athlete while getting my Masters in Education. I gained valuable college coaching experience and also developed a passion for mentoring and ministry for women in this stage of life.
These experiences have brought me to a passion for full-time ministry with MAI and a desire to share the gospel through soccer.
How and why I became a MAI Missionary?
I was introduced to MAI through the Chicago Summer Academy in 2014, going into my Junior year of college. I fell in love with the ministry that summer, not knowing the Lord was changing my heart from a future in classroom teaching to a future as a missionary with the same community who helped transform my faith and taught me so much about a personal relationship with Jesus. My first experience with MAI opened my eyes to how the sport of soccer can be used as a platform to share the gospel and I am thrilled to join staff full-time in faithfulness to this mission.
I was born in the United States, but I grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines. I accepted Christ in my heart when I was young, but it never really sunk in until end of high school and beginning of college. I started playing soccer at a young age and had many opportunities to play all over Asia. I attended the University of Northwestern-Saint Paul in Minnesota and played soccer there all four years. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology. I was a nanny for an awesome family for 3 years. And now I’m in Chicago with MAI and the Eagles.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary
I participated in the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy in 2014 and I fell in love with the ministry. After the summer, I knew that God wanted me to be apart of MAI. I have always had a heart for people and love for the beautiful game of soccer and God led me to MAI where my passions collided, with the ultimate goal in sharing Jesus with others. I belong to Jesus and I belong on the pitch. I’m glad I found a place where those two met. I went through the Residency program 2016-2017 with my focus on the Summer Academy. And I have committed to 2 years on staff with the Chicago Eagles.
I (Leo) was born in Goiânia, Brazil. I grew up in a Christian home with my mom, dad (Cleuza and Josias), older sister (Tânitha), and older brother (Alessandro). I was baptized when I was 14 years old at Igreja de Cristo do Novo Horizonte. I was an English teacher for youth while obtaining my college degree, and when I was 22, I was invited to be a youth leader assistant in Bookham, England. A year later I was back in Brazil but missions was still in my heart. After three years, which included translating for 4 Medical Boat trips in the Amazon (I met Nicole in one of those trips in 2009) and a trip to Africa, I decided to embrace my calling in full time ministry.
A few years later I ended up moving to the US so that I could learn more about sports ministry through the Chicago Eagles. During that time I also got a Master’s degree in Intercultural Studies and Urban Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. In 2014, I got married to Nicole and accepted the position of Chicago Eagles Executive Director. It was only in 2018 that I finally became an American Citizen!
I (Nicole) grew up in a loving home in Indianapolis, IN with both my parents (Jeff and Betsy) and two older brothers (Tom and AJ). I grew up going to church and was involved in the youth group for as long as I can remember. I remember accepting Christ in the car with my mom and was baptized by my pastor and father a short while later when I was about 8 years old. I went on many short-term mission’s trips with my church, which sparked a passion in my heart for missions.
I attended Christian school from kindergarten until senior year and was heavily involved in sports during all that time (older brothers are good for many things!). I went to college at Indiana Wesleyan University and studied Athletic Training. During that time, I went on a mission’s trip to the Amazon with the Indiana Wesleyan Men’s Soccer team and fell in love with sports ministry. It also didn’t hurt that I met Leo on that trip!
I graduated in 2010 with a degree in Athletic Training and by the grace of God got a job as a Certified Athletic Trainer at a Christian high school in Illinois. However, my passion for sports ministry only got stronger and I decided to be a part of the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy. I was a member in 2010 and have been involved with the Eagles ever since.
Why we became MAI missionaries:
When I (Leo) met the Chicago Eagles/Missionary Athletes International, I was drawn to their goal of using soccer as strategy to preach the gospel. The more I learned about the organization the more I realized how effective sports ministry was. I joined this ministry first because I knew the Lord had called me here. Also, I have seen amazing transformation happen through this ministry. I love MAI’s mission, vision and core values and have seen our staff live out the gospel in every circumstance. I am humbled to be a part of MAI and serve alongside Godly men and women.
I (Nicole) was first drawn to sports ministry because of my first exposure to it in Brazil. I truly felt in my heart that I was called to the mission field. Growing up I thought being a missionary meant being overseas. However, I began to realize that a missionary can be anyone, anywhere, anytime using anything. Why not use one of my biggest passions (sports) to share the love of Christ? I love where the Lord has led me and can’t even describe how amazing it is to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. I have been stretched and challenged in many ways but the rewards have far outweighed the tough things. I am so grateful for all the seasons!
We (the Medeiros) decided to serve with MAI as a family in 2016 and have been blessed tremendously. The relationships, miracles, transformation and salvation we have seen are a testament of God’s grace, forgiveness and unconditional love for all of us.
I am originally from Springfield, OH, but attended college in Illinois at Trinity International University.
I will be finishing my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology this spring. During my time at Trinity, I was a goalkeeper for the women’s team.
Even though I grew up in a Christian home, I didn’t really come to know the Lord personally until high school. I started playing soccer when I was pretty young and that became a huge passion in my life. For me there was school and soccer pretty much everyday, and then Sunday was for church and for time with God. God didn’t really seem to affect the other parts of my life.
By the time I reached high school I was searching for love and acceptance in all the wrong places–in school, in friendships, on the soccer field– and ultimately that left me pretty empty. It wasn’t until I met older girls from my high school team who were believers, that I saw how having a relationship with Jesus made them live differently. They showed me what it looked like to walk faithfully with the Lord in all areas of my life.
When it came time to pick a college I decided that I wanted to attend a Christian university where I would be challenged to grow in my walk with the Lord. It was through my college team that I first heard about MAI and the Chicago Eagles.
I was already experiencing how the game of soccer could be a ministry tool through my college experience, but when I learned about the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy and the opportunity to join other college students for a summer of sharing Christ with others through soccer and coaching kids’ camps, I knew I had to check it out.
I participated in the Chicago Eagles Summer Academy in 2019 and it honestly changed my life. I saw again the beauty of the game of soccer and how it can open doors to sharing the gospel and ministering to those who don’t yet know Jesus. From that summer I ultimately realized the desires that I have to share this love and hope with others, and that this is something I want to spend my life doing.
How & why I became a MAI Missionary?
I learned about MAI through the Chicago Summer Academy this past summer in 2019. I was greatly impacted by that summer with the Eagles and fell in love with the ministry. I have felt the call to missions for some time now, but was unsure in what context the Lord was calling me to serve.
The game of soccer has played a huge role in my life. I’ve learned so many life lessons from my coaches and the game has helped shape me as a person. I have been blessed in the ways that God has used sport in my life to teach me more about Him, about my identity, and so many things about life. I think it is incredible now to come full circle and have the opportunity to serve with a ministry that is rooted in using the environment of soccer to share the gospel. That is 100% something that I want to be apart of. I am beyond excited to join this ministry as a resident and serve faithfully in this mission.