Ministry Spotlight: Ambassadors Football Pittsburgh
Networking At Its Best
Networking is a word that we often hear in the world of business, usually implying that a group of individuals is connecting to find or extend opportunity for referrals or advancement. It's a wonderful thing! But it rises to a whole new level when the mission and purpose of all connected parties is the same, and all involved are driven by the common goal of Empowering Kids.
Lenny Muckle has always had a love for soccer and for kids. Lenny’s own kids started playing soccer at around the age of 5. He has been a soccer coach at North Allegheny School District for 13 years. And in the 90s, he was soccer coach at Perry Traditional Academy. He often ended his days discouraged and found himself talking to his wife about how the kids that he was working with needed more skills, training, and time. They weren’t getting the development they needed. These urban kids knew basketball, baseball, and American football very well. But, many of them were natural athletes that just knew nothing about the game of soccer (European Football). They didn’t know that it was something that they could be great at and that it could greatly benefit them. It was a whole new world that he believed they needed to know more about. She told him to do something about it and start a club of his own. That was not Lenny’s plan. But, he listened. He moved forward and He allowed God’s plan to unfold. He started Youth Enjoying Soccer Athletic Club (YESAC).
Lenny started networking with Christian organizations in the Pittsburgh area that were already reaching kids in the city; organizations that loved kids and wanted to make a difference in their lives. At the time, his biggest support was the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation (PLF). The PLF allowed Lenny to come under their umbrella as a 501©3. The PLF’s youth-serving organization was The Pittsburgh Youth Network, known today as the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation (PKF). In 2005, YESAC merged with Ambassadors In Sport International and became AIS Pgh, around the same time that PYN transitioned to PKF.
PKF has had the same purpose and agenda as Lenny for the last 19 years…to empower kids. There has always been a mutual understanding that kids need resources, time, and opportunity. When given what they need, these kids are able to be and do whatever they set their minds to. So, how did a soccer coach achieve all of this? He developed a plan and he became a part of a network who believed in kids and trusted God to lead them.
Over the years, Lenny worked with his son, daughter, and son-in-law to change lives with a ball, an open field, a van, and the Word of God. They worked in areas of the city that PKF already had some influence in, the Hill District and the Northside. But quickly, their influence effectively reached surrounding urban areas through additional partnerships. As a result, these kids have not only come to enjoy the game of soccer. They have thrived, going on to play in high school and in college.
There have also been a few surprises along the way:
1. Over the last few years, there has been a great impact on the refugee and immigrant community that is living throughout our city. Over 20 different countries have been represented in their camps. In 2013, AIS was re-named and re-branded as Ambassadors Football for the purpose of unifying all of the ministries in the 23+ countries currently served. They are now officially identified as Ambassadors Football Pittsburgh. Lenny and his staff strive to make a difference in these kids’ lives. To further their growth and experiences, Lenny gives them the opportunity to attend PKF’s Surf City Michigan Camp. There, they not only play soccer, they ride wave runners on Lake Michigan, ride horses, and climb sand dunes. Most importantly, they continue to experience the love of Christ. Last year, one of the foreign born kids told him that Surf City was the best week of his life. He also made a firm commitment to follow Christ.
2. Who knew that one of the most influential times in his soccer ministry would be the time spent driving kids to and from camp and games? Lenny and his staff can spend two hours before and after camp and games picking up kids and taking them home. Driving for hours in their 15-passenger van gives him an opportunity to listen to what’s going on in their lives. They want to be heard. Lenny and his staff take the time to earn the right to speak Truth into their lives. He believes that people don’t care what you know until they know you care. Ironically, this means of great investment has become their greatest need. They desperately need a new van, really two. One of his vans will not pass inspection this year and needs to be replaced. At the end of June, it will be out of commission. The other van is not far behind. So, they are trying to raise money for two functioning vans. http://pgh.ambassadorsfootball.org/news/vanfund/
Lenny’s journey has been full of struggles and triumphs. He lost his son, Lenny Muckle II, just a few years back when he struggled with his health. He had such a great personality, love for God, and love for kids and soccer! He had a passion for sharing the Gospel of Christ through soccer ministry. But Lenny views his son’s death as a triumph, not a tragedy. He knew what he was here to do, and he was honored and humbled to be used by God every day!
Ambassadors Pittsburgh’s reach goes beyond The Hill District, The Northside, East Liberty, and surrounding communities. It extends to Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Africa, and many other countries because of the families that now find themselves living in the city of Pittsburgh. This soccer ministry has become a champion in giving these kids a hope and a future. Their program has excelled in competitions, winning Regionals twice in their indoor soccer program and going on to win the national title. Their Futsal Program is also widely known as being one of the best! They continue to strive for excellence in serving God and the kids of Pittsburgh, using their gifts to further the Kingdom of God.
Learn more about Lenny and Ambassadors Pittsburgh at their Facebook Page