As an incoming freshman, David Irby ’75 had no idea how much impact APU—then Azusa Pacific College—would have on his life. Thirty-five years later, he is founder and CEO of Surge International, a ministry that uses soccer to bridge political and social gaps around the world in order to spread the Gospel. In an interview featured in the summer 2010 issue of APU Life, Irby attributes his desire to begin a sports ministry to his time at APU. “I heard Tony Campolo speak during Spiritual Emphasis Week, and he asked, ‘Who really wanted to do something for Christ?’ I quickly put my hand up. Soon after, I accepted an invitation from an APU soccer player to bring the team to Mexicali with the outreach program. My course was set,” said Irby.
Today, Surge International reaches more than 36 countries with offices in Vienna, Austria, and Salem, Oregon, and until recently sponsored the Cascade Surge professional soccer team. Unfortunately, because of the current economic climate, Irby made the difficult decision to end the team’s franchise. The Cascade Surge will now focus almost solely on youth clinics and school assemblies in the United States and occasionally send players to Europe for international projects. “With a scaled-down staff in Salem and Vienna, we facilitated soccer ministry in 10 countries this year and will only bring an entire team for special events,” he said.
These challenges have not dampened Irby’s conviction or enthusiasm for doing God’s work. In fact, Irby and the team remain optimistic about their potential global impact. “Ultimately, people all over the world want to live in peace with other countries, and we find that kicking a soccer ball around still helps us make instant friends and bridge gaps between cultures. Our wonderful players are willing to get kicked and spit on, not to mention risk their lives, for the opportunity to share about Christ whether with their words or their sportsmanship on the field,” Irby said. Surge International will continue to send short-term missions teams and soccer players to various locations around the world.