Stories

Coming Full Circle

Nov 18, 2014

Claire Rogers

Mike Watkins’ connection to the orphan child began several years ago, long before he began partnering with Back2Back as a volunteer and mission trip participant.

Growing up on the west coast, Mike described his childhood as difficult and lonely. After his father left when he was a baby, he lived with his young mother. It was difficult times for a young boy. He bounced around between relatives, changing schools many times. Finally, at age 14, his elderly grandmother intervened; Mike moved to her home in Arizona during his freshman year of high school. Knowing she was not capable of caring for him long-term, his grandmother reached out to the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Milton and Catherine Hershey established the school in 1909 to provide a positive, structured home life year-round to help orphan children, as well as children from lower-income homes or challenging home environments. Mike’s application was accepted, and he spent the remaining three years of high school sharing a home with 15 boys on the opposite side of the country. This is why Mike can personally identify with one of the ministry arms of Back2Back.

“I grew up in a version of the Hope Program,” Mike shared. “I can relate to the orphan environment, and so I want to give back to kids who are growing up with similar challenges to the ones I faced.”

Today, Mike is passionate about serving children in the United States and abroad. Mike enjoys giving back by sharing his love of soccer with children. As he prepared to serve alongside his son with Back2Back Haiti, Mike gathered donated uniforms, soccer balls, cleats and shin guards, filling 15 bags to share with the Haitian children Back2Back serves. After months of preparation, Mike and the Life Point team were ready to distribute the equipment. Gathering the children in a circle, Mike shared his personal story with the children, giving testimony to the hope God gives.

Mike, with his oldest son standing next to him, encouraged the children, “When you grow up, give back to children as I am giving back to you. Use what God has given you to help others.”

Mike believes physical activity and team sports are critical components of a child’s physical and social development. But more importantly, it warms his heart to see the joy on the children’s faces when they slip on a soccer uniform and run freely after a new soccer ball. Mike can now see how his life has come full circle.

With an edge of emotion to his voice, he shared, “I love to touch the lives of youth. If I can spend even a moment with an at-risk kid, I want to do that. I see deeper service in my future. If that is in another part of the world, I’m open to it. I don’t think there could be a better job in the world than serving orphans.”

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