By Lee Davis
Jack Stein was on top of the world a couple of weeks ago. Soon he’ll be on the other side of it.
A recent graduate of Westminster School at Oak Mountain, Stein led the Knights to the Class 1A-3A state soccer championship in the first week of May. But he’s not spending his summer preparing to play college soccer or going through freshman orientation at a university. Instead, he’s traveling to London to follow the calling of his faith.
Stein and his friend, Jacob Welch, a former Westminster basketball star, are leaving home June 12 for a six-month stint working as staff members for Elm Park Baptist Church in the British capital.
“Our dads had talked to us about the possibility of taking a year off before going to college,” Stein said. “I remember thinking that not being in school for a while would be nice. A couple of friends had gone to London after they graduated and had an incredible experience, so when the opportunity came we decided to go.”
Stein – one of the highest-rated high school soccer players in Alabama – made the final decision to delay college in favor of the ministry after playing in the Disney Showcase Tournament in Orlando in late 2014.
“I realized that taking a year off might hurt my chances of playing college soccer one day,” he said. “But it was my calling from God to take this opportunity.”
Stein said his and Welch’s duties at the church will be “whatever they need us to do” but said they expect building a youth ministry to be their primary focus.
“The church has a lot of older members, so they want to attract more young people,” he said. “One way they may do that is by sponsoring sports camps. It would be cool to use soccer as a way to draw people my age to the Lord and the church.”
This trip won’t be Stein’s first visit to London. He attended the 2012 Summer Olympics with his parents but said this visit will be different.
“We were there for 10 days but basically went to the Olympic venues and back,” Stein said. “We didn’t really get to interact with the people that much. This time, it will be all about getting to know people and bringing them to Christ.”
Stein and Welch will return to Alabama in December. Soon after Christmas, they will leave again for mission work in either Central America or Australia.
“It will be kind of weird working in another part of the world while so many of our friends are having a blast in college,” Stein said. “A part of me would love to be with them, but I am so excited about this opportunity we’ve been given to serve.”
Whether Stein ever kicks a ball in college, his legacy in Alabama high school soccer is secure. Westminster-Oak Mountain is a small private school in Shelby County, but its soccer is big league. The Knights battled large-school powers Spain Park and Homewood to ties and lost only to Class 7A’s Hoover on the way to a 16-1-2 record and the Class 1A-3A crown.
“It’s been such a whirlwind,” Stein said. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet. We win the state championship, graduate and now I’m off to London. I was so happy for all the seniors on our team to go out as state champs because we worked so hard to get there.”
Stein said he was flattered when Erik McDaniel, the coach of Faith Christian, the team Westminster defeated in the 1A-3A finals, said the Knights had the best team in classes 1A through 6A.
“I appreciate his compliment,” Stein said. “Those schools are a lot bigger than we are and have great teams. But I honestly believe that we would have been competitive in any classification.”
Winning a championship was fun, but now Stein is focused on winning believers for his faith.
“That’s where I’ve been called, and I want to make the most of it,” he said.