Class of 2012: From Phoenix to Vienna, With Love, for Soccer Player
SECOND IN A SERIES
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
After graduating from GCU, Anthony Whitlatch plans to marry his college sweetheart and move to Europe in the same month — as if completing his undergraduate studies weren’t exciting enough.
Some young people would crack under the stress. But Whitlatch trusts that the challenging transitional period will strengthen his faith in God.
The former GCU soccer player and campus life leader is set to play this year for a semipro team in Austria through a Christian non-profit that places soccer players in foreign countries to practice ministry.
For him, the thrill of playing soccer abroad is secondary to his passion for discipleship.
Whitlatch, 22, who graduates with a degree in Christian studies, said his German language skills are next to nil. During tryouts in Vienna in March, the Valley native said the culture shock sunk in as he glanced to the sideline — aware he had no idea what the coach was shouting.
“If he was telling me to do something, I probably wasn’t doing it,” Whitlatch said. “There were times he would be speaking to the team in German and then ask someone, ‘OK, now who’s going to translate for that guy?’”
Changes coming quickly
Whitlatch will marry GCU graduate Karissa Kelsey on May 9. Their wedding is scheduled just days after graduation. They move to Vienna on May 19, even though Whitlatch said he’s unclear which team he will sign with.
Oregon-based Surge International helped Whitlatch get tryouts with fourth- and fifth-division Austrian clubs. The organization will handle his contract negotiations. In turn, Whitlatch plans to help out at soccer clinics for underprivileged youth and other Christian programs.
Whitlatch said he also looks forward to ministering to his European teammates as he did at GCU.
“He’s always been so strong in his faith,” said Miguel Benavides, who played with Whitlatch for four years at GCU and also may end up playing in Austria this year through Surge International.
“Even in my senior year, before the game he was always reading his Bible, always listening to Christian music,” Benavides said. “It fits him perfectly.”
Whitlatch, who is 5-foot-9 and 145 pounds, said he was intrigued by how fluid the game was played in Austria. It appeared less physical than he expected, which could suit his speed skills. At GCU, he was known as a tenacious defender with endless energy.
“He’s skinny, he’s thin — but the kid’s got wheels,” Benevides said. “He could run all day long.”
Traveling internationally is nothing new for Whitlatch. He has served on GCU missions to Germany, China and India.
A life of joy and faith
Jacob Page, who oversees GCU’s international missions and global outreach, said Whitlatch and Kelsey will bring their passion for serving God to Austria. He added that Whitlatch touched his life in the past four years with his calming demeanor, helping Page to focus during busy and stressful times on campus.
“I’m sure he’s feeling the pressure, but he consciously lives each day with joy and faith and says things like, ‘I know God will take care of me,’ and he really believes it,” Page said. “They both have the same heart and they’re very much of the same mindset. I definitely see them living cross-culturally overseas long-term.”
While his four years with GCU’s soccer team are part of his legacy at GCU, Whitlatch said he was proudest of helping establish prayer services around theGathering, the Tuesday evening spiritual event for students.
He takes off for Vienna knowing that, just like in the residence halls at GCU, he will have an opportunity to connect with individuals by sharing his beliefs about God and faith.
That confidence will carry him overseas, but Whitlatch admits that he will miss the campus community — and the intimate dorm-room discussions about spirituality — that shaped him.
“I’ve noticed that’s not really available in the real world, where you can just pop into a small Bible study with familiar faces,” Whitlatch said. “I’m going to miss that connection, that availability.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.