Mark and Becky Wright were both born and raised in Polk County, Florida. They are both from families that not only emphasized the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but encouraged dedication and service to Him.
Mark Wright grew up seeing a deep burden for world missions from his grandparents, Jim and Marty Welch. Local missions was the heartbeat of his grandfather, Jim. He was instrumental in helping start two powerful local ministries (Lighthouse Ministries and Lakeland Christian School) in the town where Mark grew up. Seeing the impact those two ministries has had on the Lakeland community has challenged Mark to see the vision God has given him take shape and be used as a tool to win souls for Christ.
Using sports as that tool just made sense to Mark. He has had a passion for sports since he was old enough to take part in them and kept that love and enthusiasm all the way through his football career. Mark still holds two school records at ASU for (longest field goal at 57 yards and most consecutive field goals, 16).
Mark graduated from Appalachian State with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration. He then went into the corporate sector for seven years and God has used every step of his career since then to prepare him for this task. It is Marks fervent desire to use his past business experience and education to go about his "Father's business" and see people come to Christ and/or strengthen their walk with Him.
In 2008 Mark knew that it was time to submit to a calling God had started placing on his heart in college and that was to begin a sports ministry. He had a vision to do a sports ministry unlike any that he had ever worked with while in high school and collegiate sports. His mission was to disciple professional athletes in their walk with Christ and then give them opportunities to reach out to orphans and disadvantaged youth. Idols Aside Ministries launched to fulfill that calling in January 2009. Since January of 2009, Idols Aside has seen hundreds of decisions for Christ on and off of fields, courts, classrooms, locker rooms and on international mission trips. They have also been instrumental in growing and developing relationships with professional athletes in the NFL, MLB, NHL and Professional Wakeboarding for the cause of discipling these men and furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Becky was born into a family in full time Christian service. Her father, Edward K. Brown Jr., has dedicated his life to leading and strengthening churches and Bible schools all over the world. Although she has always shared her parents burden for missions, it was not what she has been involved in full time either.
A graduate of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, she went into the non-profit sector straight out of FSC. Being hired as the Public Relations Director of the Polk County Chapter of American Red Cross prepared her for a role at Samaritans Purse after marrying Mark and joining him in Boone, North Carolina. After relocating back to central Florida, God called Becky into a career that she considers a daily ministry, teaching. Although teaching will always be near and dear to her heart God is now allowing her to be full time at home and a support to Idols Aside.
Mark and Becky were given the amazing joy of becoming parents in July of 2006 and March of 2010. Grace Ann and Hope Lynn continue to add light and life to their home and to their ministry. Their girls have taught them so much more about their Fathers love and the amazing sacrifice He made in giving his only Son. Their passion now is one thing... introducing others to the one and only true living God and challenging them to have "no other Gods" before Him!
IAM Florida Director
Jeff Shills is from Lakeland, FL and graduated from the University of Florida in 2002. He recommitted his life to Christ in 2009 and since has been dedicated to bringing the lost to Know, Love, and Obey our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Matt. 28: 19-20. For the past 7 years, Jeff has been married to a beautiful woman of God named Molly and they are parents to 3 active and amazing children; Cameron(6yrs), Tucker(4yrs), and sweet Baby Lillian(4mos on 8.20.17). Jeff has spent the past 9 years in the diverse and fast paced agriculture/produce industry, specializing in buying and operations from farm to the customer’s door. God called the Shills home from Delray Beach, FL last February to be closer to family and focus more deeply on God’s calling for their family. Jeff and Molly could not be more humbled by the opportunity to walk alongside Mark, Becky, the IAM staff and partners to continue to reach the fatherless and troubled youth for Christ. They have committed to Follow the Lord to every corner that they are Called. Galatians 6:9 For let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the appropriate time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Captain Blake Smith
Sons Without Fathers Fishing Pro
Captain Blake Smith has been involved with Idols Aside in so many ways. Blake is a Pro Angler on the Walmart FLW Tour and currently serves as their chaplain, where him and his wife Meagan and their three daughters serve all season long. Blake's true passion is fishing for souls and helps us teach youth how to fish on our retreats.