I was exposed to new music, mainly punk rock, and since I played the guitar pretty well iI got into this inner circle fairly easily. A trade of some sort–music knowledge equalled a VIP pass into the skate community. What I had avoided up until now sadly became a regular part of my routine. I started bullying. My pride swelled as I began to smoke. I was an outcast, or in my mind, a true skateboarder.
The face of skateboarding was growing–Toy Machine, Girl, Birdhouse, Flip, and Zero were on the rise. However, you couldn’t get a decent skateboard in the Philippines, especially in Davao. Best-case scenario was you ordered a board from Manila, but even that was rare and hard to find. As a result it required two uncommon gifts: patience and money. Being a young student without a job, I had neither. I would beg my mom to get me cheap boards from the local shopping malls just so that I could have my own setup.
The decks were trash and the boards broke easily, the trucks didn’t turn, and the wheels hardly rolled, but it was the best feeling having your own board, and it was definitely better than nothing.
A little bit of spray paint covered up the tackiness of the off brand graphics. I skated pretty much everyday after school and every weekend. I befriended my classmate’s older brothers and started hanging out with an older group of friends on the weekends. I was the youngest of the crew and they introduced me to trouble I had yet to find. Late nights and parties, drugs, alcohol–the cultural norm for what I knew of skateboarding. It didn’t take long before I was part of the elite and my ego looked down on my fellow peers. I was blinded by pride and misplaced ambition as I was wrapped up in the underground music scene and skating. Time went on and my obsessions had shifted. Skateboarding had been replaced by music, smoking exchanged for alcohol, relationships multiplied and complicated themselves.
Years passed, and through an effort here and there to change, I found myself for what I was: a broken man, no longer seeking the rush but pursuing the fix. Mundane, routine, painful.
At the time I was working for a billing company. My boss asked me to join him and some of the other employees for a Bible study after work. I obliged because, well, it’s not everyday that your boss invites you to something and I wasn’t trying to leave a bad impression. The conversation during the Bible study instantly caught me off guard. They talked about Jesus and the adventures He and disciples had gone on. It was interesting in the sense that it wasn’t a discussion I usually found myself in…or have ever had for that matter. As weeks passed, the studies continued weekly and each time I sat up straighter in my chair, I listened more intently, and I started to share my thoughts as I began to be more engaged.
Eight months into this Bible study I was staring at the reality I had been seeking so desperately–a reality that couldn’t be ignored: Jesus was the solution to everything.
The same boss that invited me to join him for the Bible studies each week asked if I would like to be a part of a three-day men’s retreat. No phones and no communication with the outside world–just a few guys with a deep longing to change, or better said, be changed. The thought of this kind of vulnerability scared me and the day before the retreat I got so drunk that the shame and embarrassment of joining them led to having second thoughts. By the grace of God, I made it on the trip and it ended up being the best decision of my entire life. It was during those three days that I experienced the Lord in such a special way and truly understood my need for Him in my life. My life was changed that weekend–I was restored and reborn. All of the years of placing my hope and purpose solely in a skateboard or guitar had come to an end.
No more searching, no more emptiness. God became my sole desire. Life had come full circle. Jesus healed my heart and I felt his forgiveness, but little did I know, my journey was just beginning.
Fast forward one year and I was watching my bride walk down the aisle. Praise God I found a wife who also loved the Lord and desired to grow in her relationship with Him. My wife and I, with a new-found passion in life, prayed that God would lead us to a ministry to be a part of. Fast forward another year and I bumped into a buddy from high school–he was still skating. We talked about how the skate scene had changed, how it was still growing, and how boards were now easy to find, when–click!–like straight from a cartoon, the Lord hit the switch and a lightbulb turned on in my head that revealed the answer to our prayer and how God was calling me to serve alongside Him. I knew instantly that God could use my old drug–skateboarding–as my avenue of ministry!
After nearly 10 years of not stepping on a board, there I was setting up a new complete. It wasn’t easy, but I was eager, determined, and focused. Tricks didn’t come back effortlessly but that wasn’t my goal anymore–my objective now was to build relationships with the youth in my community, to share the hope found in Jesus, and be the example that I wish I would have had as a child growing up. I no longer had distractions in this stage of my life; I was anchored in this new purpose. I was back on the grind, visiting the local parks almost daily. I started intentionally hanging out with the kids there and spending time with them on a regular basis. They were lost, tired, hurting, and searching. We built relationships. They talked and I listened. In time I started to share my story and encourage them through their struggles and hardships. I was so excited to see the passion the Lord had originally given me being used to build the Kingdom. As I continued visiting the parks I thought surely I was the only one doing this type of ministry; it never even crossed my mind that others could be doing skate ministry as well, especially in the same city I lived...until the night I was greeted by a foreign accent. There were just two of us at the park that evening, so we naturally exchanged some small-talk that led to a conversation about Jesus. I discovered that this fellow skater was also a believer and Davey and I instantly became close friends. Wild enough, God had put it on his heart as well to also use his passion for skateboarding as a way to build relationships with the youth of Davao! The similarities we shared could only be explained by God appointing this moment for us to meet one another. Davey’s wife was studying in Davao to become a midwife, and while growing up in the surf and skate scene in the U.K., Davey naturally continued pursuing these passions while he was living in the Philippines. As our friendship grew, Davey introduced me to other action sports ministries around the world, one being Ride Nature. As I read about the organization and the work they did, my heart felt an immediate connection. I exchanged emails with the staff at Ride Nature for a little over a year before a small crew was able to come visit in 2015. As I introduced them to the opportunities that existed in the Philippines, we visited several surrounding cities where we met other leaders and shared the Gospel with anyone that would listen. God had answered my prayer in a way I would have never imagined.
The mission is never-ending. I continue to visit the neighboring cities. I am learning more and growing more every day. I’m creating new friendships and building up old ones. I’m able to encourage new leaders to keep going strong and together, we are being inspired by God, His power, and His purpose. God is at work. His hand is moving. He’s changing lives forever. Leaders are being humbled, and skaters are being saved.