I could sense God highlighting specific details about my current situation in life and the events that have led up to this point. These were some of the things that came to me as confirmation. “I have placed you in a city where you have the perfect opportunity to accomplish the vision I have given you. I have established you and provided everything you need to invest long-term in this city. You have a community of other Jesus followers that believe in what you feel called to do. I keep sending more and more people with the same vision into your life to join you in this venture. Random people are appearing in your life to give you support and counsel specifically for this vision. You have tested the idea and found a real need and desire around you for what you are looking to create.” All this provided the much-needed reassurance and was greatly encouraging to say the least. Still, beyond all the practical evidence that God was revealing, my greatest assurance came from the fact that for the past five years, this vision has been burning in my heart, the flame has not gone out, and God has never told me to stop going for it.
There have been seasons of discouragement where I arrived at a point of total surrender, saying to God, “If this is not from you, please lead me towards whatever you have for me.” But the resounding vision that I believe God has called me to is to open an art center here in Barcelona where every skateboarder could have the opportunity to develop their creativity and discover the source from which it flows.
I use the term “Gold Mining” quite often, which refers to a concept I came up with a while back.
The idea is that within every human’s DNA runs veins full of rich creative gold waiting to be discovered and developed. I believe God is the source of all creativity and has placed this part of Himself in all of us; a desire to create. I want to be a gold miner, someone who helps others discover and develop their creative potential.
Over the past few years, I have practiced this concept of creative mining with the skateboard community here in Spain. The primary initiative has been “PanamaLab”- a community photo lab where I provide film development, photo enlarging, and, what I love most, a variety of workshops where I can teach analog photography techniques and the magic of a dark room to local youth as well as fellow creatives. I have also helped host several workshops exploring different mediums outside of photography. I simply love bringing people together as we create new things and introduce them to the art form, not as the master but as a fellow peer.
Stepping into any dark room is like entering an inspiring new world. The pungent smell of the chemicals, old analog lab equipment & cameras, and hopefully some nice tunes being played in the background all make for a uniquely rad environment and experience. Welcoming someone new into this space definitely requires patience and precision. Preparing and loading your first roll of film into a light-safe tank can be nerve-wracking, but that’s just the beginning. Next comes passing your roll through multiple chemicals for a controlled amount of time at a specific temperature; finally, the magic moment of opening up the tank to view your precious negatives, fulfilling the anticipation of waiting days or even weeks to see what you had captured. Going through this process never gets old; there is something incredibly therapeutic about the analog process that has so many mysterious factors. Witnessing the excitement new photographers have after a workshop as well as their eagerness to go out into the world to shoot more film and continue developing as artists, is what I consider the ‘precious gold’ within the mining process. Few things are as dear to me as spending quality time in the lab and out on the streets with other aspiring photographers.
Like many, the pandemic season brought a close to these workshops and even the space we were working out of. Yet, these memories serve as fuel, motivating me to see the doors of PanamaLab reopened once again. I know the vision of pioneering an art center for skateboarders in Barcelona won't come easy, and thankfully I am not alone in this venture. I am standing beside truly incredible leaders, and we are moving forward because we believe this is one of the best ways that we can cultivate something positive within the skate scene in this community.
This is such a unique season of life; slow growth isn't easy for me. In past ventures, God opened doors much quicker. There have been ups and downs, and I am sure there will be many more to come, but God is teaching me a lot amidst this challenge. The last thing I want to do is to rush into something in my timing and without God's blessing. This might sound basic, but it has been hard for me to push through when doubt comes, telling me the dream is too far from reality. When fighting discouragement,
I have been reminded to constantly renew my trust in God and remember that this is His dream. I’m just along for the ride and learning what it means to collaborate on His terms.
Pioneering always comes with risks, and most dreams are fragile. Just like waking up in the morning, they can be forgotten quickly if not executed with wisdom. I've witnessed projects that started quickly but didn't last. I am learning to trust in the promise that when we ask for understanding, God is faithful to give it. As I work towards the vision God has given me, the truth of this promise must remain at the forefront of my mind. It's about staying attentive to God's voice and His leading. The wisdom we seek comes in many ways; sometimes subconsciously, other times through counsel, life circumstances, or ultimately any way God sees fit.
I continue to push toward the vision God has given me to see a creative space established once again to serve, love, and invest in skateboarders. I don’t need to worry about God being faithful because I already know that faithfulness is who He is. I just need to stay focused on the vision and take one step at a time. Things might unfold quite differently than I have imagined, but I will continue pressing on until the Lord leads me another way.
What is your dream? What is the fire that, at a point in your life, has burned vigorously? Have you stepped out in faith to pursue something beyond yourself, that risky path that requires you to depend 100% on God? My hope and prayer for anyone who might read this is to come to a place of complete trust and understanding that God has created each of us with a purpose. One that He established even before we were born. Big vision or small, God is working His purpose in you for His glory. Far too often, we are robbed of the dreams God gives by the bombardment of lies that say we are incapable or the distraction from the things He has called us to, simply by staying too busy. If God is placing something on your heart, my hope is that you would step out in faith because, in the Kingdom, risk is right. We are all created to create. Sometimes you just have to mine for it.
To view episode 14 of the To the Ends series, featuring Dave’s story visit TotheEndsFilm.com/Spain.
To learn more about PanamaLab or support the vision visit Panama-Lab.com.