The attributes required to make this possible are the natural features that allow storm-driven waves to develop shape and beauty, ultimately bringing with them the joy that comes from riding these gems and essentially fulfilling the oh-so-alluring pursuit. In a comparable sense, this quest also exists for us as a ministry. Except for us, the goal is to find young men and women that possess God-given traits and a deep internal longing to not only fulfill a search for waves but predominantly desire to fulfill the Great Commission, “the search” that has been given to all of us by God.
It was in 2019, and a team from Ride Nature had just landed in Medellín, Colombia. The objective was to lead several large skate outreach events centered around Go Skate Day - an international holiday celebrated by skateboarders worldwide on June 21st. If you’ve read through the first Volume of the Pursuit Collective, you’ll find the very story of this specific trip. Before every trip we lead as an organization, there is a time of prayer with the hopeful expectation that we will find at least one person who stands out as the “person of peace.” We are always on the search for the unique individual that God has called us to invest in and raise up. The overall goal for every Ride Nature trip is to Train, Reach, Inspire, Pioneer, and Serve those in the action sports world (que the acronym, T.R.I.P.S.). On this trip to Colombia, the search was on. Yet after literally meeting thousands of skateboarders and spending eight days in the country, we left solely with the hope that the “person of peace” would spring up from the seeds that had been scattered.
Juan “Anju” Carranza was a 20-year-old skinny skater, born and raised in Bogata but traveled to Medellín to spend that week with the Ride Nature team while they were in his country. Juan was a young believer and had just started his walk with God. He was quiet, spoke very little English, and hid behind his kind nature and timidity. He stuck to himself in a way that didn’t draw much attention at the time but later would draw us to his humility and drastically redirect the path of his life. As the Latin American headquarters for Ride Nature was taking shape in 2020, the search was on once again. We were pursuing and praying for young leaders eager to grow and be poured into as they stepped into leadership roles that were needed within the action sports community of San Juan del Sur. The prayer for potential staff began in 2018 when we first started planning to launch the Nicaragua headquarters, but it wasn’t until after two years of continual prayer that it began to show fruit. In this season of prayer, God placed Juan on our hearts and reminded us of the time we had spent with him in Colombia. After several zoom calls, he accepted the invitation and was on a plane to Nicaragua. The process of ‘becoming’ had begun.
The stretch of beach and rock formations that surfers look for is only the beginning of the mission to surf great waves at your full capability. It takes a little time to navigate where to paddle out, where to sit in the lineup, the swell’s angle, the reef’s or sandbar’s location, and how the wave responds to the contours of the bottom. And until you become comfortable in your new surroundings, you tend to surf with limits and timidity. The same was true with Juan and his initial time with Ride Nature. It was his first time truly leaving his home, family, and country. Though he had completed college with a degree in Social Work, he had yet to put this knowledge into practice. As Juan stepped into Nicaragua and his new home at Ride Nature, he naturally had a meek approach to balancing leadership, assertiveness, and humility. Like many young Latin American men who have grown up with a lack of father figures in their home, they have never had an example of a masculine soul. This missing paradigm generally leads to insecurities and limitations as these young men are put into positions to become leaders and grow into the men God has created them to be. Like the first few times you paddle out at a new break, it takes time to get comfortable before you let go and charge. We knew it would only be a matter of time before Juan adjusted and grew into his new surroundings; however, his noble heart of love and eager desire to serve quickly started to carve out his place within the community. As a great skateboarder and aspiring surfer, his ability to fit in with the local crowd of riders was immediate. The young groms (“Los Chavalitos,” as we call them) instantly connected with Juan as their friend, guide, and inspiration. Through this dynamic, he quickly learned what it meant to be a male role model for these children as he began leading them in weekly Bible studies and outreaches. His kindness was captivating for those who were starving for love. The older skaters saw his genuine care, began to hear his story, and learned that he was once in the same position they were; fatherless, drifting, without hope and purpose. His drive and talent on the board, alongside his testimony, led to their deep trust in him as they knew he could understand their struggles. Juan learned to mentor, witness, disciple, and lead through these relationships. He shared his hope in Christ and learned to explain what it meant to be baptized while ultimately shepherding these men as the example they had been seeking. As they began to hunger for what Juan had, a relationship with the one true Father, many began to surrender their lives and receive the same love that Juan had exemplified.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said,
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errors and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Too often, young adults in our world let the days of life slip by as they wander aimlessly. It is rare when an individual is willing to step out of their comfort zone and into the arena of battle, such as third-world living or leadership in a ministry setting. Juan stepped into both and, as a result, is standing victorious. He has navigated his way through deep waters and reef passes to find himself in the optimal position to become a leader that will continue influencing many. Often the influence of an attribute such as humility plays a critical role in changing the environments for those that are lost. The action sports world is ripe for the harvest. Ready for love and ministry. It requires individuals like Juan to say ‘yes’ to the call. Much like the section of the beach that holds all the conditions for world-class surf, it requires a willing person to step off the shore and into the water, paddle over sharp reefs, read the swell direction, learn the drop trajectory, hold the line, and ride with confidence and power. Similarly, for those aspiring to serve others, it requires boldness, discomfort, and a step into the unknown, knowing that the Spirit of God is leading you into His purpose for your life. You may get a little marred and even scarred, lose a battle or two, and not triumph in every area you believe you should; yet still, those that venture into this unknown can know for certain that they were willing. “They’ll never be placed with those cold and timid souls that knew neither victory nor defeat.” Why? Because they have strived valiantly. Surfing a new section of beach with perfection should never be the goal, and often seeking high-end results will leave you unfulfilled and desiring more for the sake of your own satisfaction.
The beauty of faithfully saying yes to God and stepping into the unknown is that there is no defeat. You have already eternally won by solely being willing to surrender and follow Him.
Juan “Anju” Carranza is charging in every area. He skates with purpose, surfs with eagerness, prays with power, and serves with humility. Many people have benefited from the call God placed on Juan’s life, but the one who has benefited the most is Juan himself.