Published in  
May 21, 2024

Through The Lens: Philippines

The Philippines has held a special place in our hearts since we first visited. The people. The landscape. The eagerness of the believers to be trained, equipped, and mobilized. We’ve traveled all over the world, and I think it’s fair to say we have yet to find a people group as excited about utilizing their passions to invest in their local community as faithfully as those in the Philippines.

After spending five days in Japan with Josh Nerez (our Filipino brother in Christ and Ride Nature Ambassador for SE Asia), we were so excited to return to the Philippines to witness the work that Josh has been spearheading since our last visit. Before flying to Josh’s home in Davao City, which is situated on the island of Mindanao, one of the southernmost islands of the country. We made a quick pit stop in Luzon before finally landing in Manila and then drove north to a small surfing community named San Juan La Union. We had visited La Union many years prior, but since Covid’s inception, the Philippines had been under true lockdown, with extreme measures preventing almost all ability to travel to the country. However, from the moment we landed, we were reminded once again of the incredible potential action sports holds in this country.

With thousands of miles of coastline, hundreds of skateparks, and some of the best wakeboard parks in the world,  not to mention a people group who have gravitated toward the action sports scene, we were so excited to be back in the Philippines.

We grabbed a rental car and started our 5-hour journey north to La Union. Nightfall had fully settled in by the time we arrived at our Airbnb, and we were shot from a long day of travel. We unpacked and crashed quickly that night but were up not long after to welcome in the sunrise and the adventures that were set to accompany it. Our time in La Union would only be a couple of days, and we were keenly aware that we needed to make the most of it. We set out early to explore the city in hopes of getting a lay of the land and a better understanding of what opportunities existed. We visited a couple of skate spots and met with several local contacts, including a local pastor, to talk about what ministry already existed in the city and how they would like to see Ride Nature more involved.

We happened to be arriving just a few weeks after a WSL (World Surf League) international longboard contest and were stoked to find the city still bustling with surfers and fellow travelers. While we only had time for two quick surf sessions, we made the most of it and enjoyed conversations with the locals in the line-up. La Union is so ripe for ministry. There are Christians in the community, but a strong youth ministry presence or surf/skate ministry is still nonexistent. We are praying to see long-term leaders planted in this community and potentially the idea of a permanent Ride Nature headquarters to sprout in this area as well.

From Manila, we headed south to Davao City, the hometown of Josh Nerez. We’ve always been encouraged and inspired by the faithfulness of Josh and his wife, Novie, and their continued commitment to the local ministry in Davao. However, the evidence of their faithfulness is hard to grasp from just photos or quick video clips. It was almost immediately, though, that we began to witness the fruit of their hard work. We gathered in their small, humble home, full of young leaders they have been pouring into.

It was in those moments that we were brought to tears as Josh played the guitar while we all worshiped together. As I sit here and write, I can still hear the voices of those young teens as they sang at the top of their lungs with a love for Jesus that was so clearly evident.

For the next few days we spent time with nearly a dozen young disciples that Josh and Novie have invested their lives into. We visited a local wake park and had the honor of introducing many of them to wakeboarding for the first time. We encouraged them in their walk and hoped to provide validation of their desire to use action sports as a tool for ministry. We talked about the need for more leaders and what it looks like for them to make disciples that make disciples. To cap it all off, we helped host a skate contest outreach event on our last day and again were so encouraged as we watched Wikki, only 13 years old, share his story along with the Gospel to all in attendance at the skatepark!

It never feels like we have enough time. The harvest is so plentiful, and we praise the Lord that He is raising up workers. Many communities throughout the Philippines are waiting for leaders like Josh and Novie to invest in their local youth.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that a revival is taking place and, alongside it, a movement that we believe is only just beginning.

We are currently working on building a team that we pray will help launch a Ride Nature Headquarters in SE Asia, and we believe the Philippines is the location that makes the most sense for serving this part of the world. It’s our hope and prayer to see the launch of a facility, discipleship headquarters, and Ride Nature hub in the ensuing years, and we are so hyped to ride the wave we pray will begin to sweep over this incredible country. Thank you for partnering with us in prayer and support to see this dream become a reality.

All Photographs By Zakarie Braun