After watching the Cuba episode from the To The ENDS film series, I was stoked to have the chance to lead a small team returning to Havana. It was my first trip to Cuba, but growing up in Venezuela, I knew the feeling all too well of the tease of America being nearby. When we landed we parted ways with the tourists who had sat next to us on our flight; our team’s destinations were to the very places even Cubans are trying to leave. I had been given the rundown of the 400+ skaters that cruised the streets of Havana, but until I witnessed it first hand, it was hard to wrap my mind around a skate community that had literally been built from the ground up.
Without a single skate shop on the entire island, what the skaters had developed through sheer determination was beyond inspiring. The deeper we trekked into “the real Havana” as they called it, the more skaters we met. I saw myself in them and related to their needs; they needed safety, hope, and healthy escapes. But beyond the physical needs, they faced the same need we all do: the need for hope.
I’m confident it wasn’t an accident that God had brought me to a very similar scene from the one I had grown up wanting to run away from. It couldn’t have been anything short of the
Lord’s sovereignty to have given my family and I freedom, physically and spiritually, all so that I could show these young men the same. That is what brings our team into Havana: to love the skate community well.
As an organization, we don’t just bring boards to kids around the world; we bring boards to kids around the world and then go back to them-time and time again. We find leaders in the communities we’re investing into and we partner, train, and equip them to continue the ministry after we leave. The kids we met dream about crossing the mere 90-mile gap into America; ironically our intention is to go in the opposite direction. Growing up it was my life goal to get out of Venezuela–not even caring where that took me–to escape poverty and never look back. In Cuba I found myself returning–this time as the individual investing into the youth in a way that I wished someone would have with me.
Since visiting Cuba when we filmed in 2018, we’ve crossed that 90-mile gap four more times, myself having the privilege of leading three of those trips. Leaders are being trained and raised up and lives are being impacted. We are committed to loving those in Cuba well and for us that means being as consistent as possible.
Our mission remains the same each time we return: to generously share the blessings we’ve been given, knowing that the doors for making disciples in Havana will open naturally by our love.
Through something as simple as a skateboard, oceans are being crossed, friends are being made, and the Kingdom is being established. We are well known now in Cuba and will continue to press forward with the hope that every individual within our reach receives the opportunity to hear, see, and respond to the Good News of our Lord and Savior. Much like Arnold, I can say in full confidence that we’ll be back.