Teenage boys. Skateboarding, teenage boys. These are words that for many drive images of stale pizza and skanky socks into their minds. And we had a whole team of them coming. I'll be honest, I was not really looking forward to this team. I'm into community activities like painting happy little murals on the sides of peoples houses, playing the pied piper and handing out trinkets to the myriad of sticky-fingered children roaming the streets, teaching step aerobics to Lycra-clad women, and visiting the locals in their homes over a cup of coffee and some warm, fresh tortillas. What on earth was I going to do with a bunch of sk8er dudes?
They were coming to share the gospel of Jesus by reaching out to a lost, forgotten group: the skaters. The skate culture in Costa Rica is as thriving and active as it is in the states. And it is as rejected by the church here as it is at home. When is the last time you saw a hard-core skater (piercings, tattoos, and all) sitting next to a blue-hair in a church pew? They are considered punks, ruffians, hooligans, or whatever nomenclature you like to use. Typically into drugs, alcohol, and partying, most straight-laced Christians stay as far away as possible...and hide their children when they see them coming.
In fact, this is the testimony of many of the guys on the team. Into skating, from broken families, heavy into drugs and alcohol, they had radical encounters with Jesus that totally rocked their worlds. Several of them grew up in Christian homes, but got into the skate culture in their late childhood years or early teens and rejected their first love. Their testimonies of how God completely changed their lives motivates them to share with people going through the same experiences. They have a heart to see others living in darkness experience the freedom, light and love of Jesus.
Wheelbarrows in hand, they started hauling rocks. The little boys of the community had seen them skating in the Planche (the basketball-sized courtyard down by the river) earlier in the day. They started following the team around like excited little puppies. They also wanted to join in the work. Little boys alongside emerging men, alongside adults. It was so neat to see the guys on the team take the little guys under their wing and really mentor them. They were teaching them the value of work and helping others. What a blessing to the community!
This team hasn't been all work and no play. They work hard and play harder. Work days are ended with free skate time. Kicks, flips, and tricks are thrown down in the streets. Ramps and rails are part of the vocab.Everything is fair game to skate on or off of...But the cool part is the end. After the guys free skate, they do a demonstration of their best tricks and flips. While they're skating they frequently stop to talk to any of the kids that are watching. They find out who they are, what their name is, and if they know Jesus.
They are constantly presenting the good news of Jesus and showing an example of His power through their own lives. At the end of each demo they present their gospel, using their own testimonies as a platform to share the love of Jesus. They ask if anyone wants to receive Jesus in their hearts and they pray with anyone who is willing. What a cool way to share the gospel in a manner that these kids can relate to!!