This past summer I had the opportunity to live in Fort Myers, FL to intern with a non-profit organization known as Ride Nature. Ride Nature is an action sports ministry that uses skateboarding, surfing, and wakeboarding to share the good news of Jesus with a truly unreached group of people. If you are familiar with the skateboard community at all, you probably know many of the stereotypes that go along with skaters; outcasts of society, drug users, and dropouts with profane language. The skate culture is a very spiritually dark place, and Ride Nature seeks to change that by letting them know that there is a God who wants to know them and meet them as they are, and loves them so much that he sent his own son to die the death we all deserve for our sin.
This is not only the goal of Ride Nature on a local level in Florida but also on an international level throughout the world.
During the summer, I was able to go on two international trips, one to Panama and one to Cuba. Both trips were incredible, but the Cuba was quite the adventure for me, partially because I wanted to make my last trip with Ride Nature as memorable as possible. To help accomplish this goal, with the strong encouragement of the other guys, I packed for the trip using only a fanny pack. With my Bible in one hand, skateboard in the other, and a fanny pack around my waist, we set out for Cuba.
We flew into Havana with our group of about 8 people, bringing in a few dozen skateboards to donate, as well as some skim boards. Ride Nature always brings boards to donate on mission trips, but this was especially important to us while going to Cuba, as the government restrictions don’t allow skateboard to be imported to the country at all. Every skateboard in Cuba has been brought in from individuals after they visit another country. When a skater in Cuba breaks a board (which happens very often in skateboarding), it can be months before they are able to get a new one and start skating again.
Surprisingly, we made it through customs with all the boards with no hassle at all. On our previous trip to Panama, all our bags with donation boards were confiscated, and we had to go back to the airport multiple times and pay hundreds of dollars to get the bags back.
Each day of the trip in Cuba, we set out to a different skate spot to build relationships with the skaters there, hold skate contests, and share the gospel everywhere we went. We had a few different contacts in Cuba before going who were skaters, and they were able to let the community know where we would be and when. The community of skaters in Cuba is very large, but a tight knit group of guys that all seemed to know each other well.
Each day we went to a new spot the group of skaters got bigger and bigger as word got out that we were there, and that we had skateboards to give away. It was cool to see the same guys around each day, and it was almost as if we were able to disciple them throughout the week as we shared our testimonies and gospel messages with them each day. One of the days about halfway through the trip, I broke my board while trying a trick down a ledge, which was a real bummer. Not only was it unfortunate that I couldn’t skate the rest of the week, but I also couldn’t donate that board before we left (we usually donate our own boards before we leave). On the same day shortly after that, I realized that my fanny pack had been stolen from one of the cars we were using. Praise the Lord that my passport, Bible, and most of my clothes were still back at our apartment. Believe it or not, that day was my favorite day of the trip because of what happened next.
We had a very large group of skaters gathered that day, and my friend had just given his testimony to them, and our translator and trip leader was sharing the gospel and explaining how you become a follower of Christ if you want to make that decision. One of the skaters from the crowd started talking to our translator and to all the guys in the crowd in Spanish, which we eventually found out to be something along the lines of “Guys, why wouldn’t we all want this? Let’s all pray together right now!” Then we saw nearly every one of the several dozen skaters there bow down with their eyes closed, and ask the Lord into their hearts. That is one moment from my life that I will never forget. I may have lost half of my possessions I had in Cuba that day, but that is not even comparable to seeing others saved by Jesus.
Many of the churches in Cuba don’t allow people in if they have tattoos and piercings, and they preach to their congregations that they should stay away from people who are not Christians and stay strictly surrounded by a Christian bubble, with no concept of evangelism or fulfilling the great commission. Many of the skaters we talked to were hungry for the gospel and extremely receptive but were simply rejected by the churches for not looking and acting like your average church-going people.
God doesn’t require us to clean ourselves up before coming to him, and he wants to meet us wherever we are. No matter how we look, act, or whether we pretend like we “have it all together” or not, we are all sinners. We are all sinners who have been saved by nothing but the grace of God alone, and to pretend our sin is less than the sin of others does nothing but minimize the cross and put us in a place of self-righteousness. If we have accepted the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, then we owe it to others to tell them how they can have it too.
Dave Hackett is from Maple Grove, Minnesota. He is a manufacturing engineering student at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dave is passionate about action sports and videography. Follow David Hackett on Facebook and Instagram @davehack97