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Jesus on a Surfboard

January 3, 2020

You might not believe me when I say this, but no matter what your passions are, they intersect with missions. You can spread the gospel by cooking, painting, or bungee jumping, and you can take it to the nations by piloting a plane, driving a car, or riding a surfboard.

YWAM missionaries floating on surfboards in the sunset in Mexico

My love of surfing and adventure naturally bled into my heart for missions by inspiring me to seek out some of the most isolated locations on Earth. I grew up in Hawaii, the surfing capital of the world, itself a group of isolated islands.

Surf culture as I knew it was all about the search. I thought "the search" meant finding the perfect wave, but I never considered where else I might go and who else I would discover on my surfing journey. Here is how my passion for surfing awakened my passion for the isolated, and why it continues to do so to this day.

Surf culture

As long as I can remember, surf brands have marketed adventure with photographs of exotic locations and perfect waves overlaid with slogans like, "You'll never know unless you go." I grew up surrounded by this style; it was hard not to feel a rush of adrenaline when I looked at surf brand ads or read their mottos. There were plenty of waves in Hawaii, but part of me always wanted to get off the rock, set off on a brand new adventure, and ride waves I had never ridden.

YWAM surfers carrying surfboards on the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

 

I remember watching Endless Summer (a classic surf film) for the first time in Mr. Thorpe's seventh-grade glass. That movie was a game changer for me. All of a sudden I felt the burning desire to go to a place where no one had ever surfed before. I realized there were incredible waves and beaches in far-away places like Africa, the Middle East -- even Antarctica!

For years after that, I would pick up a surf magazine or watch a surf film and marvel over remote surf destinations in island nations like Indonesia. These pictures resonated with me because surfer kids are constantly on the hunt for perfect, uncrowded waves to ride. Although I dreamed of traveling to these places, even as a child I knew there had to be more to life than just epic waves and exotic locations.

YWAM missionary holding a surfboard watching the sunset on the beach

Passion and calling collide

As I grew in my faith and became more in-tune with God's heart for the nations, I started to view my desires through a different lens. Maybe those isolated places were worth more than backdrops for ads or settings for films. Maybe they had more to offer than surfing.

After all, the Mentawi's Islands in Indonesia don't just have good waves, they have people. Remote, indigenous tribes live right next to some of those pristine beaches. I dreamed of getting on a boat, surfing around Indonesia, and taking the Gospel to the islands' unreached people groups.

The fact that many of the people on those islands could be head hunters only fueled my desire to go. I wanted adventure, but I wanted to do it God's way.

It turns out, I wasn't the only one. There are thousands of Christian surfers around the world who desire to use their passion and skills as a tool to reach the nations. Here's just three specific, real-world examples of how people have been combining their love of surfing with their desire to reach the unreached.

1. Surfers for Missions International

Surfers for Missions International is a YWAM ministry focused on training surfers to go and minster to people in the unreached, surf-able nations of the world.

The entire ministry is based on a very simple premise: surfers are willing to go anywhere, eat anything, sleep in their board bag if necessary, and risk malaria just to find that one good wave.

Now, imagine the potential for surfers as missionaries. Many unreached and isolated people in the world have world-class surf breaks within walking distance of their huts.

2. Waves for Water

 

I came across Waves for Water in 2010. The organization is proof that  surfers are traveling to remote locations not just to surf the beautiful waves, but also to make a positive difference in the lives of the people who live there. Their tagline is, "Do what you love, help along the way." There are few better examples of people imbuing their passions with greater purpose.

3. Surfing the Nations

Since 2014, Surfing the Nations has gone to North Korea to introduce surfing to the people. Each year they travel to three different locations in the DPRK - one place to skate, and two to teach surfing. In terms of reaching the isolated, no country is more isolated than North Korea.

What I love most about Surfing the Nations is that it demonstrates how through sports like surfing, we can open doors to countries that were once impossible to access. We can use our passions to build relationships with people who we otherwise wouldn't be allowed to speak with.

What inspires you?

Surfing may have inspired my passion for missions, but now the question is: what inspires you? Why do you want to become a missionary and who do you want to reach?

Maybe you love trekking and want to hike into the Himalayas to find an unreached people group, or maybe you want to creatively tell peoples' stories through media.

No matter what skills God has gifted you with, and no matter what He has called you to do, go after it with all your heart. Your unique talents and passions enable you to reach people others might not be able to. Bring Jesus to them wherever they are, and in the ways they (and you) understand. 

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