By Jonathan & Sami Hagar – Troy, Ohio
God’s got a place for everyone: somewhere that your gifts can work for His goodness. Maybe for you that happens in a high-rise: consulting with businesses and showing God’s love can help a business flourish.
Or maybe it’s through the prayers you say while laboring in someone’s home. Possibly, it’s by way of the smile you give as you volunteer at a food pantry.
For us, it’s through making friends and spreading God’s love to the skateboarders and to all the “misfits” at the Joe Reardon Skatepark in Troy, Ohio.
We’ve always had a heart for the skate community. Like some who may be reading this, we were once rebellious, trouble-making teenagers. For us, our paths through the darkness cultivated a soft spot for the lost and broken.
When God put it on our hearts to go love on the kids in our local skate park, we weren’t even sure that many skaters gathered at the Troy facility.
But sometimes, you have to dive right in and have faith that God will work out the details.
Go Out and Make Friends
So with the help of two of our good friends, Michael Burrows and Brandon Ike, we headed over to the park with the goal of building relationships and spreading God’s love. We remembered what a pastor in Colorado, who leads a similar skater ministry, told us: “Just go out and make friends.”
With the help of a grill and a pop-up tent, we started providing free cookouts and cold drinks to the large skate community we found there. We even did a special Thanksgiving dinner.
We also always have a skateboard on hand to give away in case someone “splits their deck” (breaks their skateboard).
Each member of our team gravitates to their own peoples – Brandon is great with the new skaters and the middle schoolers, while Jon works with the older youth and young adults. Sami is the momma, who organizes the food and engages them in conversation. And Michael is the grill master and friend maker.
We endeavor to be aware of other needs, too – we’ve helped families financially of some of the younger ones, and offered manual work to some of the older skaters.
From the Park to Jesus
The question was, though, how do we go from the park to Jesus? The cold weather opened the door for that answer.
Now that it’s winter and often too cold and wet for skating outdoors, we have rented a venue space to use for Friday hangouts – what we’re calling “Pizza, Skating, and Jesus!”
Since the venue space is fairly empty, Brandon and Jon built ramps, boxes, and a rail for the skaters to still do their tricks.
We still feed them and bring cold drinks. We still skate and chill. But, we also have a short sharing about Jesus
Encounter the Savior’s Love
The vision of what we call Troy Skate Church – one of our mottos is “Skatin’ not satan” – is to give the youth and young adults in our community an opportunity to encounter the love of Jesus in a non-traditional way. We bring Jesus to the skate park to love life with Troy’s youth.
Many of these kids have felt rejected by mainstream churches. Others simply don’t believe that someone like themselves would be welcomed there. Like one of the kids’ parents told us, “Thank you for meeting our kids where they are.”
We believe God wants us to begin by building relationships with these young people, making friends and loving them in any way we can, using every opportunity to introduce them to our Lord.
Just Getting Started
We still have lots of ideas for the future including skate competitions and a food trailer to help us expand our outreach to other skate parks near us. We are currently working on a snowboarding trip, which the skaters are really excited about.
We are loving getting to know the community of God’s “misfits” here in Troy. It’s a privilege to hear their stories, speak into their lives, and spoil them in any way we can. Many kids also hang out that don’t even ride skateboards because of the strong sense of community surrounding the sport.
God Loves the Troublemakers
We’re all messy. Even some of the most devoted Christians we know are messy. These kids just wear their mess more externally than most.
God loves the troublemakers! If we can impact even one of them to become troublemakers for God, it will all be worth it! Troy Skate Church exists to see lives changed!
Jonathan & Sami and their five children love adventure, love Jesus, and love their spiritual community. To learn more about Troy Skate Church, follow them on Instagram @troyskate.church.
Joyell Nevins contributed to this post.