Love is Here: Ride Nature in Nicaragua

Amor es aqui,” the weathered Nicaraguan woman said to William, her mute and quadriplegic grandson. I knew enough Spanish to grasp the meaning of her words, “Love is here,” she said. Hammering shook the house as men with the Ride Nature team replaced the old, rusted abused roof.  One stroke at a time, girls in the group painted vibrant hues of yellow, blue, and green that swallowed the faded, lifeless walls.  I used a small sponge and wiped dust and grit from the table, sink and cabinet.  I pried at least 30 shriveled and living spiders and their intertwined webs out from the springs on William’s bed.  That morning, our mission was to beautify Roberto’s home.

Ride Nature, (RN) is a non-profit, Christian organization whose purpose and goal is to impact the world through action sports.  The mission-focused ministry reaches out to people living in extreme poverty all over the world.  On this specific trip, founders of RN, Mark and Shannon Koch, collaborated with other Christian ministries based in Nicaragua.  The first three days RN teamed with Waves of Love in the Las Salinas area.  Waves of Love arranged a project to repair a well that six families drew water from along with surf and skim-board lessons with local kids. The second part of the trip RN linked up with the new chapter of Christian Surfer’s, (CS) in San Juan del Sur. Working together, CS and RN organized a skateboard contest in Rivas, a surf contest at playa Maderas, and repaired a roof on a home.
Raw talent of skaters, BMXers, and inline-skaters was exposed through the organized chaos of the constant motion at the skate park.At least 200 local kids and adults flooded the park that night in the town of Rivas for the first skate contest the town may have ever seen. Most kids took turns with shared bikes and skateboards, as many won skateboards and Penny boards that they would be able to call their own. Smiles and the words “gracious” and “thank you” flowed in abundance.

Cuando regresas?”  A mom asked slow enough so that I could understand her question.  She wanted to know when RN would be back.

Typically, swells don’t like to cooperate with surf contests scheduled months in advance, but on August 3rd the swell was punctual along with the eager local surfers. More than 300 surfers and spectators gathered at playa Maderas in San Juan del Sur for the contest.  Tangible, electric excitement surged across the beach generated from big waves, the high level of competition, and blasting, upbeat music.  Similar to the skate contest before winners were announced,
and all attention was arrested, Mark Koch, of RN, presented the good news of Jesus Christ through a Spanish translator."Without the gift of eternal hope, all of the work that we are doing is completely temporary. What good is it to give a child a free board if we are going to pass on the opportunity to share with them the greatest gift any of us have ever been given, eternal life through a relationship with Jesus Christ," explained Koch.  RN awarded prizes that symbolized freedom to the winning contestants, freedom in the form of a set of wheels or a surfboard, but they heard a message of absolute freedom that only comes from the ‘living water,’ the most epic gift that is good for eternity.

As Mike scaled up the rickety, home-made, splintery ladder to balance on the rooftop in the mid-day sun, Jen toted her hefty camera and tirelessly captured moments and expressions. Denise’s motherly, tender love manifested through encouraging words and warm hugs, while the girls’ in the group drew from their endless source of energy and laughter, and lifted spirits as they played with local kids.  With RN, I witnessed an outpouring of pure love, in an organic and natural way.  Each individual performed different tasks, yet operated in such unison; each job equally important to form a beautiful picture of God’s hands and feet.  No one focused on self, enabling a total absence of any sort of dissonance in the group.  The focus was putting love into action.  The team followed the same orders from the same leader.  “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28

Ustedes siempre son beinvenidos a mi casa, ustedes son como mi familia,” the Nicaraguan woman said as she stood at the head of the table lavishly covered with chicken wings, pizza, cabbage salad, rice, fruit salad, fried plantain chips, and smoothies.  Waves of Love spent months praying with this family and watched God transform their lives.  Because the Waves of Love founders were returning to the states the next morning, this meeting was to be one last stop to pray once again for the family and say goodbye.  Even though RN never met the family before, they accompanied them to pray, and received extravagant love in return.  They family gave a weeks’ worth of food they could not afford.  Two purple streamers hung from a concrete wall to signify this was a surprise going away party.   The table of generosity and the woman’s heart-felt words to the RN group, “You all are always welcome in my home.  Even though I have just met you, you are like family,” are seared in my memory. 

Consistent swell accompanied my time in Nicaragua, and after RN left I stayed another week and surfed two sessions a day.  I caught challenging, fast waves twice the size of me, and went home with rashes and bruises to prove it.  But of my 14 days in Nicaragua, my most cherished moments were working beside people who served God so naturally with their passions, showing that love is an action.

Impacting the world through action sports roughly describes Ride Nature.  An equally appropriate motto occurred to me, “Love is here,” as there are many more layers to the heart of RN than just stopping at impacting the world through action sports.  For more information or to support Ride Nature, visit