domingo, 30 de setembro de 2012

The Christian Surfers Story

"Groundswell - The CS Story" Extract: "Jesus Pro Go Home"
 I pulled the plywood sign off a large eucalypt just a kilometre in from the highway. Along a bit there was another: 'No contests here!' Then another: '&*#@ off Jesus'.

Apparently our attempts to work in with the Bendalong locals at their secluded beachbreak merely gave them time to galvanise a plan against our moving the Jesus Pro Am from the city beaches of Sydney to the remote South Coast. It had all come about one meeting when the Pro Am seemed to be dying and we drew inspiration from the community festival feel observed in the NZ Jesus Easter Surf Classic. We had taken a huge risk and step of faith booking out the entire camping ground of 150 beds and made the 'Jesus' into a camp/contest for the weekend.

"Why don't you guys hold the contest somewhere else?" asked the sandy-haired grommet in the general store. "We're gonna surf right through your contest site,' threatened the weather-beaten local with missing teeth. "How many litres of milk will you need in the morning?" asked the ecstatic shop owner. "They'll get over it," encouraged the Manyana Junior Boardriders secretary.

So many different reactions were going down that Friday afternoon. Our dedicated prayer team were in overdrive praying to divert a conflict. Nighttime provided cover for some locals to get close enough to start pitching rocks at the team. Kiama leader Phil Imisides was the first casualty. Suddenly he clutched the side of his head and blood seeped through his fingers.

Tim Oyston, of Wollongong remembers... "It was getting ridiculous with more rocks being thrown and our generator being tampered with. We so wanted this to be a positive event for everyone, locals included, and it felt like there was an attack not just physically but spiritually as well to discourage the whole team. Eventually, we had no choice but to ring the police who flushed out a heap of teens from the scrub. The police knew the culprits and sent them home with a warning. We went back to work. It sort of felt like Nehemiah building the wall as we worked and stayed on watch for further sabotage!"

Saturday March 12, 1993: The surf was firing and our new 'community' seemed to be working well. Rusty Moran and the Cronulla team were going from cabin to cabin with breakfast treats and plunger coffee. On the beach, the combined local churches provided coffee and cake. "I can't believe I'm sitting on a chair, drinking real coffee out of a mug!" said one local mum in the shade of the hospitality tent as she watched her son surf in the Juniors. Surrounding parents nodded in agreement.

No negative locals appeared to disturb the contest area. We assisted the community with its campaign to protest the building of a nearby 'megatip' refuse centre and a petition was circulated. Meal vouchers were used to claim lunch and that night everyone met in the Manyana Community Hall for dinner, a surf movie and a short gospel challenge.

Wayne made a good call that night: "The local community won't judge us by how good our contest was, but by how clean the place is afterwards." We painstakingly cleaned every bit of the beach and track. It was a totally new benchmark, not only for the Jesus Pro Am but for any surf contest. We had made a breakthrough with the local community and with the surfers by combining evangelism, social action, community, servanthood and professionalism. Surely next year would be even better!

It wasn't.

Friday April 23, 1994: "It's gone, it's all gone!" yelled our soaked equipment coordinator Mark 'Bruiser' Edwards from Wollongong. A howling 40-knot southerly had hit at midnight and taken away two storeys of scaffold, all our banners and some tents.

As dawn came, a 5m southerly swell rendered the contest site totally out of control. There was a mad thirty-minute scramble to relocate. Our grand set up was replaced with a couple of pitiful tents and an assortment of ragged judging seats.

Then it got worse. There were protest signs and graffiti everywhere: 'Jesus Go Home' even down to the amenity block that had been spray-painted overnight at our new location.

Then it got worse. The waves were huge. Surfers got washed out to sea. One guy nearly drowned. Maroubra leader Adam Volkerts got hung up on a rocky outcrop by his legrope. Rain bucketed down. Antagonistic locals jeered. High tides washed through the contest tent. The team was stretched.

Then it got worse. In the midst of it all, an ABC TV film crew was shooting a segment for 'Compass', the national religious program. When one surfer was injured, they even asked if I would repeat my run down the beach with a first aid kit so they could re-shoot it! I was convinced the whole country was going to see us at our worst.

The winner was a very deserving young emerging pro, Mick Lowe, who was stoked to receive his first place prize of return airfares to Hawaii. Imagine our despair when he contacted the sponsor to collect his prize and they said they knew nothing about it. The employee we had dealt with had quit a month earlier. Mick and his parents were great about the fiasco and said not to worry about it, but we all decided to dig in and pay for his prize ourselves.

It was one disaster after another.

But at the presentation night, locals got up and announced how amazed they were at how the team worked together. The Manyana Junior Club supported us more than ever. The ABC program turned out fine. Mick Lowe and his family were appreciative of CS and have been supportive ever since. God showed us that our unity and service were more important than any slick contest site. In an image-conscious surfing scene, it would be a lesson we would keep learning.

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