Pews in the Park (part 2)

February 21, 2014
Ryan Gilles
Ryan Gilles

PART TWO (Read part 1)

An unconventional family

Five years ago, La Roca Skate Church was nothing more than an idle concrete court on the property of a small community church called Asembleas de Dios in Calderon. “The pastors had started building this huge court and roof before even knowing what it was for,” says Brock, laughing in retrospect. “It’s just amazing how God brought the pieces together out of nowhere.” One of those pieces was Brock himself, who, as a small business owner with a growing family in the suburbs of Chicago back in 2008, never would have dreamed he’d be directing a skate ministry in Quito, Ecuador just a few years later.

“I honestly believe that La Roca was God’s idea, not mine,” Brock told David Holguin in his interview with Skateboard Magazine.  “But it’s a privilege for me to be involved.  Skateboarding and following God are two of the most important parts of my life. For me, having a chance to combine these two passions is like a dream come true.”

As Brock felt the Lord directing him to invest further in the skaters of Quito, a mother from Calderon approached him one day in 2009. “She said that she had been praying that God would bring an angel to minister to the skaters in the city,” Brock recalls. “She said it was me, but of course I told her that it couldn’t be. But she was absolutely certain. ‘It’s you’ she said.” The woman introduced Brock to the pastors of Asembleas de Dios, who resonated with Brock’s vision for ministry and offered him the large, concrete court on the church property.

Today, that once empty court boasts an impressive array of quarter pipes, staircases, rails, fun boxes, table tops, and even a half-pipe.  “We built it all together,” Brock says, looking around the park. “A lot of the guys had never used power tools before, but we learned, and we got better as we did it. We worked on it for about six months.” In the near future, the plan is to more than double the park’s size and ramp variety.

But ultimately it’s not the ramps or the amenities that make La Roca a haven and a refuge for so many skaters in Quito. It’s the relationships.

“We just want to be a part of their lives and help them walk through whatever it is they’re dealing with,” Brock says. Manuel echoes that sentiment: “A lot of these kids are coming from broken families. And I think that’s what attracts them to skate church in the first place. It’s a lot like a family.”

Outside of daily skating, Brock and Manuel help facilitate small discipleship groups with a handful of the most invested skaters. “The way I see it, La Roca is kind of like a ripple effect,” says Manuel.  “Skate church is a stone in the water and you have a lot of ripples that go out from there. So I have a couple of guys that I’m really close to and are really involved with what we do, and it goes out from there.”

One of those is a 14 year old skater named Stalin who started frequenting the park over a year ago. “He’s gotten really good,” Brock says, watching Stalin kickflip off of a box at the edge of the park.

Like many kids in Ecuador today, Stalin doesn’t know his father, who ran off to live in Europe years ago. “So many of these kids just need a dad,” says Brock. “That’s why I adopted what I call the ‘good dad policy’: just do whatever a good dad would do, whether that’s putting your arm around a guy, giving a word of advice, or just sharing some scripture.”

After months of hanging around La Roca, spending time with Brock and Manuel, and hearing daily devotionals at the park, Stalin grew increasingly interested in spiritual things. He even sought out a local Christian church to regularly attend.  “One day he just came up to me and said he wanted to be baptized,” Brock remembers. “We talked about it more and ended up holding the service right here at La Roca.” Since then Brock and Stalin have been meeting regularly to study and read the Bible together.

“I care for skaters like brothers,” Brock said last year near the end of his interview with Skateboard Magazine. “I want the best for them… to share the truth.”

As this bright, summer day winds to a close, the crowd at La Roca begins to thin and Stalin is one of several regulars left. For an hour he has been working on the same new trick, each time losing momentum and balance just before the end of a tail slide. At long last, his efforts are rewarded with a clean grind and solid landing. With a fist pump and a wide grin, he turns his board toward the center of the park and skates on, ready for the next challenge.