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Skateboarding saves!

Spotlight on Presbyterian Mission Agency

Through its Presbyterian Mission Agency, the PC(USA) works with partner churches and organizations in more than 100 countries, including the US, to support all sorts of programs on both large and small scales. One such program that receives help from a Mission Project Grant from the Presbyterian Mission Agency is happening in Kalispell, Montana.

SERIOUS JUJU is a 1001 Worshipping Communities initiative for local skateboarders who are often living in poverty, hiding from authorities, residing in homes with substance abuse problems, and being bullied at school. But on Friday nights, the kids gather in an old warehouse where, with the help of the First Presbyterian Church and community volunteers, they’ve built an indoor skate park for up to 75 kids who gather to skate, get a free meal, share worship in small groups, and then skate some more.

The Rev. Glenn Burfeind, pastor of First Presbyterian, knows about their situations.

“Nobody wants them,” he said, choking back tears. “JuJu is a place they can go and be safe — and be wanted and cared for. . . . What JuJu has done is amazing. Skateboarding is good for these kids. It’s a release for them. It helps keep them out of trouble.”  The Rev. Miriam Mauritzen, community pastor of First Presbyterian and Serious JuJu calls it “a shelter from the storms and crises these kids are having.”

Serious JuJu is not only changing the lives of kids — it’s changing the lives of those serving them. First Presbyterian ruling elder Tom Esch used to prosecute skateboarders, thinking they were “little terrorists” and “vandals.” “It was a big change for me,” he said, “to accept these people as God’s chosen children.”

“It’s profound for skaters to know there’s a community that loves them,” Mauritzen said.  Part of what JuJu believes is that on the cross a person can place all of their pain and brokenness — and that can transform into healing for others. So when she sees JuJu’s kids pouring out their hearts — and talking about what’s really going in their lives — they become sources of healing for others. “That’s living into the gospel,” she said. “They give me life. I never doubt that this matters.”

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