Steamboat Springs Everything about Buck and Tara Chavarria's Christ for Life SL8 Church is unique, so when the couple decided to take a group of nine SK8 Church members on a mission trip to Costa Rica in June, they didn't want to saddle the group with the typical paintbrush and nail gun to build another church in the jungle.
Instead the Chavarrias, two other adult leaders and the nine skaters flew to San Jose, Costa Rica, rode a bus for four hours to reach Puerto Viejo, a small town on the Caribbean coast, and began working on the Concrete Jungle, a skatepark that was built to draw troubled Costa Rican youths.
"The idea was to let our kids make a difference in someone's life by using the gifts they have," Buck Chavarria said. "If they've never held a paintbrush or weren't using what they were good at, then what's the point?"
The Chavarrias began SK8 Church 2 1/2 years ago as a way to reach some of Steamboat's troubled youths through skateboarding. The Chavarrias host weekly gatherings at 6 p.m. Thursdays at the Howelsen Skate Park or their West End Village home. The gatherings focus on creating, understanding and maintaining a personal relationship with Christ without the rigidity. Skaters range in age from 9 to 35, and the alternative church usually draws between 20 and 50 members a week.
Participating in an alternative mission trip was the next step, the Chavarrias said.
"It was awesome for our kids to see the vision we have for SK8 Church in action," Tara Chavarria said. "Showing them a different way of life and being involved in that really impacted them."
Mac Carmony, 18, has been attending SK8 Church for at least six months and was eager to participate in the mission.
"It was cool because I got to teach the girls and some of the kids there to skate," he said. "It's a great place. I want to go back to (Puerto Viejo) and see how they're doing, especially the little kid skaters."
During their week in Puerto Viejo, SK8 Church members built a skate ramp, taught skate clinics, painted a mural, built a playground, sewed curtains and had daily morning and evening devotion times.
Tom Hackett, founder of Arizona-based Alternative Missions, said the Steamboat SK8 Church was the first group of its kind to work with a Third World skatepark.
"It's amazing what they did there," he said. "One of the needs in that particular town was to give the kids something to do when the surf's not up, so they worked on a skatepark."
Hackett said the organization's mission is to spread the word of God through completing creative and meaningful projects around the world.
"We really have fun coming up with creative ways to touch people's lives in addition to just spreading the words of God," he said.
The Chavarrias agreed.
"Some of our kids made really solid connections with the (Costa Rican) kids while they were there," Buck Chavarria said. "To make those connections, to see something new regardless of where you are in your faith, will have an impact on the rest of their lives."
For more information or to get involved with the SK8 Church, visit www.churchforlifeskatechurch.com.