by Lexie Ludlam
“We felt God calling us to move here, and then when we moved here, we didn’t know what He was calling us to do,” Maurice said. “Tamara, my wife, worked with the women and did Bible studies and different crafts with them, but I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. I had a hard time finding my place the first year other than helping with mission teams.”
About a year into living in La Represa, Maurice began to find his place in a very unexpected way—surfing. A surfer since the age of 15, Maurice always had a passion for catching waves. “I feel that the ocean's gift, power, and beauty is second to none,” he said.
Though La Represa is only about 25 miles from the closest beach, the way the roads are built makes it incredibly difficult to get there. Without a car, it is impossible, and many in the village cannot afford cars. “Even though these people were born on a Caribbean island, they had never seen the ocean,” he said.
So, one day in 2014, when Maurice was taking a trip to the beach, he loaded up a couple of boards and took some of the boys in the village with him. As soon as they got in the water, they were naturals. “These boys grew up surrounded by the river in the community, so they were just doing amazing.”
During this beach trip, Maurice’s eyes were opened to the potential for this to be a great ministry. So little by little, it began to grow into what it is today: “Surfistas Cristianos Nueva Vida” or “Christian Surfers New Life.” From the beginning, he recruited some of the young men in the community to serve alongside him. Two of these men, Gabriel Reyes and Sebastian Medina, still work as active members in the ministry today.
“When I became a part of Surfistas Cristianos Nueva Vida in 2014, I was a new believer. I did not have a lot of time since I had accepted Jesus into my life,” Sebastian said. “But as we continued to do our Bible studies every Monday and serve in our community, I began to grow in my faith.”
“When we first started, I was just a boy in the surf ministry. And now I am a leader and get to be involved in so much,” Gabriel said. “Before I was a part of it I didn’t know at all how to surf. Now I have this sport that I love doing so much.”
Surfistas Cristiano Nueva Vida quickly became a light of hope in the village. “Unfortunately, most of the boys don’t have a father figure in their life. Their mothers, don’t get me wrong, they’re doing the best they can, but there are so many temptations surrounding life in the village,” Maurice said. “We try to teach them to be polite and to be honest. And we are also trying to keep them away from the poisons in the world. A lot of the boys before this would turn to drugs, alcohol, and other really bad things to have ‘fun.’ But we showed them there’s a way to have fun and be a Christian because we Christian organizations are often assumed not to be fun.”
Local pastor, Jorge Familia, quickly saw the change in the community. He worked alongside Maurice in this ministry and was so grateful to see how many boys were getting out of dangerous and reckless lifestyles. “They came for the surf but stayed for the ministry and now are regularly going to church,” Jorge said.
“Surfistas Cristianos Nueva Vida makes fun and fellowship possible in the same group,” Maurice said. However, the group was not just a blessing to the boys that were a part of it, it was a blessing for the whole community as well. On top of their trips to the beach and Bible studies, the boys in the organization help those most in need in the communities, especially widows. Maurice said that they follow the teachings of James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
For them, the ministry does not stop on the inside, but overflows and blesses those outside of the organization as well. “We’ve built houses for widows not just in this community, but for different villages around the country as well. We’ve added floors, rooms, you name it and we’ve done it for them,” Maurice said.
Photo by Joel Marmolejos - Dominican Republic
A ministry this impactful had great potential for growth, but Maurice did not know necessarily where that would lead until one particular beach trip gave him his answer. Maurice was out in the water catching waves when he spotted a fellow American surfing. Taken aback, he approached the man and they began talking. “It turned out he was president of the Dominican Republic branch of Christian Surfers International, and I didn’t even know that existed. He ended up inviting us to a surf camp they were doing in Playa Macao. So we took a bunch of the boys from the village with us and they got to experience fellowship with a bunch of Christian surfers from all over the country and all over the world.”
After returning from the surf camp, Maurice approached Pastor Jorge to see if they could pull something off like that as well with their ministry. “So we talked through about what we wanted to do differently, mainly with food and different events, and decided we were going to do a camp too. So we did our first camp in 2014 and we’ve been doing them ever since. We just had our eighth annual camp this August.”
Jorge is not just a pastor in the community, but an incredible baker and cook. This opened up a great opportunity for him to feed these boys as well as minister to them. Which, in seeing the amazing change in his community, he was more than happy to do. “Working so much with the food, I don’t really get to go out on the waves,” Jorge said. “But I am more than happy to watch the kids of the community out there enjoying surfing instead of getting themselves into trouble. This is all for the glory of God and for the benefit of the kids in our community.”
The surf camps had originally been centered around father/son relationships at first to try and restore that connection, but they quickly opened them up to mothers and daughters as well. Soon, many people from the village who had never surfed, let alone seen the ocean, were camping out at beaches on the other side of the country. “At one point we had about 130 boys and girls attend,” Maurice said.
Ruth Reynoso was one of the first girls to sign up for this camp and she has loved to see how her community has changed because of it. “As this organization showed their love to everyone, even if they were not Christian, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Ruth said.
“This ministry has changed my community for the better. Not only has it gotten boys and girls out of these bad lifestyles, but it has also introduced us to different parts of the country. Before, there were people just visiting the Dominican Republic who knew more about it than us locals, but with this ministry, we are able to travel,” Ruth said.
The travel doesn’t stop in the Dominican Republic either. With their connections to Christian Surfers International, a lot of the leaders from the ministry have traveled to different countries. Specifically, Costa Rica and El Salvador. “Because of this ministry I was able to travel to Costa Rica to train to be a better leader,” Sebastian said. “Later on I was able to be a part of the Christian surf camp in El Salvador.” Sebastian’s fellow leader, Gabriel, also attended this camp.
Sebastian and Gabriel became close to the church in El Salvador. And because of this connection, a group from El Salvador was able to attend this year’s camp. Now, each year, Surfistas Christianos Nueva Vida is partnering with the church in El Salvador to have an annual camp in both the Dominican and El Salvador.
Alongside the El Salvadorians, different people from around the Dominican Republic have been able to attend the camps as well. With their outreach to other cities and communities, their ministry has grown from a few boys from La Represa going to a small beach to hundreds of boys and girls traveling from all around the country, including the capital city, Santo Domingo.
At times, Gabriel said, these camps have even provided the opportunity to minister and grow more Christian surfers. “I will be out on the waves and start talking to other surfers, some who aren’t Christian, and then I’ll be able to minister to them, and invite them to be a part of our group.”
“One of the things I love about this ministry is that we can share the Word wherever we go,” Sebastian added. Not only do they minister in the water, but on land as well. In the communities they surf in, they build relationships with so many people and can really get into the Word.
Surfistas Cristianos Nueva Vida has grown way beyond what anything Maurice or his fellow leaders could’ve expected, but it is something they are continuously grateful for. They are now able to see not just changes in their community but in those of others. And they only wish to grow from here.
Another beautiful thing about these surf camps is the two people they honor. The first is a woman named Angie Walker, who in her life gave her money, her time, and her love to make the growth of this ministry possible. The second, a man named Steve Martin who supported Maurice and his family throughout their time in the DR and lovingly mentored Maurice in all his work. Both of these people had incredibly strong hearts for the Lord and for this ministry, and Surfistas Christianos Nueva Vida wants to honor them continuously and keep them in the conversation as these camps continue.
“This ministry took my passion for surf[ing] and made it possible to share it with others,” Maurice said. “It’s impacted me greatly. Though my family moved back to the States in August of 2017, it’s 2022 and I’m still coming here! It’s keeping me busy for sure.”
“My dream is to have these boys see the world. Here it’s really hard to get visas without money, but because of this ministry, these boys have been able to travel,” Maurice said, “There’s no better education than visiting and experiencing other cultures. So as they learn, our goal is to really have them take on that leadership entirely and pass their knowledge down to the new generation. Then, I can just be a presence at the camp and they can lead.”
“I would like it to grow as much as these young men want it to grow. I want it to fulfill their dreams,” Maurice said, “I want them to be able to go surfing anywhere and anytime they want and share this opportunity with others around the world.”
What started as a small dream in a rural Dominican village has grown into something that has impacted people worldwide. This is a future that Maurice could have never imagined when first listening to the Lord’s call back in 2013, but it is one that makes him incredibly proud and joyful.
This ministry looks forward to growing, ministering to all that they can, and hanging ten on some incredible waves. To keep up with the future of Surfistas Cristianos Nueva Vida, or even be a part of future branches and ministries, you can follow them on Instagram and Facebook:Surfistas cristianos nueva vida | Facebook