Vessels for hope

What do you get when four guys who share a passion for Jesus and skateboarding cross paths? A band of brothers, bound together the Christian gospel and a desire to share it with the local skateboarding community.

Vessel Skate Ministry began to take formation last year when Liberty University students Blaine Hamilton, Josh Borrero, Mark Coco and Stephen Shoge felt a mutual discontent with the way skate culture was. 

Hamilton described it as possessing a burden too heavy to ignore.

“We saw that the skateboarding community wasn’t being reached out to in any sort of spiritual way,” Hamilton said. “I’m not sure how it all happened, but one day we were all in a group message and eventually meeting together to talk about what we
could do.”

The Vessel team and Liberty Mountain Skate park hosts meetings consisting of skating and the gospel. (Photo: Macy Hrncir)

According to Borrero, the guys see themselves as vessels of light being used by God to illuminate the local skate culture with love and truth — elements that the culture doesn’t
consistently see.

“Skateboarding is often seen as such a dark community … and I feel like it’s not really reached a lot,” Borrero said. “We have this skate park here, and we felt it was time to start doing a ministry here (that) goes beyond just skating together.”

Borrero’s love for skateboarding developed at a young age. He remembers renting a library book on how to master skate tricks when he was in elementary school.

Two years ago, a broken leg forced Borrero to take a break from skateboarding and reevaluate why he was so invested in it.

“During that period, I really had to take a step back and think ‘Why do I skate?’” Borrero said. “I realized I was skating for myself and my own benefit, and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I asked God, ‘How can I be used here?’ And now he is using my passion for skateboarding to further his kingdom with some amazing guys.”

Every Monday at 7 p.m., Borrero and the rest of the Vessel team collaborate with Liberty Mountain Skate Park to host two hours of free skating, snacks and Scripture for any skateboarder who wants to come. The guys take turns leading a short gospel message.

“It’s just a different environment for skaters in Lynchburg to get plugged into,” Hamilton said. “For a lot of these kids, church is so unappealing. But coming and skating for free is appealing to them on a basic level, and we try to use that as a way to present the gospel to them. The gospel has radically changed our lives…and we want to share that with them.”

Aside from the Monday skate sessions, Vessel has recently started doing a Bible study right before Vessel at 5:30.

“I wanted to give the kids that wanted to go deeper an opportunity to go deeper,” Hamilton said. “It’s a gateway to showing them what a gospel-centered community looks like.”

(Photo: Macy Hrncir)

The guys say their goal is simple: to share the gospel and love of Jesus with the local skateboarding community in hopes of raising up future leaders of Vessel Skate Ministry.

“We’re not going to be in Lynchburg forever,” Hamilton said. “We hope to find people who have the same passion and desire that we have for this so that Vessel isn’t built on us and doesn’t die with us (when we leave).”

Hamilton said the guys hope to eventually expand Vessel Skate Ministry elsewhere.

“Wherever God takes us in our next outlets of life, we could start Vessel there,” Hamilton said. “Every city in America has skateboarders, and I’d love to see them have a resource to have the gospel presented to them.”

According to both Hamilton and Borrero, rewarding is an understatement when they look back on how the ministry has grown in the last year.

“At first it didn’t seem like a very realistic aspiration,” Borrero said. “But through the ambition and visions of the other guys, we’ve cultivated this ministry that started with just the four of us talking once a week.
The ways we’ve seen God working, I don’t even have words to describe it.”

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