Surfing for Jesus
Why did these young guys pick poverty-affected Philippines for a surfing trip?
In December 2011, Jordan Merry and a group of up-and-coming teenage surfers travelled to the Philippines in search of the perfect wave, and a glimpse in to our imperfect world. Off the beaten tourist track, the boys chatted with locals, tasted traditional Filipino dishes and faced poverty and heartbreak such as they’d never experienced before. Far from the luxuries of home, they discovered a reality so unimaginable - so far removed from their laid-back coastal Queensland lifestyle - that they decided to broadcast it to the world via YouTube (watch it below). The response to the documentary, Living on Cloud Nine, was overwhelmingly positive. Here, Jordan chats with us about the film and what it was like to hang with the boys a world away from home.
Q. How did you come up with the idea of combining a surfing trip with a visit to a poverty affected area?
A. Well, basically I saw a need for young surfers (we call them ‘groms’) to get into the real world and see how a good chunk of the world’s population live, so they could start appreciating their own life more and maybe think of ways to help those less fortunate. My dad works for Compassion Australia; I work with Christian Surfers. So what better way than to combine the two and see what happens?
Q. Can you tell us a bit about how you met these particular ‘groms’ Jayson, Izak, Matt and Jake - and how they ended up on the trip with you?
A. Christian Surfers Coolum is a big part of the community here in our local town; we always take the groms on surf trips down the coast for the weekend, or day trips to the best waves, and have weekly hangouts on Friday nights at the skate park. So finding groms wasn’t hard at all … we definitely prayed about it and sought God for the right guys for the trip, and I guess he just brought them along.
Q. Why was going to the Philippines important to you?
A. My parents took me and my sisters on a similar adventure when I was just eight years old, to experience the world and expand my worldview and perspective. I wanted to give this same opportunity to another young crew, and what better way to do it than with a bunch of surfers in a country that offers both great waves and harsh realities.
Q. It’s obvious this experience had a huge impact on you and the guys. Did you expect to be so confronted by what you saw?
A. Most of us really had no idea what to expect within the Philippines, although Richi Fagg, one of the other Christian Surfers leaders, had been there a few times before and gave us a run down on what we might come across. But when we actually went into the sponsored children’s homes and realised the conditions they had to live in, and just sat and listened to them, it really hit us hard. I didn’t think I would be so impacted by the experience, because I have seen many similar circumstances throughout my travels elsewhere, but God’s heart for those people is so evident every time.
Q. Can you tell us about one person you met in your travels whose story or character really stood out to you?
A. We came across this lady in Manilla who pretty much lived in a tin shed with her three children, no electricity or anything. But despite having next to nothing, this lady had hope: hope in Jesus Christ! It’s like she couldn’t contain herself, she kept bursting out in song mid-sentence, declaring her love for Jesus and how much he has blessed her and her family. We were all amazed by her boldness and faith in the Lord. It was also kind of contagious ... I had the songs stuck in my head all day!
Q. What is one thing you learned from this trip?
A. One of the major things that stood out for me, and I’m sure for all of us on the trip, was just the level of hope and happiness among people in the Philippines. Most of the families we visited were firm believers in Jesus and put all their hope in Him. To see people with pretty much nothing - no job, no money, hardly any food, no fame or fortune - find their hope and strength in God and Him alone is such an amazing thing!
Q. What was the response from the surfers at the end of the trip? Were they surprised by the poverty they saw in the Philippines?
A. Definitely. Throughout the trip we had debriefs about our days and we asked the groms how they were coping and feeling about what they had seen. It was evident they were moved by the experience as they began to really open up and share from their hearts. It is always good to see young men open up and be honest about the things that really matter in life.
Q. Where did the name Living on Cloud Nine come from?
A. There is a famous wave in the Philippines called 'cloud nine', and some people think we are referring to that because we surfed in the Philippines. But we are actually referring to how we have it back home; compared to others who are less fortunate, we are living on cloud nine. But it’s only when you venture out to see and experience that reality that you realise how good you have it here in Australia.
Q. What response do you hope to see from people who watch your video?
A. So far we have already had great responses from people watching the video. Many people say it is inspiring them, and giving them a new perspective on life, which is awesome! But we are just hoping that people capture the heart behind the film, and realise we can all have an impact in the lives of those less fortunate by just giving up some of our comfortable living and maybe sponsoring a child with Compassion.
Q. And, last but not least: where in the world would you love to surf next?!
A. We are loosely planning a trip through Africa, and maybe even shooting another doco, but I need to save my money first! So probably Jeffrey’s Bay will be the next spot on my bucket list of surfing destinations!
Interview by Jacqui Henderson