From a 540 to the 10/40: A skateboarder’s journey to SBTS

Originally published at Southern Seminary Towers –

Freddy Sinarahua almost didn’t make it to the meeting he thought was a job interview because he had plans to be hungover that morning. He’d just finished college and now passed his time partying his life away as a semi-pro skateboarder in Lima, Peru. He spent his days giving lessons at the skate park and representing his brand — and his evenings drinking, smoking and partying. For some reason though, he couldn’t bring himself to go out and party the night before.

“Freddy, you need to get a job,” his mother had been telling him. “You went to college for five years. It’s not possible that you’re going to keep doing what you are doing right now, which is nothing.”

Figuring he might be able to get a job as an interpreter, Sinarahua attended a meeting where Brian Henderson, an International Mission Board missionary, told him they didn’t have any such jobs for him. But Henderson said Sinarahua could attend their English lessons and get to know a few of their interpreters.

Sinarahua was angry to have his time wasted, and was not interested in waking up sober every Saturday morning to attend English lessons. Besides, between the time he’d spent studying abroad in the United States, fine-tuning his English, listening to American music, and communicating with American skaters, he was proficient in English.

“No sir. Thank you for your time, but this is not for me,” Sinarahua said, and forgot all about the meeting.

Two weeks later, his mother’s words came back to mind and he found himself reluctantly attending an English class just to tell his mother he was looking for a job. This class, though, was different. “They were opening the Bible, reading one chapter, and just going through all the words and taking them and putting them in different contexts and things like that,” he recounted.

“At the very end, the guy said, ‘Okay, before we leave, Arturo is going to pray.’ I remembered that praying was folding my hands and saying the Lord’s Prayer like a good Catholic. I was ready for it,” said Sinarahua, who grew up Catholic but hadn’t prayed since he was 15.

But Arturo prayed differently than Sinarahua had ever heard. He had a conversation with God. “Dear God, thank you so much for everybody. Go with them as they go back home. Be with them. Let them come next week,” he prayed. Sinarahua opened his eyes out of curiosity. “I thought it was very cool. That was something that kept me coming back.”

At the invitation of his new friends and because they told him there would be American food (he says that he never turns down food), Saturday morning English lessons turned into Tuesday night Bible studies. Soon after, those extended to Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Before long, Sinarahua had gone from his life as a 24/7 partier to spending hours each week studying Scripture. But he still wasn’t a believer.

Seven months later, he sat in Bible study. “Freddy, tell us, when did you come to know the Lord?” Felicia, Henderson’s wife, asked. “What do you mean, when did I come to know the Lord? I don’t think I’ve been introduced to this Lord you’re talking about,” he replied. Clearly stunned, Sinarahua recounts, she looked at his friend sitting beside him, “Say what? Freddy has been coming to all the English lessons and Bible studies, and he’s not a believer yet? What’s happening here?”

“It was the truth, you know,” he says now. “I was there, but I was not a believer. I was experiencing all these things, but I was not a believer.” He was a “good person,” he explained. He was kind to those who showed him kindness. He was a “cool guy at the skate park,” but at night, he had also been the guy who would party hard with his skate buddies.

Felicia immediately opened the Scriptures and “everything that I started to learn with all these English lessons and Bible studies and all the time I spent with these people, it started to make sense to me,” he said.

Sinarahua was “convinced by the Scripture,” and everything that he had been taught took on new meaning. “Yes, I want to become a believer! I want to follow Christ! I want to do that,” he pled. “I prayed myself, then they prayed for me, then we all prayed. We kept on praying. Then we had a party — not like the parties I was used to.”

‘A different person’
Now, less than five years later, Sinarahua is in his third semester at Southern Seminary. His location, lifestyle, and life purpose have drastically changed from when he started his undergraduate degree in Lima, Peru.

After Sinarahua became a believer, his day-to-day lifestyle changed dramatically. He began to pour his time into mission trips, working as an interpreter with groups that would come from the states. A mere two weeks after professing Christ, Sinarahua met a group from Grace Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky — the church that would eventually become his sponsor in America.

Todd Meadows, the youth pastor at Grace, immediately saw that Sinarahua was “unique” and a “self-starter.”

“I really felt like from day one he didn’t see himself as a hired gun for interpreting,” said Meadows, who was instrumental in encouraging Sinarahua to go to Southern and now considers him to be part of his family. “He understood that God had called him to share the gospel. When our teams came down, we were the same. We were both missionaries. We were both going to take the gospel to the people of Peru.”

There were times during their mission trip that Meadows would see Sinarahua sharing the gospel independently in situations where he wasn’t even interpreting for the team. Later, when Meadows would ask about the conversation, Sinarahua would reply, “Oh, I shared the gospel with this lady and she was telling me about her past.”

“He just naturally had a concern for people and their condition as being lost. He knew the good news. He had a desire to tell them,” Meadows said.

After dedicating a lot of time to mission trips and only a little to skateboarding, Sinarahua returned to skating with intentions to start a ministry for skaters. He had high hopes of using the respect that his skills demanded in the world of skating to reach other skaters. Yet, while attempting to land a trick at his first competition back, he ripped his ACL, resulting in his not being able to walk for a short time and, he thought, never being able to skate again.

“I was very mad at God,” Sinarahua said. He asked, “God, how are all these other guys partying and drunk and on drugs and they keep skating, and now that I want to serve you and start a skate ministry, you just take the ability away from me?” However, Sinarahua said that in God’s goodness, he put people in his life to show him that his skating ministry didn’t have to be over.

Through just going to his skate park and faithfully teaching others, sharing trick tips, and giving away much of his gear, he began to form relationships. “I finally understood that my desire was to reach out to the skateboarders but I was doing it the wrong way,” Sinarahua explained. “I thought, because of my ability with the skateboard, the kids are going to listen to me – to me, not to the gospel or to Christ.” But he began to understand that simply being faithful and investing in others was the way God would open doors for him to spread the good news. Soon, he was not only mentoring a 9-year-old boy, but he was also having “intimidating” skaters in his home to share Bible stories. Through the time they spent together, God started to work in some of their lives.

Two years later, Sinarahua received the opportunity to come to Kentucky to get his ACL repaired. While staying with the Meadows family, he visited Southern Seminary for a pastor’s conference. Unbeknownst to him, his friends had set up an interview for him. Sinarahua loved the school, but was still very unsure about the idea of seminary. “Well, Freddy, it’s up to you now. You decide,” they challenged.

Although Sinarahua prolonged the application process and had to wait for God to provide funding to move to the states for his M.Div., he saw God work in “miraculous” ways to bring him to Kentucky, and he finally started school at Southern in January 2016.

Now he is preparing to go overseas to work with Syrians.
“My heart right now is set on the Middle East,” he said. But it wasn’t until recently, though, that he realized that Louisville is home to around 7,000 Syrian refugees. “I always thought I was going to go there (Syria) because I’m passionate about the Syrians and there are Syrians coming here!”

He is now using his passion for the Syrian people and his desire to share the gospel with the lost to plug into a ministry that reaches out to Syrian families and refugees while he’s studying in Kentucky.

“It’s pretty cool. I just realized that God didn’t only bring me to Southern Seminary, but he brought me to Louisville because all of these people that I want to work with are here already. That for me is confirmation that I am in the right place.”