Many teens who grow up in downtown Houston have not had easy lives. Whether it is a dysfunctional families or being marginalized by society, many of these kids are stuck in circumstances that are beyond their control.
Middleman Skateboards is a Texas-based ministry dedicated to helping teenagers in the skateboard community discover their identity and purpose while finding community where they belong. Mentors in Middleman’s program invest hundreds of hours of their time in mentoring teenagers at the street level. In addition, Middleman gives skateboarding equipment to kids at skate parks 100 percent free of charge.
“We freely give because God has given to us,” said Lawton Outlaw, a skateboarder, mentor, and director of Middleman Skateboards.
Outlaw, who shredded big time in the 80s, has been involved with Middleman for the last four years. “A lot of kids don’t know where they’re going or where their lives are going,” said Dale, a teenage skater. “I didn’t know where mine was going, and I didn’t really have any point until I met Lawton about a year ago.”
Swiftwick was so excited to be a small part of Middleman’s mission last month through a skateboarding street contest that Middleman co-sponsored. Kids ages 11-17 who live in the downtown Houston area competed to win cash prizes and were judged by pro skaters.
Swiftwick was able to donate our VISION TEAM socks to give out to participants in the contest. “A lot of the kids that I gave socks to put them on immediately, and I saw how worn and battered their old socks were,” said Lawton Outlaw. “We are extremely grateful to Swiftwick for helping us make a difference in these skaters’ lives.”
After the competition, a pro skater spoke and gave his testimony, resulting in over 25 kids giving their lives to Christ. As Lawton watched kids come forward, he recognized several from the skate park that he spends hours at every week, meeting and investing in the teenagers that regularly come there. “As kids starting coming forward, I started to spot kids from my park. I saw Preston and then Tony and then Cody. It was so cool to see the breakthrough in their lives.”
Four years ago if you had asked Lawton Outlaw if he’d be skating again and using it as a ministry, he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Lawton’s journey with Middleman Skateboards started one random day when he was training for triathlon and just happened to pass a skate park. He thought to himself, “I bet I could still do that.”
For whatever reason, he went out that day and bought all the equipment to start skating again. About an hour later, he started thinking, “Why in the world did I just spend all that money on equipment? Am I going to taking up skateboarding again? Why I am doing this?” Unsure of his motives for pursuing skating once again, he began to pray about it. God’s answer? “Make skateboarding your ministry. Go to a skate park and talk about me. Skate with a purpose.”
As excited as Lawton was to get an answer, his nerves started to build. The skate community was very wary of non-skaters and outsiders. Would anyone even listen to what he had to say? As he looked through the fence of his local skate park, trying to build up the courage, a verse from the book of Isaiah came into his head out nowhere. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Determinedly and decisively Lawton answered, “Send me.”
Soon after Lawton made the decision to use skateboarding as a ministry, a friend told him about Middleman Skateboards and its founder, John Barnard. An hour after learning about Middleman, Lawton called John, interviewed, and started his journey in the ministry.
Looking towards the future, Middleman Skateboards hopes to expand their organization to other parts of the country such as California and the East Coast. They also hope to bring in more mentors to reach out to more kids.
To learn more about Middleman Skateboards, visit www.middlemanskateboards.com.
All photo are by Preston Lansford. He graciously volunteered his talent all day for Middleman’s event! Thank you Preston for some incredible shots!