The Evangelist

Jonny Nelson

Face Down in the Dirt

I was lying face down in the dirt with intense pain in my shoulder, gasping for air. Earlier that morning our group decided to head out to the mountain bike trails at Camp Royal in West Virginia. It was a beautiful cool morning and although I don’t mountain bike, I was feeling great, pumping through one of the smaller jump lines. Then I crashed and broke my collar bone. Breaks, sprains, and concussions are normal to me as a skateboarder and snowboarder over the last 20 years. But this was a bit different.

In mid-August my family moved into a remodel-project house, a total Godsend, but also a massive amount of work. At the end of August and throughout September I was traveling quite a bit with JSAW, the action sports ministry I lead. We were being pushed to the max. My wife, Brittany, at home with three kids four and under, was struggling with anxiety from me traveling, the new neighborhood, house projects, and so on. At work I was $62,000 behind budget, our development director resigned and one of our program leaders stepped down for a new career path. We were exhausted in every way, but as most ministry leaders strive to do, we kept working to stay strong and faithful.

One morning before a key board meeting, my wife and I were having a spirited dispute about asking for time off. I wanted a break and she wanted a break, but I thought it wasn’t the time to ask! We just needed to push through and allow the board to stay focused on the current financial and staffing crisis. Despite my hesitation and the incredible road blocks the organization was facing, our board brought it up! They asked me to take a week off and then consider a sabbatical in spring. It was clear God was fighting for us!

The next week I was in West Virginia at the ACTs Summit, a gathering of action sports ministry leaders from North America. For some reason, as ministry leaders, we get into the mindset that we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. God literally broke my shoulders that morning out on the dirt jumps to force me to slow down and rest. When I returned home, I took a week off as planned. I was unable to do anything. The kids and I got sick, I couldn’t help my wife because of my freshly broken bone, all our house projects were on hold till spring. It was terrible. Brittany was a champ, but I was pretty useless. When I returned to the office after a week off, more than $30,000 in donations had come in above our regular giving. Again, God was fighting for us!

The battle isn’t over yet and I am sure it won’t be for some time. Brittany is now sick, our baby girl, Daisy, is up all night teething hardcore, my collar bone is still broken, we are short two staff and I have another $50,000 to raise by December 31. Brittany shared this verse with me a few weeks ago, Exodus 14:13-14. The powerful Egyptian army is bearing down on a fleeing nation of slaves. There is a sea in front of them and nowhere to run. Then Moses says to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” At this point I would have been running 100 miles an hour saying, “Forget you Moses!” But THE LORD split the sea in half, and they walked through to safety.

I want to encourage you to rest and be still. The Lord WILL fight for you! David writes in Psalm 62, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.” Your ability is not your refuge, Christ is!

Jonny Nelson, Executive Director at JSAW, has been working in action sports ministry since 2004. He has a Bachelor of Science in Youth Social Ministry and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Crown College. Jonny is all about Jesus, non-profit leadership, and development related to action sports and youth. He also spends quite a bit of time working directly with riders: mentoring and teaching. Jonny is married to his beautiful wife, Brittany, and they live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with their kids Oakley, Holden, and Daisy.