Last winter, in the cold Atlantic waters off Portugal, a hardy band of surfers donned wetsuits and went out to ride the waves. "We met nearly every week," says Campus Crusade for Christ staff member Pedro Barbosa, who just bought his first surfboard this year.
Autumn and winter may seem like an odd time of year to learn to surf. Not for Pedro. In fact, when he was considering joining staff in Portugal and working with youth, he asked then-national director Eduardo Souto what was the most important qualification for the job.
"You have to be crazy!" said Eduardo.
"Then I'm the man for the job!" shot back Pedro.
And crazy he is. Not crazy in the sense of "loco," but in the sense of passionate, energetic, creative. He loves new technology and constantly spins out videos and DVDs to reach youth. He surfed in the winter because once he decided to do it, there was no time to waste. "I decided to learn before I got too old," he says. "If you know a sport, you can keep doing it when you are old, but it's hard to learn when you are old."
Not that Pedro, at age 29, is too old. He throws himself into life and ministry with the same passion as into surfing. Leading a citywide youth worship service in the old YMCA, for example, he almost physically reaches out and draws in kids from the different church groups present.
"Pedro is joyful and sociable," says Júnia, his wife. "In a group, he has the ability to make even total strangers begin laughing and talking with each other."
This outgoing spirit attracts teenagers.
"Pedro doesn't need to invent something to attract youth," comments Eduardo. "The stuff he likes to do attracts them. His lifestyle, his way of dressing, his talk, it's all very contemporary. And it's natural, not phony. He is one of them."
Back when Pedro was a boy, few would have predicted he would go into youth ministry. He was shy and liked to take photos. He seemed more destined to follow in the steps of his grandfather, a man who took pictures of tourists using a big black camera.
But his grandfather had also become a Christian and established a Christian foundation for the family. Pedro grew up listening to stories of missionaries in other lands. At age 12 he felt God calling him to be a missionary himself, but brushed that call aside to pursue photography.
During his teen years, Pedro spent a short time at the Milan Institute of European Design, then studied photography at university. Soon afterward, the prominent Portuguese news magazine Visão offered him a job. The day Pedro's first photos were published ranked among one of the proudest days of his life.
But as time went by, he began feeling a need for something more. "I felt that I was a journalist and a photographer working for one of the best magazines in Portugal," says Pedro today, "and I enjoyed my work. But it wasn't enough."
Pedro had also taken part in mission trips to Angola and Mozambique and had met people in Agape. Through Agape his knowledge of the Christian life began to change. "Understanding the power of the Holy Spirit and spiritual breathing has lifted my experience with God to a new level," he says. Four years ago Pedro decided to join Agape fulltime, so he could help teenagers experience this same excitement about walking with God.
"Pedro has a vision," says fellow Aventura staff member Marcos Pego. "It is to have teenagers so passionate about Jesus that their generation will see it is worthwhile to be a Christian."
Pedro's enthusiasm and love for God is catching. It's rubbing off on the teenagers he is discipling and on the new believers. When 7 new Christians were baptized recently, Pedro felt even better than when his first photos were published in Visão.
"When I was working as a journalist," he says, "it was all about people. Here it's all about people as well, but they will have eternal life as a result."
His grandfather would be proud. He gave his life to Christ two generations back, then became a youth leader and worked with teenagers. His grandson has followed in his steps first as a photographer, and now as a youth worker. As Pedro says, flashing a big grin, "It's in the blood!"