Leader Profile: Wilner Panazza

by Dustin Miller

I’d like to tell the story of a guy who is leading one of our chapters in Guatemala. His firstname is Wilner, but everybody calls him by his last name, Panazza.

Panazza is from the coastal city of Puerto San Jose. It's about one and a half hours from the capital city of Guatemala. I was able to meet him and his team of surfers last year on my visit. I joined them for a brief Bible study at a local Christian skate park, and then he invited us over to his church to meet his pastor over lunch. His pastor said nothing but great things about Panazza and how much he had grown in his faith and leadership in the local Christian community. Panazza has also been on the National Surf Team for Guatemala and has traveled internationally to compete in surf contests.

You see, it is very rare for a guy like Panazza to come out in good condition from the city of Puerto San Jose. The city is notorious in Guatemala for its gang violence, drug addictions, and corrupt standards of local police and politicians. People from Guatemala City, which is dangerous enough in itself, see Puerto San Jose as a place they wouldn’t go because of the potential dangers. Panazza has numerous friends who have lost their lives to drugs, gang violence, and the like. The surf scene has historically been the epicenter of such crime as well.

But here's the good news – things are changing among the youth of Puerto San Jose. Panazza and his group of CS leaders are making a difference. They have marched in anti-drug and violence campaigns, they hold regular Bible studies for surfers and skaters, they're teaching younger guys and girls in their community how to surf and skate and how to do it for Jesus Christ! Even the older, more hardcore surfers are attending the Bible studies and slowly changing for the better.

This is the photo of our training we did with Panazza and some of the leadership team from the Guatemala City chapter. We were empowering the guys to set up their ministry in Guatemala so that it can go the long-haul. We're working to see both current surfers and future generations of surfers become disciples of Jesus through the ministry of Christian Surfers in Guatemala.

Please be in prayer for Panazza, Edgar, and Trix as they continue to lead the charge for change in their surf communities.