by Ana Barend, Women's World Tour Chaplain
The US Open was an event filled with emotions for me. An amazing family, whom I now call friends, hosted me and their hospitality blessed my heart. It is such a gift to witness how God can use hospitality not only to bless the hosted, but also the hosts. Numerous times throughout my stay, as the house was always open to pro surfers, photographers, friends, and family, I witnessed God blessing and orchestrating meetings and situations that would not have happened if the home's doors were not as welcome. This blessed my heart, and it encouraged me to open my house even more than I already do.
Huntington Beach is an interesting place. There is a mix of families, teenagers (some living life, some allowing life to take its toll on them through bad choices), surf fans from all different backgrounds, a myriad of surf photographers, police on horseback, security, and much more. In the midst of it all, everyone was there to witness the best surfers in the world perform in a place where surfing is etched in its history and lifestyle.
Thousands of people watched amazing surfing during the US Open, but the more astute spectators also watched a wonderful moment. They watched what defines a real friendship in the midst of an environment that is not very cooperative towards real connections. This picture was taken seconds after Johanne Defay, the event's champion, defeated Bianca Buitendag during the semis. They competed professionally and both tried their hardest, but as soon as the buzzer indicated the end of the heat, both hugged. Genuine joy could be seen in both athletes, which brought tears to my eyes. What a gift it was to witness such moment.
The final at this event was an emotional one. Sally competed with a perforated eardrum (Fiji accident) while Johanne experienced her first WCT final. Both athletes did their best with what they were given and Johanne finished with the win. As I have said numerous times before, I believe God does not care about results, but He cares about our hearts. He knows what we need, how we need, and when we need it. I believe these two amazing ladies needed this blessing and in this I am rejoicing.
Apart from the event, I had a privilege to engage in numerous talks with athletes, friends, families, and acquaintances. We talked about faith, family issues, personal hardships, decisions, God (obviously), relationships, and friendships. These talks make my trips worth it. I pray that every word that comes out of my mouth will become an encouragement to those to hear, and for God to give me wisdom from above to tangibly touch and demonstrate His amazing love to those with whom I interact. I am so blessed to be serving Him in this capacity and your prayers and support is an amazing encouragement to me.
If you would like to support Ana as the WSL Women's Chaplain, please visit www.christiansurfers.com/donate and note "Women's Chaplain" in the description.