Brian Sumner's love for skateboarding brought him out of Liverpool, England to California, USA. While his passion earned him a living, gave him a purpose, and let him ride for Tony Hawk it also brought him drug abuse, a broken marriage, suicidal thoughts, and eventually led him to prison. You can watch or read as Brian tells the inspirational story of how, through a thrift store, he found something more to live for, making a complete 180 of his life for Christ.
I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. I was born and raised in Liverpool England where I spent my time playing soccer, doing Martial Arts, eating fish and chips, beans on toast and not understanding life. At the age of 13 I had gone on vacation to New Jersey to visit my older sisters who were nannying there at the time. On my 13th birthday I received a skateboard as a gift from my sister, and from that time on my life became about skating. Soccer and Martial Arts were always inviting as a kid but when I found skating I knew it was something different.
Also growing up in Liverpool the streets are rough and the attitude can be harsh. Lots of street fights and conflict I always felt a bit out of place. Soccer was something I did because it was what kids do and Martial Arts was because of how interested in Bruce lee I was. Growing up my Dad would play Bruce’s movies and fill heavy industrial bags with folded newspapers and carpets for me to hit. Many rainy nights in Walton were spent like this.
Skating presented a new focus, new possibilities and something very personal. Those next few years involved many hours skating in the city center, to complete (huge pants and shirts) wardrobe change. Skating consumed my life and Liverpool had a powerful underground street scene that I was part of. We went around the country entering contests and going to events, all in the name of fun.
I finished school at 15, and headed out to America to stay with Geoff Rowley who being from Liverpool also, had invited me over. My first time on the West Coast and I knew I had found my home. At 16 I had been through a half year of Art college and after winning skate contests and getting in videos and magazines I was back to America to take skating to where it could go.
The next few years involved living in apartment after apartment in Huntington Beach with Andrew Reynolds, Jay Strickland, Jim Greco, Ali Boulala and the whole Warner Ave Crew stage of skating. Riding for Tony Hawks Birdhouse we spent day and night skating everywhere we could filming and shooting photos. I was a teenager traveling the world with no responsibilities but to skateboard, eat food and hang out in local Jacuzzis.
Life had planned out fine as far as what I had set my goals on and what I had faced. At around the age of 19 I got into a serious relationship with my future wife to be. She was best friends with Geoff’s girlfriend and so after hanging out heavily for just a few months, and with myself about to leave back to the UK, we opted to drive out to Vegas and declare our love to the world…
We also went ahead and decided we were so sure of all this that we also were ready for a child. Anyone out there knows, you are never ready for a child. And being a young couple with no responsibilities we were about to realize this.
Our love was as true as love can be as far as the world goes, and we were more than happy when we found out we were pregnant. I was skating, had a pro model for Birdhouse coming out, a pro shoe for Adio, was riding for Volcom and everything seemed steady. Somewhere between getting pregnant and having a one year old our whole reality changed.
When we meet people it is generally out of our selfishness. We like the person because, of the way they look, think, act, treat us, and so it is as much about us as is it about them. We were all about each other and as Tracy adjusted to becoming a mom I had no idea what was taking place. By the time I had gotten used to trying to be a Father, her hormones re-aligned and she was now in need of the same honey moon stage romance. We were all over the place.
I was touring, would have a hard time skating. There was jealousy, insecurity, having no clue how to walk in true love. We were lost! We talked about being separated so much that after just a few years we ended up divorced.
All those feelings of anger came back from being a kid in Liverpool. While making money, while traveling the world, while living the so called dream with skateboards and gear with your name on I had no clue about anything really. The thing that mattered most had failed, and I was frustrated.
I moved out into an apartment with a few more skaters and this only resulted in chaos. Partying get into fights and having no purpose. Skating had grown and when the police come to a school yard or business where you are skating, you don’t get skate tickets, you get trespassing or vandalizing tickets. A few fights, some tickets for skating and I end up in Court. Skating a spot one day at the river bed the police showed up to see what we were doing. I had a baton in my car that I did not know was illegal. Arrested, Court, probation. I have everything I dreamed of in skating, am divorced, am not a US Citizen and life is not making sense one bit.
Around this time, I would see my son as much as I could, I was trying to skate as much as I could but I just felt defeated, like nothing meant anything. Upon going to Court and choosing a place to do community service, I read at the bottom of the list, “Christian Thrift Store”.
I was raised about five doors down from a Catholic Church. God was something I just believed in but had no reality of who He is. Just an idea or something you talk about along with UFOS and Ghost stories late night.
I did pray at times and never liked hearing people blaspheme, but pursuing God was not something I was focused on. As I read “Christian Thrift Store” I thought about the cool vintage shirts, the old school baseball tees and the rest of what America throws away. Mixing that along with who knows what these Christians are going to be like, this should make my 120 hours community service pass fairly easily.
My wife and I were separated but did we stop loving each other? Did we want it to work? Our friends gave the typical advice of “we would meet other people” and that we were not the “right ones for each other”. We had no idea of the Bibles perspective and so we hadn’t really fought the fight we had made vows to fight, vows to keep, “till death do we part”.
Feeling like life had no purpose and knowing I was going to be at a Christian Thrift Store I decided I was going to look for God, and prove He wasn’t real. If He wasn’t real, then everything is permissible and nothing truly matters. We just happened, and my divorce, my having no understanding about life, would be justified away. This would in a sense let me off the hook for having no clue and allow me to do whatever I wanted regardless.
In all, I guess you could say I was over living, and wanting to be around my son so much while fighting with his Mom was not helping anything.
I took the direct approach. Read about Religions, figured out where they started and what they claimed, looked into evolution and many of the accepted theories, put it all together and when it collapsed, only thing standing should be Truth.
As I began at the Thrift store I had already ordered the History channel and National Geographic DVDS. Much of everything related to God was being t-voed and closely inspected. Reading what Darwin wrote in the “Origin of species”, looking for what the world has to say against God, and of course, for the first time, reading The Holy Bible.
While folding clothes, stacking books and moving furniture around the Thrift store, the mood was set by songs like “Hank Williams”, “I saw the Light”. Many of Johnny Cash’s Gospel songs were playing, along with popular worship songs. Most people there with Christians who were part of the local Church.
I challenged everything I could while there even making up extra hours by cooking food for the church on Wednesdays.
I was e-mailing Priests and Rabbis, questioning the book of Mormon and the Watchtower, trying to understand what “Enlightenment” meant. Why were my Rasta friends so mellow, why was their all those crusades and where was God today?
My community service was broken up over 7 months because I was still traveling for skating. Over those months I realized how so many of those Godless based DVDS where just theory, an idea, and often times a prejudice. I saw how many of the faiths never started and ended anywhere and didn’t answer the most basic questions anyone would expect to understand if there was a God. I also saw how many people that professed certain things never actually tried to walk along with what they said…
Basically in a large nutshell, there was no evidence for evolution. Darwin himself said his theory would be proven, or would not. Many faiths have a numerous amount of Gods without there being any accountability, so in a sense, whatever we think, can find a way somewhere, and so, making us our own god. Most faiths don’t deal with the issues of why we are here, if we matter, if we are to be a certain way and what happens after we die.
Through those seven months I found a book on the shelf in the Thrift store called “The Case for Christ”. This book helped answer a lot of those questions and point to the authority of The Bible.
I was still fighting with my now ex wife, nothing had changed, and I had gotten even more frustrated with everything. I made the decision that if God didn’t show Himself then what did it matter if I lived or not?
I had been reading in The Bible about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God who said He created man in His Image. The God who said He spoke the Uni (single) verse (sentence) into existence. The God who made a covenant with Noah, with Abraham and so with the Jewish nation and onto the people of the world. This God, was a God who cared, but who required commitment. This God had set in place 613 laws for which His people were to keep. As Israel bore witness of their faith in YHWH (YAHWEH), the neighboring peoples were able to submit to Gods authority, or not. Time and time again Israel rebelled and fell into sin and so God withdrew and sent them a Prophet to challenge them to turn their hearts back to the Father. Eventually God withdrew from the Nation for a season and sent his only Begotten son once and for all to die on the cross bringing atonement for the sin of mankind.
I read and read, watched and watched but had not met Jesus. I had prayed the sinners prayer a few times but never really understood what needed to take place. I was looking to God as a way to fix my life, to give me a sign of some sort, but the Truth of it is, I really needed to be forgiven of my sins.
I kept on that path until I had taken enough in, I had seen how the whole world was different before and after Christ came and died. I understood the History of the Jewish people and where the Old and New Testament fit in. I saw how so many variations of Christianity are not based on the Bible, and this all made what I was seeing many different people doing make sense.
I had been skating up at the Skate Lab and had ran into Christian Hosoi who had recently gotten out of prison. I asked him about Church and various things out of the Bible and he just told me to come to The Sanctuary. Sometime later I saw him again at a skate contest and then again at Vans one night. He could see I was searching and that night at Vans he was skating with his Pastor, Jay Haizlip. We skated and talked and I decided I wanted to check out The Sanctuary Church.
In my personal life I had already decided I wanted to be around my son as much as I could, and that I would do everything I could to be in his life daily. I bought a house after a year of being in the apartment with a bunch of skaters and I invited my ex wife to live with me for Dakotas sake. Also for us to consider things again. A few nights after the Vans session I went to the Sanctuary and heard a message out of
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.
And also Galatians 5:16-21 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
I understood that I was in sin and it wasn’t that I needed God to change my life, but I needed God to save me from hell because of my sins. Every cuss word or foul thought had separated me from God eternally, because he is morally perfect, and cannot be around any sin. I had an understanding of the Bible but had no relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that many come to Him calling Him Lord, but it is only he who does the will of the father, who will enter into Heaven.
That night after church I went home and again got into a fight with my ex wife. That night I went into the office and got on my face before the Lord. It was around midnight and I prayed a prayer about how I was over my life and that I was sick of fighting with Tracy, and not knowing how to be the Dad I should be. I called out being as serious as I could be and shared with the Lord my heart… Of course He already knew.
I said I was over everything, and that I wouldn’t believe unless He showed up. I plead with Him for 40 minutes about the simple things I don’t understand and the things we fight about that I am sorry for. I acknowledged my sins and asked to be forgiven. I told Him that based on the scripture I had read He made the claim He would free me of sin and send The Helper to me. Upon asking for forgiveness I said I would:
Remarry my wife
Give Him my skating
Submit to His Will and go wherever He required.
That’s night Just as Jesus Christ claims in His Word, that He has shed His Blood for the sins of whoever calls upon His Name, He was faithful.
I felt a presence approaching in that room that I can only describe as a ball of energy and in one instant, everything about my mindset and doubt was changed. He did what He claimed and transformed my life… I fell on the floor with joy but wept because I couldn’t believe people don’t know this is real. I spent another 40 minutes praising Him and praying for His Will to be done.
I went to bed around one and laid down next to my son with my ex-wife on the other side. She sat up with her eyes closed and gave me a speech about everything I had just prayed, confirming what had just happened. She laid back down and the next morning could not recall ever saying what she said.
We had nothing to fight about because I wanted to follow Christ and wasn’t interested in the house, who she could be with or what she wanted to do. She being raised Catholic came at me with question after question and challenge after challenge but three weeks later a man preaching at our Church spoke to her and she had an encounter with Jesus also.
I was baptized September 12th 2004, we were re-married a year later.
I have been attending the Sanctuary church since that time and am now a Deacon, and Preach Saturday nights called “Generations”. Dakota has a new sister and my wife is part of the children’s ministry and started a ministry for mother’s called ~Mott’s~ Mothers of Tiny Tot’s. I gave my skating to the Lord and have not looked back since.
I no longer ride for the same sponsors as I didn’t want to be anything like I was before Christ. Why push a brand that the majority of is not presenting The Gospel? People are still aware what is taking place of my life but I wanted to partner with Ministries and brands that are baring witness. Do I want to be around the world doing all I can to get a photo in the mag? Do I need any of the things the world brought me? No, my call is to serve the Lord just as He called us according to His purpose. Pastor Jay, Christian and myself are part of the Uprising Ministry Reality Show that is simply for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.
As a kid I got knocked out on a handrail and woke up saying I had seen God, saying I had heard from God that He had a plan for me in America. I could not remember my sisters name, or who Ali Boulala was who was staying with me at the time but I was so persistent in saying God had revealed something to me. I also said He told me I would forget much of what I was told but that I would ride for Airwalk and would be living in America one day.
A 15 year old kid who has never been to Church or read The Bible and has no sponsors. For the next two weeks I had more joy than I had ever known. Everything was amazing and I would walk around talking about Jesus, about God and how amazing He is.
Years later at the age of 24 I met the Living Savior and He fulfilled His promise, transforming my eternity and my life. I was trying to explain the feeling to someone of the lord showing Himself real in my office that night and as I was trying to relate it to something, I said “one time as a teen I was knocked out skateboarding and…” and I realized that I had forgotten all about this experience for years. It was the exact same feeling from claiming the Lord revealed something to me, to years later when he showed up and set me free. I had forgotten all about what I said had happened, but it was confirmed years later. Amen!