Serious JuJu: Warehouse closed but ministry continues

1001 worshiping community provides food and care to skateboarders and those who love them

by Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

A Serious JuJu skateboarder enjoys an outdoor skatepark in Kalispell, Montana. (Photo by Bob Paulus)

LOUISVILLE — Serious JuJu, a skateboarding ministry and 1001 New Worshiping Community in Kalispell, Montana, has been faithful to seeing, feeding and strengthening kids; celebrating skateboarders; and serving Christ for 13 years.

The hungry have been fed. Those who have been cast aside have been welcomed in, seen, called by named and blessed. The weak in spirit have found new heights and resilience through skateboarding. The downcast have been lifted up. The despairing have found comfort and joy, said the Rev. Miriam Mauritzen, community pastor and executive director of Serious JuJu.

Although its warehouse is currently closed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, ministry continues for more than 400 skateboarders in the Flathead Valley, part of Glacier Presbytery in northwestern Montana.

On the second day of the warehouse closure, 18 skaters and family members received food and emotional support, Mauritzen said.

Children pick up weekend food bags outside the Serious JuJu warehouse during spring break. (Photo by Miriam Mauritzen)

“It is very overwhelming as a pastor, trying to keep up with the needs. It is incredibly tenuous,” Mauritzen said. “But skateboarders are incredibly generous. They watch out for each other and pay attention to each other’s needs.”

The ministry also depends on its faithful donors and prayer, Mauritzen said, especially during food-scare weekends and times of crisis. A donor-bison ranch owner is making bison jerky and another donor is grinding beef for JuJu’s food ministry to youth and their families.

“Watching people who have resources leverage them for kids is a remarkable sign of the Holy Spirit working among our community connecting us even now … they haven’t forgotten us,” Mauritzen said. “The time to come together for the least of these is now.”

Mauritzen expressed gratitude to the Flathead Food Bank for the good food they have shared with the ministry, for Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Kalispell for providing storage space in the church, for a skateboard mom and her three young children who packed 100 food bags in five hours, and for the JuJu Board, which unfroze resources meant for a new skatepark to help feed kids and their families during this health crisis.

Serious JuJu is also grateful for the support the ministry has received through Mission Program Grants available through Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries.

Skateboarders practice social distancing as they wait to pick up weekend food bags outside the Serious JuJu warehouse. (Photo by Miriam Mauritzen)

At this time of social distancing, JuJu is still distributing bags of food and hygiene items outside its closed warehouse and is prepared to provide limited doorstep grocery deliveries to youth with pronounced needs and older volunteers and supporters who may need to stay away from stores.

Youth are being encouraged to “skate where they are” to stay healthy, mentally and physically. Each month JuJu will host several video skate competitions with prizes. To enter, skaters submit their best video, using the hashtag: #seriousjuju.

Online groups will allow all ages of the JuJu tribe to see one another on screen through Zoom video chats. A link will be provided on Facebook or Instagram the day before each gathering:

  • Tuesdays 5–6 p.m. ­— Pastor Miriam will leadJuJu Pop-In,” a place for skaters to connect, pray, share and support one another
  • Wednesdays 8–8:45 a.m. ­—Morning coffee and Bible study with Pastor Miriam,” a time for prayer, support and Bible study for adults, partners, parents or anyone.

About 75% of Serious JuJu skateboarders have endured food insecurity, incarceration of family members, homelessness, compromised housing, family addictions, abandonment, neglect, assault and abuse — trauma that makes them vulnerable to school dropout, illness, risky behavior, suicide and incarceration. Watch this video and listen to this podcast to learn more about Serious JuJu. Last year, the ministry celebrated 11 graduates, the largest number since the ministry began in 2007.

As a community pastor, a role she developed, Mauritzen describes herself as growing up in the deep south on the “wrong side of the tracks.” However, as Christ became real to her, she began to see sacred in the profane.

Skateboarding was fun in less stressful times, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary shutdown the JuJu warehouse/indoor skatepark. (Photo by Miriam Mauritzen)

“I am not a skater,” Mauritzen said. “I never paid much attention to skaters before. Every place just says: ‘No Skaters,’ like they are something dangerous. I have found them to be incredible athletes. Yes, often their lives are riddled with pain, but their perseverance and power are stunning. Christ gives us all hope. Hope does not disappoint.”

If you have questions about Serious JuJu, contact Mauritzen at jujukalispell@gmail.com or visit seriousjuju.com. Interested in working alongside Pastor Miriam Mauritzen as a 12-month pastor-in-residence at Serious JuJu, beginning at end of summer? Learn more and apply by the extended deadline of April 15. Read some JuJu “Skateboarder Spotlights” here.

In 2012, the 220th General Assembly declared a commitment to a churchwide movement that results in the creation of 1001 worshiping communities by 2022.  At a grassroots level, more than 600 diverse new worshiping communities have formed across the nation.


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