CBN.com The sleepy little fishing village on the pacific coast of Panama is called Santa Catalina. Members around the world know it as a haven for surfers.
Giovanni Greco loves to see his life going down the tube. This Panamanian real estate agent has competed internationally in the sport of bodyboarding for more than 15 years.
“I came to Santa Catalina when I was 15 years old,” Giovanni says. “I was living just for having fun and surfing. [It] was wild -- wild life. Go to [discos], go to bars with my friends and hang out with the girls. Just being cool.”
Within a couple of years, Giovanni realized that bodyboarding wasn’t just fun, it was something he was really good at. He started competing and enjoyed the notoriety that came with winning.
“I was a little macho,” he says. “I used to go to the surf contests and see everybody. They’re good but I’m better. I can beat all those guys. They have a good level but they cannot compare with me.”
But Giovanni soon found out that big talk came with a big price -- a fear of failure.
He says, “I used to have fear about competing against my friends, competing against the kids, and they were getting better.”
The better Giovanni did in his sport, the more his fear grew. Would he lose his edge? Would he be a failure?
Even though Giovanni wasn’t a Christian, he was also afraid of failing God… “I used to feel a little guilty about just coming to know God because I thought of the things that I was doing. I was not going to be able to do it anymore.”
But then Giovanni ran into someone who claimed to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He was intrigued, but didn’t want to give up his lifestyle to follow God. Still, he says God was calling him.
“He was telling me, ‘Just come and experience me. I have something better for you.’ Whoo! The stuff was really tough because it was the time when God made a division between evil and good things with me.”
It all came to a head one night at the only bar in Santa Catalina.
“I was convicted, and I started running on the beach, just running and getting really frustrated with myself. I was thinking, ‘I want to kill myself.’”
Later, a young woman he knew came up to him and started talking to him about God.
“She invited me to pray and said, ‘Come with me and let’s pray. Repeat after me but say it with your heart.’
“I said it with my heart. I started feeling things that I never felt before. I felt great peace in my heart. There were so many things it was removing out of my heart. I felt that my heart was completely light and super clean. I was a new Christian. The old man was gone, and He showed me it was real.”
And that wasn’t the only thing that changed in Giovanni’s life.
“The fear was completely gone. After awhile fear ran away because with Him there’s no reason to be afraid. I knew that I was under His protection.”
In 2003 he took first place in the BIA international competition tour in California.
“He let me take first place, and [it] was a good experience, a good blessing,” says Giovanni, “and not just for me, also for all the kids and all the guys who was hanging around me. I got to share the Word of God.
“I was able to overcome this fear just depending on God -- trusting that God was going to do the best for me. If I lose or win, I know it was God’s purpose.”
But he didn’t stop winning. Since then, Giovanni has gone on to take two international bodyboarding titles and is known by boarders around the world.
“When you surf heavy waves, [there] always is fear. But after you drop that wave, you feel so much excitement, and you feel that ‘wow.’ I compare this to the Christian life. You take the step of believing, that God is in control, and you don’t have to be afraid. Just get that tube and get that right wave."
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