Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Student Ministry Newsletter- November 2008

Aloha Church of God Student Ministry Newsletter - November 2008

Those involved in our student ministry had many opportunities to live out their obedience to God in October. It was inspiring to witness people trying something different, stepping up to the plate to serve.

During the week that youth pastors Garth and Kathy traveled to Uruguay and Argentina, adult volunteer Wendy took the helm. After teaching Sunday school all by herself, Wendy coordinated the Wednesday follow up to the previous week's pop can drive fundraiser. So many students showed up that we ran out of seats, even with drivers Wendy, her son, and Sharon!


The next week, Aloha High School seniors Alissa and Kevin recruited students and adults to participate in a tentatively named "drama club." The initial meeting was well attended (not everyone was present when this photo was taken), with some future thespians ready to use their gifts to glorify God. We are hoping to see wonderful and entertaining presentations from this group in the coming months!


Last but definitely not least, AHS graduate Michelle followed up her heartwarming August testimony from International Youth Convention with her decision to be baptized by Garth and Kathy in October. Michelle's spiritual growth has been evident throughout all of the years that we've known her, and her obedience to God's Word was displayed yet again through her willingness to share with the student group about her baptism experience.


Much else could be said about our student ministry's increase in numbers (our turnout was obviously a bit smaller on this night),

our wild outreach events (such as following Scriptural clues through a frightening but tasteful "haunted" corn maze), and the intensified involvement of other emerging student leaders. But know this: God is actively transforming the lives of our church's young people.

In Christ,

Youth Pastors Garth and Kathy Hamilton

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Uruguay-Argentina 2008, Part 3

Uruguay-Argentina 2008, Pt. 3

Kathy and I scrambled for cover as the protestors' gunfire erupted in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo, piercing the late afternoon sky with the cry of a revolution. Our hearts pounded as we fled for safety behind the ranks of heavily armed Policia Federal, garbed in full riot gear as they filed out of their armored vehicles…

Okay, so this event in Argentina wasn't quite THAT dramatic. However, this is essentially how it happened, and Kathy and I can recall plenty of episodes like this from over a decade of world travel to nearly 35 countries. My problem is that I get so wrapped up in the excitement of the moment that I often delay updating my travelogue until there are too many stories to recount.

My solution? I usually upload my photos to http://www.flickr.com/ as I travel from hostel to hostel, often adding descriptions and tags later (please contact me if you would like free access to my entire "private" photo catalog). As of today I have yet to upload the final batch from our Uruguay-Argentina vacation, but most of this trip is already documented online in pictures.

As in my previous blog post uploaded from our Uruguayan hostel, I could share our remaining October adventures in South America using the same dramatic flair (the kind of flair that you pin to your Chatchski's polo shirt) as above. Instead, though, I choose to take the easy way out and present to you in sentence fragments the awkwardly titled…drum roll please…

The top 14 most vivid memories from the second half of Garth and Kathy's Uruguay-Argentina vacation!


14. Stopping at a church at exactly 7:00 pm PST Wednesday night to pray for our student ministry meeting back home.

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13. Cautiously weaving and pushing through a crowd of protesters outside of a government building in Uruguay's Colonia de Sacramento. Little did we know that this incident would be relatively tame compared to the political activists whom we would encounter in Argentina (see #2, below).


12. A crippled local gentleman who followed us around the Plaza de Indepencia , insisting on taking our picture in front of the eternally guarded tomb of Artimas and every other landmark in the vicinity.


11. Capping off our tour of the cobblestone streets of Colonia with a scrumptious pizza dinner at the waterfront El Torrean café.


10. Traveling by intercity bus, slow boat Eladia Isabel, and finally a taxi from Uruguay to Argentina, only to discover that all of Buenos Aires' youth hostels were booked for the night. Around midnight, we finally sprung for the inexpensive hostel Hotel Europa.


9. Eating our first (and best ever) steak at Bistro Iberia at 1 a.m. Wednesday, resulting in our commitment to seek out delicious steak dinners and/or lunches daily. Another highlight was our humungous steak lunch at Natacha on Thursday, but we recommend that you skip the El Sito cafe. Steak tastes amazing in Argentina, and it's a bargain!

8. Argentine police allowing passersby to threaten, punch, and shove an accused petty thief (sometimes even restraining him!) into a steel door as we watched from across the dark alley. "Street justice" takes on a new meaning when the police give their blessing.


7. Attempting to buy local coffee beans as gifts from the Coffee House, a large Americanized café on Buenos Aires' pedestrian-only Florida Avenue. It required two cashiers, one manager, and a phone call to headquarters for the staff to figure out how to price a prepackaged bag of beans. Apparently brewing premium coffee at home is a foreign concept for some South Americans.


6. The entire city of Buenos Aires going crazy over a national soccer game on Wednesday.


5. Spotting Sun (or a look-alike) from the TV show "Lost" while sipping coffee at the upscale Richmond.

Locals squared off against each other at chess in the Richmond's basement, visible from our table upstairs.


4. Navigating many of Buenos Aires' streets by visually referencing the Capital Federal landmark, which can be spotted throughout various neighborhoods.


3. Looking on as a heated argument en español deteriorated into a near catfight between two women at the gravesite of Eva Peron. The face off was between an opinionated tour guide and a feisty porteña on a pilgrimage, each shoving their own take on the Peron legacy down each other's throats. But this throw down at Evita's grave could never overshadow what we faced across the plaza from Evita's "preaching" balcony a day earlier…

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2. …Short bursts of gunfire (as mentioned above, in italics) nearly causing Kathy and I to jump out of our hiking boots as we neared the Casa Rosada, the Presidential building in Plaza de Mayo.

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Policia Federal in riot gear were on hand as militant protesters marched around the plaza for an hour or so, frequently halting to discharge their weapons into the sky and shout a heavily accented, "Freedom!"

1. Strolling past a café that was blasting out an elevator music remake of "Sweet Child O' Mine"…with Slash's memorable lead guitar replaced by a flute solo (!). Truth is, I couldn't think of anything cool enough to top that last one for the #1 spot.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Uruguay-Argentina 2008, Part 2

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

As I prepare to post this blog from my youth hostel in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, I am pondering one profound question: Did the Dallas Cowboys make that final field goal to force the Arizona Cardinals into overtime, with four seconds remaining?

Kathy and I transferred planes in Salt Lake City and arrived in Atlanta just in time for the first quarter of the Dallas game. Strolling down the concourse, we stopped at each TV screen whenever we saw the Cowboys assemble on the line of scrimmage. Our layover in Atlanta should have been just long enough to allow us to watch the entire game.

Kathy and I had already been assigned seats on the flight to Buenos Aires, and Delta was boarding all zones. I kept stepping out of the boarding line to walk across our gate to the TV monitor. The Cowboys were down by three, with four seconds remaining. Faulk was about to make a 50-odd yard field goal attempt (which was repeatedly interrupted) to tie the score at the end of regulation play. As the gate agent impatiently shouted the final boarding call, I peeled myself away from the game and handed her my boarding pass. After that last ten hour flight plus a day of exploring South America, I still have not gone online to post this blog or see the final score. No matter how that game ended, GO COWBOYS!!

Keeping with my tradition, I waited to open my Lonely Planet travel guide for Argentina (it also covers Uruguay) until we were actually seated on our international flight. I've learned from past experience that leaving a book unopened will allow me to return it to Barnes & Noble if I get bumped off a flight and need to choose a different destination. I skimmed the book while watching a minor Kevin Costner comedy, promptly dozing off as the final credits rolled. A virus I caught in late September has kept me awake all night, coughing, several times in the past couple weeks (including Friday night). Though I am still far from a full recovery, nothing could keep me awake on that flight.

Gray skies greeted us at Buenos Aires' Ezeiza airport, along with a professional driver named Richard.
He was so helpful in providing visitors' information (and competitively priced) that we hired him to drive us to the Burqebus boat terminal for our ferry to Uruguay.

Richard drove us through the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires to get us oriented for our return to Argentina on Wednesday. We discussed faith, culture, and Argentina's economy. At the port we said our goodbyes, ate some pizza, and boarded a ferry bound for Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

At the Hotel Colonia, we checked out their complimentary mountain bikes. Kathy's bike had only a front brake (one more brake than mine had), and mine had two low tires and erratic steering. It was quite an experience, but it would be an understatement to say that they were safety hazards on wheels.

We spent the rest of our day wandering the cobblestone streets of Colonia, impressed that structures from the 1600s were still being used by citizens of Uruguay today. We had dinner on the waterfront patio of El Torreon and desert shakes at a nearby café.

I would share more stories from Colonia, but our bus is about to leave for Montevideo. I hope I can access this hostel's Wi-Fi signal so I can post this blog entry. If all goes according to plan, we should be leaving Uruguay late tonight to return to Argentina.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Traveling to Uruguay

When is good cell phone reception disappointing? I am grateful that I can use my phone to create this blog post, but cell phone service can only indicate one thing: On our second full day of vacation, Kathy and I are still in the United States.

As a former airline employee, I fly for free. The catch is that Kathy and I fly standby and can only get on flights which have seats available. After trying since Friday night to catch an open flight out of Portland, my parents intervened. The MAX train does not run early enough in the morning, so my parents let us crash at their house in Vancouver, WA for a few hours.IMG_0198

My mom was even kind enough to take us to the airport at 4:30 a.m.IMG_0199

We finally made it, thank God! Our flight to Salt Lake City is about to push back from the gate. Our destination? Last night we ruled out Europe and decided to fly to Uruguay, with a stop in Argentina. I'm looking forward to not having cell phone reception.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Student Ministry Newsletter- October 2008

Note: Photos added to this post.

Due to popular demand, I will begin posting my Aloha Church of God student ministry newsletters on this blog (whenever practical). It fires me up to see how God is working in the lives of these young people. Please join me in supporting these students through prayer and encouragement as they seek after God's own heart.

Aloha Church of God Student Ministry Newsletter - October 2008

We would like to officially welcome Eleanor Buckles into our student ministry. She is now in 7th grade and already fits right in with our group.Eleanor is revealed.JPG

Another thing we are excited about is the arrival of Pastor Tim on October 12th!Pastor Tim.JPG

When he and Janelle visited Aloha in early September, we also got the privilege of meeting Ben and Will. Both boys joined us on Saturday, September 6th to hike up Multnomah Falls with Brandon, Allen, Eleanor, and Alissa. While at the top, Allen almost had a chipmunk eating peanuts out of his hand. Top of M Falls.JPG
IMG_0089.JPGIt was fun getting to know Ben and Will and we are so happy that they will soon be part of our student ministry.

Our annual See You at the Pole prayer gathering took place on Wednesday, Sept 24th this year. SYATP is observed at high school campuses nationwide on the fourth Wednesday morning of every September. Aloha High School senior Kevin Gade met at his campus' flagpole at 7 a.m. with Garth and about 30 AHS students to pray for their school, community, and nation. With curious onlookers gawking, student leaders from various local churches read Scripture, shared, and cried out passionately to God. SYATP.JPG
Our church followed up with a pizza party outreach that evening.

"Speak, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10) was this year's theme for See You at the Pole. This month, our Bible studies have examined the lives of two men who had this attitude. Nehemiah, a prophet called by God, came before the Lord in prayer before even asking for help in building the wall of Jerusalem. Haggai also listened to God's instructions before undertaking the major remodeling the Lord's temple.

Both of these men listened to God first, and then acted on His word to them. Our students kept this in mind as we removed weeds around the church during one of our Wednesday night sessions. Weeding1.JPG
May we all listen for God's call, and then be quick to obey!

By the way, here is a bonus pic not included in our church newsletter. IMG_0113.JPG
After a time of reflection, our students dipped their sins into a bowl of liquid that symbolized the blood of Christ. Our sins have been washed away!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Student Ministry Newsletter- September 2008

I've always considered this to be a personal blog, not a ministry blog. However, student ministry is where God has placed me right now, so this is obviously a huge part of my life. I figured, why not start posting our student newsletters here? Kathy and I write these articles every month anyway, and there are probably few people who get to read them who aren't parents or friends within our church family. So without further ado, here is last month's...
Aloha Church of God Student Ministry Newsletter- September '08
Several of our students made appearances this year at the Oregon/Southwest Washington Campmeeting in Brooks. Paul and Autumn Kelley were able spend the entire week on the grounds, while others came up for the Wednesday night service and throughout the week.Campmeeting.JPG
The main evangelist was T. Allen Bethel from the Maranatha Church in Portland. He spoke powerfully on this year's theme, "Stand Firm," based on I Corinthians 15:58. The highlight for many of our students was an intimate evening concert featuring former members of Christian rock bands Kutless and Falling Up.

Our annual August camping/ waterskiing trip was replaced this year by the Luis Palau Portland CityFest at Waterfront Park.Portland CityFest.JPG
Prior to the event, thousands of volunteers signed up for the Season of Service, partnering with many different service agencies from all over Portland. Projects included free medical and dental clinics, homeless shelters, helping communities recovering from flooding, handing out clothes to the needy, and cleaning up neighborhoods, parks, and schools. Two of our own students, Michelle Vellone and Kaila George, gave of their time in an effort to be involved in these projects. CityFest was then a celebration of the Season of Service.IMG_9926.JPG
At the two day festival, August 22-23, there were performances by bands including Kutless, Chris Tomlin, Mercy Me, Toby Mac, and Hawk Nelson (pictured above). Each evening Luis Palau brought a message of salvation and the need for Jesus Christ to live in our lives.IMG_9928.JPG
Hundreds of people came to know Jesus for the first time.

Garth Preaching- Blog Crop.JPGGarth was preaching on Philippians throughout August, so Kathy had the opportunity to teach during our student sessions. Amid the crazy games...
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...and the shaving cream fights,Shaving Cream Fight 01.JPG

...we have been learning from the book of Hebrews how to get our "faith life" in shape. The summer Olympics provided relevant illustrations concerning the training athletes do and what we need to do to strengthen our walk with Christ. Athletes train, exercise, eat right, and practice to win at their sport. In the same way, we need to "train" by reading our Bible, praying and spending time with God. When we "eat right" we are aware of what we're feeding our minds. Is it wholesome and nutritious or is it causing us to stumble? Kathy Teaching.JPG
"Exercise" is disciplining yourself to spend time in the Word and praying, then gradually adding more time and regularity each day. "Practicing" is putting into action how Christ has called us to live. By doing all the above, we are strengthening our faith life in this race we are running toward the goal we are trying to reach. Just as Garth preached in his third sermon: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13a-14).