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Hawaii academy’s Christian emphasis week helps 14 students find faith in Christ

HONOLULU (BP)–“Jesus is in charge of my life. He can do whatever he wants with my life,” said Alyssa Rodeheaver-Nojima, a fifth-grader who made a first-time profession of faith during Hawaii Baptist Academy’s Christian Emphasis Week Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in Honolulu.

“With Christ in my life, I think I’ll have a better relationship with my family and have a happier lifestyle,” she added.

HBA fourth-grader Jesseca Arita, who also accepted Christ during the week, agreed.

“I think with Jesus in my life, my life will be easier because I have someone to depend on,” she said.

Both girls volunteered to share their testimonies in front of their 400-plus schoolmates the day after they made their commitments public.

Christian Emphasis Week, or CEW, has been a part of HBA’s ministry for several decades. Each year at the elementary campus, the school sets aside part of each day for an entire week to present the gospel to the students. A similar ministry is held at the intermediate/high school campus in the spring.

In addition to the 14 students who gave their lives to Christ this year, 16 other students rededicated their lives to Christ.

Steve Murphy, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu, presented the gospel to the children each day in a series of messages. But he said the most memorable words were not in his sermons.

“Sitting with these kids after they accept Christ and hearing them in their very uncomplicated, simple, pure, unsophisticated language talk about their love for Jesus, listening to them articulate their faith is vivid in my mind,” Murphy said.

As much as the words, Murphy said that one of the students talked about her new life in Christ “with a look in her face that articulated in her childlike faith something profound and significant had happened.”

He said he also will remember the two girls sharing in “purity and simplicity” their “uncomplicated, unreligious” testimonies before the entire school.

The week’s theme, “Grace in Space,” was developed in part by scenes from a skit performed each day by HBA teachers. The skit, written and directed by art teacher Garrett Omoto, took a group of space travelers to the planet of the imaginary Zornks, where one of the travelers inadvertently breaks a Zornk law and is saved only when the group teaches the Zornks about mercy.

Murphy used the skit as an illustration to talk about God’s law, sin and forgiveness, and ways to grow as a Christian. Speaking to students from kindergarten to sixth grade, he said he wanted to make sure any commitments they made were real.

“I don’t want to make Christianity a frivolous thing,” said Murphy, who worked as a youth minister and as the Christian activities director at HBA’s high school campus in the 1980s.

“I told the students I hear so many kids when they’re 17, 18 and 19 say, ‘I made a decision to accept Christ back in third grade, but I didn’t fully understand. I don’t like to hear that, so be sure you’re ready,'” he said.

For those who make decisions, however, Murphy said he and Jeff Evans, the elementary Christian activities coordinator, will meet with each one “to find out more about the decision they made and what they need to do to grow in their walk with Christ.”

In particular, Murphy said he tries to make sure the children begin attending a healthy church.

In addition to the skits and Murphy’s messages, the students also sang worship songs led by Terry Nakamura, assistant pastor at Lifespring Church in Honolulu, and were ministered to by schoolmates through sign language and song.

In addition to his work at HBA during the ’80s, Murphy’s wife is a counselor at the elementary campus and his son and daughter graduated from the school. Through his long association with the school, he said one thing has remained constant.

“HBA has sustained a very high level of commitment to their Christian distinctive purpose,” he said. “They certainly have academic pursuits yet still have a strong commitment to say that ‘We are clearly Christian, clearly evangelical, clearly talking about our faith in our daily lives.”

Murphy added that along with chapel, homeroom devotions, camps and the daily ministry of faculty and staff, CEW helps the school fulfill its commitment.

“HBA is able to say as a school, ‘This is who we are; this is what we believe in. We don’t mind carving out a significant amount of time to say this is what we believe,” Murphy said.

Hawaii Baptist Academy is a K-12 private Christian school started in 1949 by Southern Baptist missionaries. For several years, Southern Baptist missionaries staffed HBA until the school was placed under the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. Today, the state convention appoints the school’s board members. The school has an enrollment of about 1,000 students on two campuses in Honolulu.
Charene Luke, director of communications and marketing at Hawaii Baptist Academy, contributed to this story. (BP) photos posted the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: NEWNESS OF FAITH, TIME WITH THE PASTOR, UNIVERSE OF FAITH and GRACE IN SPACE.

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  • Matt Sanders