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Hawaii Baptist students share faith, sees lives transformed

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HONOLULU (BP)–When Hawaii Baptist Academy senior Alexandra Poleshaj signed up for a school field trip to Waikiki, she didn’t realize that within three hours a pastor would encourage her to share her faith, a homeless man would accept Jesus Christ as a result and her team of classmates would be rejoicing over answered prayer.

“It’s the first time that I prayed with someone to accept Christ, and I’m amazed at what God did today,” said Poleshaj, a student at the high school in Honolulu, Hawaii. “These are not your ordinary field trips.”

The opportunity for Alexandra and 169 other students to venture off campus in ministry teams came March 15-19 during Christian Emphasis Week, an annual program at the school. Throughout the week, the class schedule at the college preparatory school is reduced so that students can attend daily worship services and seminars and minister in the community.

“Since I’m already a Christian, CEW just helped me out a lot because I was getting off track and going the wrong way,” said freshman Jason Bethke.

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Several times during the week, students came forward to profess Jesus as Lord for the first time, recommit their lives to Christ or give testimony to what God had done.

“I made a decision to become a Christian this week,” said seventh grader Caitlin Porter. “I had been thinking about it for a while, but I decided that this was the right time.”

By the end of the week, 26 students had made first-time professions of faith and 186 students recommitted their lives to Christ. Other students stepped in with the help of teachers to disciple their classmates, and many of the 62 pastors, youth leaders, teachers and faculty members leading seminars invited the students to church.

“CEW provides something for everyone,” said Rob Lockridge, Hawaii Baptist Academy’s Christian ministries director. “The purpose of CEW is to generate and renew students’ desire to come into a deeper personal relationship with their Lord and Savior.”

While some students stayed on campus to listen to Christian bands playing at lunch or to attend seminars on various topics, other students hopped on school buses for an off-campus experience.

Sophomores transformed a rented movie theatre into a house of worship after viewing “The Passion of The Christ.” Later in the week after discussing the film, they brought their music to the elementary campus, showing that excitement for God is contagious.

“I have never been so excited to lead worship and praise God,” said sophomore Aaron Kim after a chapel the sophomores led for the elementary students. “I want to wrap it up and bring this energy over to the high school campus, because the elementary kids have something to teach us.”

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Ten students in a seminar titled “Making Right Choices” studied the life of a typical drug addict. They visited police holding cells and a drug rehabilitation center and met a homeless person and several former drug dealers now living for Christ. Some students were brought to tears.

“I take you on this ‘road of reality’ to show you the importance of making right decisions, because drugs and crime would have destroyed my life but by the grace of God,” Roy Yamamoto, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship and a seminar leader, said.

Students interested in street evangelism visited Waikiki with youth pastor Chris Shinnick of Moanalua Gardens Missionary Church. Using surveys to begin conversations with people, students such as Alexandra made personal connections with people and witnessed their prayers answered as three people accepted Christ.

“The man who I talked to hated himself and wanted to move off the streets,” Alexandra said. “I know God had me here for a reason, because I was able to relate to some of his problems and pray for him.”

For students who wanted to work with their hands, more than 100 students over three days served in Palolo Valley government housing with Jack Duffer, an academy Bible teacher and pastor of University Avenue Baptist Church. Leading up to the community’s first worship service that Sunday, students cleaned community areas and distributed more than 1,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before an evening outreach event.

“On Tuesday, the students went into the management office and prayed for all the staff there,” Duffer said. “The management trusted us [to hold a worship service] because the students knocked those doors wide open.”

Hawaii Baptist Academy opened its doors to youth from Palolo Valley and other neighborhoods and churches later that week for a Friday night youth event called “Thrive 2004,” the annual Hawaii Youth Evangelism Conference sponsored by HBA and the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

During a celebration chapel similar to what students had experienced all week long, six students outside of the school made commitments following a message by Wes Hamilton of Texas. Fernando Castillo of New Hope Christian Fellowship Oahu led the music. Students also attended popular seminars that evening, with topics such as “A Night at God’s Comedy Club” and “You God Punk’d: Being a Christian in the REAL World.”

“We have seen God answer prayer this week,” Lockridge said. “Student prayer teams prayed for each student on campus by name, each chair and bleacher seat in the gym.”

Hawaii Baptist Academy is a school of more than 1,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. It was started in 1949 by Southern Baptist missionaries and with the financial support of the WMU of Virginia. Today, the school is associated with the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. It is considered one of the top academic schools in Hawaii and known for its commitment to its Christian mission.
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(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CHRISTIAN EMPHASIS WEEK and STREET EVANGELISM.