Over 160 kids and their families registered to attend “Armor of God,” the Hawaii Conference’s fifth annual Adventurer Family Retreat. Half of them attended virtually, so Youth Director Erik VanDenburgh hosted the entire event through a special Zoom link, which was recorded.
With masks in place and temperatures checked, families occupied the socially distanced pews of Honolulu Central church for the program. Aiea church Adventurer leader Rachel Perez had transformed the church into a castle, complete with turrets, torches, and a drawbridge on stage.
Adventurers learned the song “Armor of God,” freshly penned by Scott Kabel, praise and local ministry leader. After a rousing worship service, family groups rotated through stations VBS-style to learn about the different spiritual equipment. One engaging station was a completely non-touch obstacle course, creatively designed by Jerry, Korie, and Katie Mota; it was even wheelchair accessible. Kids cheered as each one made it across the finish line!
Hawaii is substantially populated with all branches of the military. The ratio of military personnel to the general population is roughly 1 in 22. Adventurer leaders were able to use the local talent of professional, godly servicemen, who could use their real equipment to explain spiritual armor.
While learning about the Belt of Truth, Staff Sergeant Jonathan Rodriguez of the Hawaii Air National Guard showed kids how a harness used for jumping out of helicopters could be likened to the trustworthy strength of the promises of God. While dressed in full uniform complete with sword, retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant Micheal Miller hosted kids in making a “sword.” As our Army representative, Major Ben Clapp invited groups into a fatigued army camo tent; after sharing about the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, he let kids experience how heavy it was to wear a real bulletproof vest. Chaplain Ed Villalba talked about how dangerous territory—demonstrated by trays of broken glass, coals, and thorns—could be easily navigated by wearing boots of the gospel of peace.
Finally, Tyler Morrison, ministry coordinator for the Hau`ula church, dressed in full Roman soldier costume, shared about the Shield of Faith, which is Jesus Christ. He explained, “I encouraged the kids that it’s not necessarily how well they believe, but whether or not they believe He is their shield to protect them against the lies of the enemy.” Adventurers were able to hide behind Tyler’s giant Roman shield, which completely covered them, while a Nerf gun dart was shot and deflected with musical vibration.
The event culminated in an engaging message from Chaplain Richie Charles, ending with a special dedication prayer, during which parents placed their hands on their children. Young attendees left with a snack bag, activity packet, patch, prize, and their own set of armor—including shield, sword, and make-at-home paracord belt.
“It was refreshing to have an in-person kids’ event,” shared presenter Tyler Morrison. S.S. Rodriguez said, “By using stories of real-world missions and displaying the equipment, we were able to demonstrate how each piece of the armor transforms from something that is memorized at church into something that can actually be used in their personal walk. I guess that’s why Jesus used parables.”
Children’s Ministry Director Madonna Taueu gave all the credit to God, saying, “Seeing our teamwork and prayers unfold by His grace is always a highlight for me.”
By Jana VanDenburgh