From surf to service

Bethany Hamilton and Adam Dirks were in Hillsboro earlier this month for a local reception following their Aug. 18 wedding. A professional surfer and speaker, Hamilton?s story of losing an arm in a shark attack and returning to competition was told in the 2011 movie ?Soul Surfer.? When Adam Dirks agreed to work at a summer camp in Missouri, little did he know the experience would spark an adventure that would lead him to ministry?and his future wife?in Hawaii.

Dirks, now married to professional surfer and speaker Bethany Hamilton, was raised in Durham and attended Hillsboro schools, where he participated in football and track.

He graduated from Hillsboro High School in 2007 and transitioned to Tabor College, where he pursued a degree in elementary education.

As a result of his passion for youth ministry, Dirks served three summers at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Mo., a Christian camping ministry providing sport and spiritual training for youth ages 7-18.

For Dirks, the opportunity opened the door to ministry in Hawaii.

While at Kanakuk, Dirks had met a camper named Ky, whose family was from Kauai, and whose father, Ward, was involved with the Kamps. Dirks said he became friends with Ky?s family and stayed in contact with them.

As his senior year at Tabor drew to a close, Dirks sensed the call to continue in ministry.

?I knew God was calling me to do ministry,? he said. ?He really put it on my heart, and I didn?t know what it was going to look like.?

Direction came in the form of a phone call.

?Ky?s dad, Ward, called me up one day out of the blue and he?s like, ?Hey, we?re going to start Young Life on the island. You want to be a volunteer intern for this next year?? So I was like, ?All right, cool,?? Dirks said.

?We prayed about it for a month, and I knew that?s what I was called to do.?

Young Life

Following his graduation from Tabor in 2011, Dirks moved to Kauai for a year-long internship with Young Life, a non-denominational Christian ministry aimed at building relationships with adolescents and sharing God?s love with them.

A worldwide organization, Young Life was just getting started on the island.

?Basically, we build relationships with the kids,? Dirks said. ?So we?re hanging out in the schools with them, we?re taking them surfing, playing basketball, and then once a week we have a club, which is just high-energy games. At the end of the club, we present the gospel to them in an attractive way.?

The Young Life ministry also involves an annual summer camp.

In addition to volunteering with Young Life, Dirks said he found work in a number of settings?substitute teaching, coaching, trimming trees, working on a boat and washing windows.

?All those things were a great experience, too, just to be a part of the community and kind of earn my way in,? he said. ?I also coached junior high football, which was the age group we were reaching out to.?

When his internship with Young Life neared an end, Dirks faced a decision regarding his next step in life.

?One of the boys on my football team had taken his own life,? he said. ?Just seeing the dark side of that really resounded in my heart just to stay, and (I) committed to that.

?I found a little shack to rent on the West Side in the community, just moved in and continued working, continued doing the ministry there.?

Meeting Bethany

Dirks first met Hamilton in May 2012.

?The area I was living in, it?s a beautiful island,? Dirks said. ?But being in the area that I lived in, it?s just hard to find people my age that are solid in the Lord and just really following Christ. I was just really praying for a good friend.

?I had a friend from church who happened to be Bethany?s physical therapist. (He) and his wife, they got together and conspired. They told her about me and they told me about her?so I got her number and just pretty much called her out of the blue.?

Dirks said he had not heard much about Hamilton and had not seen the movie ?Soul Surfer,? which tells the story of how, at 13, Hamilton lost her left arm as a result of a shark attack while surfing yet continued to follow her dream of surfing professionally.

Dirks and Hamilton agreed to meet on the beach with a group of friends and were the only two to jump off a 40-foot cliff into the ocean, he said.

?Neither of us had jumped (off the cliff) into the ocean yet, and so I was like, ?Oh let?s go, let?s do it,?? Dirks said. ?Everybody else chickened out except for me and her.?

Hamilton?s first impression of Dirks was mixed.

?When I first met Adam, he just seemed really nice?but also kind of foreign in a sense because I was so used to Hawaii people and he?s from Kansas,? she said.

?So he has a different upbringing and just different way of talking. It was definitely different at first, but I was really interested because he?s really nice. I was like, ?Well, might as well see where it goes.??

The two continued to spend time together, going on hikes and surfing, Dirks said. He had learned to surf when he moved to Hawaii.

?The ocean?s a humbling place,? he said. ?It?ll put you in your place. (Surfing?s) one of the hardest sports I?ve ever learned. It?s one of the slowest learning curves, but I?m getting to the point now where it?s a lot of fun.

?Bethany obviously still shows me up,? he added with a laugh. ?She?s so good.?

Dirks and Hamilton were engaged last April. They were married Aug. 18.

Life together

Growing up in Hawaii, Hamilton had never been to Kansas before meeting Dirks.

?My first impression, I was just excited to meet Adam?s family,? she said. ?I came in January, and it was really cold. But it?s really beautiful.

?Everyone?s always like, ?Oh, it?s nothing compared to Hawaii,? but it?s just really different.?

Dirks said he appreciates the support the Hillsboro community has shown for the ministry in Hawaii.

?Coming back to Hills?boro is always good to be back home, and (I) just really appreciate the community and the support from the church and everybody,? he said. ?It?s really awesome.?

Hillsboro churches have helped Dirks with the Young Life camping ministry.

?The boys I was working with come from a very low-income area, so they can?t afford to go to camp,? he said. ?So back here, Park?view (Mennonite Brethren Church)?and the (Hillsboro United) Methodist Church were all raising funds for them to be able to make it over (to camp).

?That was really awesome. It was really cool that the community here was making a big difference on Kauai on those kids? lives.?

While Young Life continues on the island, Dirks has taken a step back for now.

?Ward gave me his blessing to just focus on our marriage this year,? he said. ?Right now, Bethany travels about six months out of the year, doing events and speaking events and surfing, and so this year, I?m going to be traveling with her so we can just focus and grow together and support one another through that.?

Hamilton said: ?I?m excited just to adventure and see where God takes us.?

The couple shares a passion for youth ministry.

?We?re just going to be praying for how God leads us in our ministry together,? Dirks said. ?We?re just open to what God leads for sure, but kind of what we?ve seen is we both have a passion for youth and reaching out to the lost kids.?

While they may not know exactly what their future together will look like, the couple is content to follow God?s leading.

?I?m not too worried about it just because I know God?s going to reveal something,? Dirks said. ?Just kind of like how before I came out to Kauai, it was the last minute. Just listen and he has an answer.?

She added: ?Either way, our relationship together will be ministry-focused?serving God and wanting to honor him and share his love, whatever that may be, in whatever way.?

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