by Gloria Repp
A six-year-old boy facing heart surgery is asked by a benevolent foundation what his biggest wish would be. His face lights up. "Captain Patch!" he exclaims. "To meet Captain Patch and have him come and sing!" The foundation gets in touch with Patch the Pirate, flies him from South Carolina to the West Coast, and the childís wish is granted.
A vacationing family with young children pops a cassette into the tape deck and sings along with the familiar, lively tunes. Songs from a Patch the Pirate Adventure fill the van. Ruffled tempers are soothed, bored minds are engaged, and the parents relax.
A dozen giggling children rush down the hall of a small church in Alaska to their "club" room. Here, as they listen to stories, memorize Scripture, and practice singing together, they discover the importance of walking with God while they are young. Another Patch the Pirate club is underway.
The multi-faceted ministry of Patch the Pirate Ė Ron Hamilton and his sailing mates Ė is widening to affect more and more families around the world. Who is this tall, lean man with the gentle face and broad smile? And the inevitable question arises: How did a pirate ever get started in a ministry to children?
It was no accident. In the same way that the strongest rope is woven of multiple strands, God began early to fashion the strands of Ron Hamiltonís life work. The first strand was comprised of his family, which was both Godly and musical. His parents "Taught me the virtues of simple living and high thinking," Ron writes. "From as long as I can remember, Mom and Dad always had us singing, whether it was in a church, in a junior choir, or in the car as we drove from home to church." Something about those dedicated parents and the familyís atmosphere produced an imaginative child who dreamed of taking part in heroic adventures filled with danger, excitement, and mystery. And he longed for a nickname to match.
Before long it became clear that God had given Ron a distinct and irrepressible sense of humor. From elementary school right through his college days, Ronís penchant for seeing the comic slant and for playing pranks delighted his friends and Ė less often Ė his teachers. In the stories and songs that he later wrote, this gift enabled him to express truths in a unique way that made children sit up and take notice.
An essential strand in Ronís life has been his on-going personal relationship with Christ, his Savior and Lord. On the Patch the Pirate website, Ron tells about his life-changing experience of accepting Christ.
As Ron matured into a young adult, God wove in several more strands: The influence of his teachers; his mentor, Dr. Frank Garlock; and most vital of all, Shelly Garlock, the girl who became his wife. Ron describes Shelly as "one of the finest musicians Iíve ever known . . . one of the most spiritual people Iíve ever known . . . she genuinely loves people, but most importantly has the unusual capacity to love a pirate."
A pirate? This is a strand that God twisted into Ronís life more than twenty years ago. Some would consider it a dark, mystifying thread. It looked that way at first, when Ron, who had just embarked on a nation-wide musical ministry, lost his left eye to cancer. But soon after Ron got out of the hospital, details of Godís plan started to come into focus. Ron tells it in his own inimitable manner: "The following Sunday when we were in church, I was up on the platform, and a little buddy of mine came running up to me, and he asked me what the patch was on my left eye. I told him it was a pirate patch because thatís what the doctor had told me it was. He very excitedly looked at me and asked if I was a pirate now. And I jokingly said, ĎWell, I guess so. You can call me Patch the Pirate.í He thought that was great stuff and ran and told all of his little friends. It began to spread to all of the little children in the church, and soon I had my nickname that Iíd always wanted Ė Patch the Pirate."
At last, an intriguing nickname that was worthy of a hero . . . and adventures! Ronís new nickname became well known and loved as Ron and Shelly continued to travel back and forth across the United States. They ministered in Christian schools and worked with high school and junior high choirs in churches. Ron usually concluded their visit with a choir concert on Friday night, and soon he realized that the younger children were being left out. "After much pleading from their teachers," Ron says, " I wrote two songs for the children to sing. The first one was called "Jonah" and the second one was "David." Well, the kids loved the songs, and they loved to be included in the concert. Right away, they started calling the songs Patch the Pirate songs. Then, they started asking if we could do recordings of Patch the Pirate songs so that they could listen to them at home."
Ron wrote another song too, a song that was different from his Bible adventure songs. Describing it, Ron says, "God was so good, and I wanted to write a song to communicate to others how He had taken a trial and turned it into one of the greatest blessings of my life. . . . I sat down in our dining room and began to weave together the different Scriptures that folks had sent me and that God had used to bless me in the book of Philippians. I wrote a song called "Rejoice in the Lord" and this song has become my testimony. God took my left eye to cancer and gave me a worldwide ministry. We constantly receive letters from parents saying how theyíve benefited from the lessons on the albums and how their children have benefited."
The song begins: "God never moves without purpose or plan/When trying His servant and molding a man" and it goes on to express Ronís confidence in Godís sovereign purpose for his life.
The Patch the Pirate Adventures continue to showcase Ronís confidence in God and his deep love for Scripture. The Adventures are notable for zany characters, satisfying plots, and marvelous wordplay, yes, but these elements are combined with life-changing lessons based upon Biblical truths and principles.
As time went on and God blessed them with a family, Ron and Shelly began to include their five children in the Adventures. The engaging characters of Pee Wee, Pixie, Peanut, Princess, and PJ Pirate delighted their listeners and enabled Ron to expand the stories in new directions.
Each Adventure has a central theme, and parents can now choose from more than twenty-three Adventures. The themes vary, including topics such as Courage, The Christian Race, Choosing Friends, Servanthood, and The Second Coming. Songs accompany each Adventure, the selections tying neatly into the story. Some songs are amusing ("Remember Your Manners") and others are more serious ("Rejoice in the Lord").
Patch the Pirate Adventures are professionally produced, are broadcast nationwide on more than 500 stations, and are available on cassette or CD. Parents, grateful for stories that reinforce their teachings, have purchased them by the thousands. Churches around the world have weekly Patch the Pirate clubs that are based on the Adventures, as well as PeeWee choral clubs for preschool children. Parents and pastors write grateful letters saying, "We like the creative, high-energy programs . . ." and "The songs help our children learn good habits . . ." and "Having daily devotions is changing my sonís attitudes."
From comments such as these it is evident that the strands an omniscient God wove into Ron Hamiltonís past have become a sturdy lifeline that draws boys and girls to a closer walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, this remarkable pirate has purposed to help children gain skills and convictions to last a lifetime. Thank you, Captain Patch. Sail on! -- G.R.
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