‘Soul Surfer’ Bethany Hamil­ton shares life lessons

Shark-at­tack vic­tim talks faith, re­cov­ery at Glas­gow Church

Newark Post - - Local News - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Af­ter los­ing her left arm in a shark at­tack, it would be easy for Bethany Hamil­ton to la­ment what she lost or wish it had never hap­pened.

How­ever, the surfer whose story grabbed world­wide head­lines and in­spired the 2011 movie “Soul Surfer,” tries not to look at it that way.

“Some­times it is de­sir­able to think of life with two arms. Life would be sim­ple, straight­for­ward and easy,” Hamil­ton told a packed house at Glas­gow Church on April 8. “But even life with two arms isn’t sim­ple, straight­for­ward and easy. We all have our tough times and strug­gles.”

Hamil­ton’s story be­gan in 2003 when, at the age of 13, the aspir­ing pro­fes­sional surfer was at­tacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surf­ing near her home in Hawaii. She told the crowd that at first she felt sad but quickly turned her de­pres­sion into de­ter­mi­na­tion.

She was back in the ocean just a month af­ter the at­tack and taught her­self how to get on her surf­board and keep her bal­ance with only one arm. Within two years, she won a na­tional ti­tle and in 2007, turned pro.

Now 26, Hamil­ton is pop­u­lar on the speaker cir­cuit and is in­volved in sev­eral char­i­ta­ble ef­forts, in­clud­ing run­ning a camp for young girls who have lost limbs.

Ex­plain­ing that she doesn’t like to talk about the shark at­tack, Hamil­ton fo­cused most of her pre­sen­ta­tion on the role her faith played in her re­cov­ery.

“I think God has a rea­son for our pain and He wants to carry us through th­ese hard times,” she said.

Hamil­ton noted that her story, and the at­ten­tion it brought her, gave her a plat­form to help oth­ers.

“If by los­ing my arm, I’m then able to share my story with peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing pains and losses, it makes it all worth it,” she said.

The event was or­ga­nized by MARKINC Min­istries, which was founded by Glas­gow Church pas­tor Chuck Bet­ters and his wife, Sharon, af­ter they lost their 16-year-old son Mark in a car ac­ci­dent in 1993.

The Bet­terses record in­ter­views – which they call “re­sources” – with peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced var­i­ous types of loss and tragedy. They then dis­trib­ute the re­sources on­line, on the ra­dio and via CD to help oth­ers through their grief.

Hamil­ton’s visit, which also in­cluded a Satur­day brunch event at Deerfield Country Club, kicked off a new se­ries of re­sources for kids. The Bet­terses recorded an in­ter­view with Hamil­ton talk­ing about body im­age, and other top­ics in the se­ries will in­clude de­pres­sion, bul­ly­ing, cut­ting and eat­ing dis­or­ders.

“Teens by the mil­lions are strug­gling with all sorts of is­sues,” Chuck Bet­ters said. “So many things are be­ing thrown at our young peo­ple, and they don’t know what to do with it.”

Ad­dress­ing the kids in the au­di­ence, Hamil­ton said it can be easy to make bad choices while grow­ing up.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant to sur­round your­self with peo­ple who up­lift and en­cour­age you,” she said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Bethany Hamil­ton, the surfer who over­came los­ing her arm in a shark at­tack, holds her 10-month-old son, To­bias, as her hus­band, Adam Dirks, looks on.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Bethany Hamil­ton, the surfer who over­came los­ing her arm in a shark at­tack, speaks at Glas­gow Church.

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