He pulled out a bundle of red yarn, a box of pasta, a pair of science goggles and two aluminum cans connected by a hot pink string. As he heartily dug through the seemingly bottomless tote, his eyes lit up with excitement.
To some people, it may appear to be a tote full of junk, but when he looked in the tote he saw ideas.
A straw cut in half made a great instrument. Duct tape constructed into elongated handcuffs made a team-building exercise. Each item that came out of the tote had a lesson or lessons attached for Geraldo Alonso.
Alonso, the pastor of Muskogee’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, has always felt driven to minister to kids.
“Watching kids getting excited for Christ is what made it real for me,“ Alonso said. “The excitement of leading them to it is what made me say ‘I want to for the rest of my life.’”
The lessons he teaches in Sabbath school are not only God-inspired but also real-world oriented.
Alonso said he uses games to help the kids to grasp the importance of skills such as communication and teamwork.
While Alonso was in college he worked as a staff member at Wewoka Woods Adventist Center summer camp for three years.
Alonso still works at the camp every summer, but now as its director.
“My church is pretty awesome in that they allow me to leave for three months so I am able to do both the summer camp and be the pastor here,” Alonso said.
Both of Alonso’s jobs give him the opportunity to pursue his passion of leading kids to God and equipping the leaders of tomorrow.
“My main focus is to build youth leaders here,” Alonso said. “Preparing leaders to take over is my passion.”
Meet Geraldo Alonso
HOMETOWN: San Antonio.
CAREER: Pastor, Seventh-day Adventist Church; Director, Wewoka Woods Adventist Center summer camp.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Our Lady of the Lake University and bachelor’s degree in theology from Southwestern Adventist University.
FAMILY: Wife, Suzy Alonso, and daughter, Adelynn Jean, born in April.
Geraldo Alonso strives to keep his teaching methods fresh and interesting. For the kids he always has new games he has created.
“I want them to think outside the box,” Alonso said.
At Saturday’s Sabbath school he blindfolded all of the children. They stood in a straight line with their hands on the shoulders of the kid in front of them; connected like a train. Alonso stood at the end and whispered a command to the last kid. It was a chain reaction with the kid behind whispering into the ear of the kid in front until the command reached the front of the line and they moved as a group.
“I wanted to teach them the importance of communication,” Alonso said. “I wanted to illustrate how easily the message could become something entirely different by the time it reached the end.”
For his adult congregation, his teachings are a little more subtle. Alonso will use gestures and continual movement to control the flow of his message.
“I don’t like to stand in one place,” he said.
But to make sure his congregation always knows when he is “getting serious” he consistently perches on his stool to be eye level with every member.
“That is how they know it is time for my main points,” Alonso said.
Alonso’s calling started at a young age. Alonso was born and raised in San Antonio.
“My parents had been involved with the church when I was growing up,“ Alonso said.
“The more involved I became the more the desire to become a pastor grew.”
Alonso was drawn into youth ministry at his local church in San Antonio.
He went to Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Then he was led to pursue a life of ministry.
“My pastor at the time, who actually used to pastor in this same church, encouraged me to consider becoming a pastor,” Alonso said.
This decision led him back to a life of studying. But this time the subject was theology at Southwestern Adventist University in Keen, Texas.
After spending eight years in college, Alonso joked about the outcome of his college years.
“Toward the end of it, I was like ‘Man, I should have planned this better and became a doctor,’” Alonso said with a chuckle.
Building a family
But the skills to become the senior pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church are not the only thing he gained while in college. He and his wife, Suzy, met during his time at Southwestern Adventist University.
Both Geraldo and Suzy like to use their creativity and when Suzy suggested painting Geraldo’s stool, which he often sat on while he taught, he knew she was a keeper.
“It was actually after we painted it that I asked her to be my girlfriend,” Alonso said.
They were engaged by their last year of college. In November, they will celebrate their third wedding anniversary.
Although creativity led them to each other, their love for outdoor activities have brought them closer.
Up until Suzy’s second trimester during her pregnancy with their daughter, the couple would go to Greenleaf State Park to hike.
“About a year ago we took up birding,” Alonso said. “We wanted to learn something new to get our daughter interested in the outdoors.”
Alonso’s daughter, Adelynn Jean, at 25 days old already shares her parents’ love for outdoor activities.
Adelynn already completed a 5K on May 12. “Obviously she rode the whole time, but she seemed to enjoy it,“ Alonso said. “She didn’t cry the entire time.”
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“Work brought me here. I graduated from college and then got a job at this church.”
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR FREE TIME?
“My wife and I had our first baby. So lately we have been taking care of her, feeding her, et cetera, et cetera. But for that we loved hiking and outdoorsy stuff.”
HOW DO YOU MAKE A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
“As a pastor.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“I enjoy being here. I love it the way it is. Coming from a big town that has everything to Muskogee, which has everything we need. It is perfect place to live.”
IS THERE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE THAT YOU ADMIRE?
“I would have to say my wife’s boss, Laura May. She always tries to do what is best and I admire how she takes care her staff. I just admire that she always wants to do what is right.”
WHAT’S THE MOST MEMORABLE THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU SINCE YOU HAVE LIVED IN MUSKOGEE?
“Having my daughter. Even if I go anywhere she will always be an Okie from Muskogee.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE?
“For me it is how awesome the people are. Coming from a big town to Muskogee, I love the people. Texans have a reputation of being friendly, but I think Okies are even more friendly. Among 25 million people you can feel so alone. People are genuinely nice and not trying to get something from you.”