Amazing Grace

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” – Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)


What is grace?  It is a simple word, and we hear it a lot, but how would you define grace?  We would like to know your thoughts and we would love to know what grace means to you, you can email me directly at [email protected].  Truly, we love to engage with people, especially when it involves what God is doing in your life.

Grace to me unfolds in its fullest with Jesus.  Jesus gave us a gift.  The incredible gift of a restored relationship with God our Father, and the powerful gift of eternal life.  The most simple definition of grace is: a gift given, but not necessarily deserved.  Mercy is similar, but flips the definition.  Mercy is: not receiving what we do deserve, but being given a gift.  Similar to when a judge gives someone who is guilty, a pardon.  That is mercy.  But grace is like Christmas.  When we lovingly give gifts, in abundance, and always above and beyond.

One of my very close friends and mentors, defines grace in a way I have never forgotten.  Ridge Burns says, Grace is throwing a party for someone who doesn’t deserve it.”  I love this fun definition.  It is what we get to do every single day at River of Life Mission.  And it is what our HUB leaders and volunteers are doing out in local communities, every week, all over Oahu!

We recently received this beautiful story from one of our HUB leaders, and it is exactly Ridge’s quote above.  We hope it encourages you today and shares with you just one simple story of the power of the HUB model and people turning a lens of compassion to the poor every day, out in all our local communities.  But also pay close attention to the party they threw for this man.  It will catch you a bit by surprise, because it is much more simple and really quite doable for all of us:

“While I was serving at the hub, one of our regular visitors came in.  As we caught up, he mentioned that his birthday was the next day.  I wished him a happy birthday and, expressing my enthusiasm, asked if he had any special plans.  I explained that I needed to finish setting up the hub, but promised we would catch up over lunch shortly.  About 15 minutes later, I returned to my tasks of setting up the hub.  He was having lunch with another volunteer.  They were deeply engaged in conversation, and I decided to let them continue, momentarily forgetting our lunch plans.  As the day progressed and we began closing down the hub, I made sure to wish him a happy birthday again and apologized for missing our lunch.  I felt a pang of guilt, worried that I hadn’t made him feel as welcomed and celebrated as I had intended.

His response took me by surprise. ‘Why are you sorry?  This was an amazing day, I got to celebrate my birthday surrounded by friends who care about me. Today was the best and thank you so much.’

We hadn’t sung, we didn’t have a cake, we didn’t have a gift for him.  None of the typical “birthday” festivities were present.  For this guest, just the fact that we acknowledged that his birthday was worth celebrating and that we were happy to have him there spoke volumes to him.  To me, this doesn’t necessarily mean we did enough.  What it communicates is the amount of intentionality required for our guests to feel loved is so incredibly low that anybody can do it.  If you are willing to just be present with our guests, and turn a lens of compassion to them, that is love extended and love received.”

– HUB Leader.

Sometimes we think helping the homeless is just beyond our capabilities.  But simply acknowledging people on the streets – calling them by name, and simply acknowledging a birthday – can be a radical gift of grace.  

Maybe the greatest present we can give someone, is our presence!

This man’s story may seem very simple and insignificant, but I think it is absolutely powerful.  Showing how simple an extension of grace can be, but also the power of the HUBs just being out in local communities, acknowledging people that were previously unknown, unseen, and uncelebrated.  This is grace!

Thank you for supporting the River of Life Mission to continue this great work God has led us to, and for helping us extend these simple acts of grace to those living in the desperation of the streets.  And thank you for joining us in throwing parties for people, who may not deserve it, but as God encourages us in Hebrews 12:15, “look after each other so that none of you fails to receive grace…”

With heartfelt gratitude,

Pastor Paul Gates
Executive Director