Arms Wide Open, Loving the Poor

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” – Luke 4:18

My wife and I were so blessed to recently hear Pastor Rick Warren share. Over several hours the Pastor shared two things that really stood out to me. He said, “Do you know what Jesus’ first words were?” And “What the words of Jesus’ first sermon were?”

When Pastor Rick asked the question, I could sense in the room that these words carried a very important weight in our lives. And I was so blessed to have the power of these words pointed out and highlighted, as Jesus’ very first words were “come and see” (John 1:39).

Pastor Rick talked about his time as the pastor leading Saddleback Church, that he always wanted to mentor the people in the congregation, like Jesus showed from His very first words was about being an open-armed Savior. He was always embracing people, and not just some people, he threw his arms wide open to invite anyone and everyone to come and experience His goodness. And Rick constantly told his staff, “I want our church to always be as inviting as possible. Where all are accepted, all are loved, and all are given the same grace that we have been given.”

Secondly, Pastor Rick pointed out that Jesus’ first sermon was, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.” So, Jesus’ first words were ones of love and acceptance, and his first sermon was about caring for the poor.

My wife and I were very inspired by this powerful message, to be as Jesus is, to have our arms wide open with everyone God puts in our path. And secondly, we have to be passionate and purposeful, like Jesus, about caring for the poor. We were also encouraged that we are blessed to be a part of an amazing organization called River of Life Mission, where we get to live out Jesus’ first words and first sermon. By being open-armed and inviting in every way to people living on the streets, and exclusively focused on caring for the poor.

Several Sundays ago, we witnessed the open-armed efforts of River of Life Mission firsthand. As my wife and I sat in Sunday service, my wife leaned over, and with genuine excitement she said, “Do you see how many homeless people are in this service?” As we counted 7-8 homeless people who were sitting in the service, listening to God’s word with a church family, my wife and I were touched. Our own home church is also one of River of Life Mission’s HUBs. And because of the care and open-armed love at the Tuesday HUB spot, the homeless also feel welcomed at Sunday church. When my own wife pointed it all out to me, it made me very proud, but also very thankful that our HUBs are inspiring churches to be open-armed and welcoming to the poor.

And lastly, like Jesus’ first sermon, that He came to care for the poor, we have an exciting new development that I just couldn’t wait to share. Our HUB director, Blake Spinak, told me about a new ministry service that we are offering at our HUBs. Blake had received a call from a lady named Ms. Jobtree. She is an amazing lady who loves Jesus but also wanted to care for the poor. So, she took on the task of helping people on the streets get a job. Every day, she goes through Indeed, LinkedIn, and Craigslist, and makes handwritten lists of all the jobs on Oahu by region. Then she goes out and tries to share with people on the streets so they can get a job and get off the streets. When she heard about River of Life Mission HUBs, she contacted us and asked if she could go to our HUBs and set up a tent that says, “Do you need a Job?” Well, of course, we said, “YES!”. And so we just started a new rotation to all our HUBs to help people get jobs. And to add to it all, Blake also got connected with another lady who helps with resume writing, and then another ministry that provides interview clothes. So now the “Need a Job?” tent has grown to be Ms. Jobtree with her handwritten list of hundreds of job opportunities, but people can have immediate and on-the-spot help to write and print a resume, and then leave with an interview set up and clean clothes to wear to the interview.

We praise Jesus for his first words, “come and see”. We praise Jesus for his first sermon, “He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor”. And we praise Jesus that we get to do both at River of Life Mission. Thank you again for your sacrificial support of River of Life Mission! Everything that we are blessed to do is because of you. And let’s keep living out the mission of Jesus together, as we throw open our arms and love on the poor.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Pastor Paul Gates
Executive Director