“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
As the new executive director of River of Life Mission, I still get a few privileges. One is that I can still claim “new guy” status when I make a mistake. And don’t we all make daily mistakes? But I also get to keep a bit of an outside perspective and boast about River of Life Mission and the amazing team of staff and volunteers that serve so faithfully every day. And so, on that note, this month’s letter is going to be from a proud new executive director, who is always excited to talk about what God is doing in and through The Mission.
This past Saturday night was the perfect set up to let the boasting begin, or so I thought! Our family was visiting another family for dinner. It was another beautiful evening in Hawaii. When we pulled up for dinner, we realized that it was a true Ohana dinner with not only our friends, but several neighbor friends showing up as well. My wife and I live for this stuff and pretty soon there were kids running everywhere. Games being played, chickens being chased, and a few adults getting hit in the head with bats – but not on purpose – we think. All in all, a fabulous time.
But here is where the story took a turn. Usually it is me talking about The Mission, and how proud I am of the way the team constantly goes above and beyond – to love people in every moment, like Jesus. But one family started talking about how they volunteer at The Mission and how they love every moment of it. Then the other family said, “we have served at The Mission too, what a great place.” And then a team of pastors from The Rock Church in San Diego, one of the largest churches in the United States, who had been visiting The Mission for several days, showed up to the backyard dinner too. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by about 20 people, kids running everywhere, and everyone is talking about The Mission! Talk about a proud moment! I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all God has done for so many years, in and through The Mission. And this past Saturday night, I even got a night off of talking about The Mission. And how blessed do you think I was to stand in a beautiful back yard, hearing 20 people bustling around with great joy, talking about how much they love The Mission?
But now I am going to take my turn back, to tell you why I am so proud of The Mission. Hahahahaha. I have been in ministry for 30 years and I am not sure I have ever seen a more dedicated team and board. Dedicated to loving people, that most people avoid. Going above and beyond in every way to treat people with the highest of regard, effort and dignity. To greet our guests by name and offer them an opportunity to know Jesus, to pray for people and ask them how we can help, and to help them get back on their feet by finding a healthy structure in life with food, hygiene, clothing, housing, jobs and more.
We continue to be in a very challenging season. But in the midst of it all, I really believe The Mission is one of those completely inspirational stories that drive all of us to keep going. We have been holding tightly, even as a team, to the verse above. “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
One thing that I am so proud to say, even in this pandemic season, is that The Mission has never stopped. Not only did they never stop feeding people in need, they increased food distribution by 30%, with existing staff and our volunteer involvement down due to Covid. And we do it all, thanks to your incredible generosity, without any taxpayer funding. I think this is downright incredible! We are so grateful that your generous support allows us to keep feeding people and providing hope – and to never stop doing what we absolutely love to do.
So please join with us again in following God’s great command, to be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Because our Lord and our God is with us wherever we go. Let’s never stop doing this great work together, and we are so thankful to do it all alongside you…
Paul R. Gates