“Because He loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.”
Benny came back, after 8 years away, to tell us his story about all God has done. And we literally couldn’t be more grateful.
“River of Life Mission was an open door for me, that led to open doors”. Benny summarized it so well. And really impacted me. For years River of Life has done just that. Providing food for people in need, meeting the most basic of needs, helps us bring hope and open doors for all God desires.
When Benny arrived at the mission a few days ago, he recognized Tracy and Jeremy and said that he was walking around Chinatown and felt God nudging him to go back to the mission. He was shocked that Tracy and Jeremy remembered his name, but they did, and the conversation began. Benny had been a guest at River of Life Mission from 2003 until 2013. He came to get meals every day. But in 2013 he moved into a home, went to school, and got a job. In fact, he not only went to school, Benny went all the way to getting his Masters in Business Administration and is now getting his PhD. Pause for a moment, and think about this. Benny was on the streets for 10 years and is now studying to get his PhD.
Wow! So as you can imagine, there was an instant buzz around the mission, and we knew that once again God was showing us what happens when you make simple steps of faith to offer someone a meal.
But Benny’s story is an interesting one. It is not typical, by any means. Benny moved to Oahu from Maui in 2002 in hopes of building another successful business. But hard times hit and Benny ended up out of a home. But where Benny’s story I think takes a radical turn, is that Benny didn’t turn to drinking and drugs. He actually turned to Jesus. He even said, “I never saw myself as homeless, or living on the streets”. People would ask him, “Are you homeless?” and Benny said he honestly didn’t really know what to say. It’s actually kind of humorous and encouraging all at the same time. Benny said, “I just went with it, trusted God, and I spent my entire days doing two things: praying and reading my Bible”. Basically Benny wasn’t focused one bit on the fact that he didn’t have a home. And in that way he didn’t even think about it the way most people would. He simply didn’t see himself as homeless, he saw himself in a world of brokenness and he began to make journals full of people’s names and ways he could pray for them. And he prayed for people all day long. “I was even praying for all the guests of River of Life Mission, by name”, said Benny. Now come on, hahahaha, how amazing is this already?
Talk about a perspective that can be revolutionary for all of us. It simply doesn’t matter where you are in life, what stuff you have, or if you live in a home. What matters is your walk and relationship with God, and how you help and serve others. Benny was living this out, and wow, what an encouragement to me and I hope to you. And as Benny told me that even to this day, he starts each day by praying through the entire chapter of Psalm 91. And Benny really does live out this promise, which is for all of us in vs. 4 “Because He loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.”
In 2013 Benny went to get his teeth cleaned. And little did he know, a simple teeth cleaning would bring a change. He was introduced to a case worker with Veteran Affairs (VA). Benny served our country for years in the military. The case worker helped Benny get a place of his own, where he still lives. And blessings to this amazing case worker, he asked Benny, “What do you want to do?” And Benny replied, “I want to go to college”. He went to Leeward Community College, then to University of Hawaii to get his Bachelors in Business Administration. He then went on to get his Masters in Business Administration at Corban University, Oregon and is now seeking his PhD at Liberty University, Virginia. All while being employed back with the VA to help others move forward.
What Benny has done is nothing short of miraculous. But Benny would be the first one to say, “it was all God”. Benny said it so well, “after all these years of praying for others, God was also working in me, to accept no matter where I was in life at the time, trusting Him to use me and lead me. But now I also get a huge blessing of being able to be educated and learn, to open even more doors for me to help others.” And then I had to ask Benny why he has felt so strongly about education and he simply said, “it helped give me maturity, self-discipline, a foundation of knowledge. And what it did for me the most – it helped me to dream bigger, it gave me a greater hope.”
“People on the streets are so sidetracked with survival, that they have lost their dreams. River of Life Mission opens your heart again to hope and to dream. To the potential of a life that only God can bring.”
Benny, thank you for your words above that bring chills to my arms. And for all of us that call River of Life home – our place to serve and support. Thank you! Because this story alone is why we do what we do, and love it so much. Let’s keep going together, lets keep doing it together, and lets keep seeing miraculous stories like Benny’s – that some people may never experience in even a lifetime.
We praise God for you Benny and we are so thankful that you came back to the mission to share your story. God’s story…
In His Service,
Pastor Paul Gates