“With God, all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
The Maui fires have broken our hearts for the people of our island community. It has been an absolutely devastating month as we have watched our people suffer on a scale that is almost unfathomable and unseen in many of our lives. I am sure as you receive this letter the death toll will have climbed higher, and I still get tears in my eyes each time I think about it and as I write the words of this letter.
My family and I were in Lahaina only 7 days before the fires struck. We were broken by what we saw as the fires raged! We’re still thinking about and praying for the beautiful people that we met during our wonderful time there. It is still so hard to believe that it is all gone, and the loss of life was so great.
As many of you know, River of Life Mission has responded to the Maui fires. If you’d like to see an update about our response efforts with the fires, you can go to our website riveroflifemission.org and there will be a pop-up window titled “Maui Fire Relief”. I really encourage you to read the letter, as so many are jumping in with River of Life Mission, to help on Maui.
Now you may be asking, “why would River of Life Mission try to get involved in relief work, when they do homeless ministry?”. And to be very quick to answer, we feel called to the ministry of Jesus Christ to all people first and foremost, and secondly to the ministry modeled by Jesus, which was a lifelong dedication to the ministry of compassion. When we all saw the fires raging and the wake of destruction, we knew we had to help and go.
And this is where this letter attempts to take a horrible situation, and at least begin to show you that God is – even still – working in mighty ways again through River of Life Mission. In fact, we are continuing to see so many daily miracles, that I keep saying, “this is something only God could do”.
So let me share with you, in the midst of this brutal season for all of us, three things that we are seeing as “something only God could do”. The first is our transition to go mobile. And as you all know, we have transitioned from 1 location with hundreds of volunteers, to 70 HUBs around Oahu with thousands of volunteers, ministering to people on the streets with 279 ministry and wrap around social services every week. Because of the miraculous growth we have seen almost 100 people transitioned off the streets since the beginning of the year, and 164 people give their lives to Christ for the first time. Because of this, we give all glory to God and a huge high five to the local church. And because of the miraculous explosion of our mobile model, and working with so many local churches, we would have never known this would position us for other things like responding to fires on Maui.
You see, because of our networking and building powerful models to activate the church in serving those in need in their own community, we are now being used in significant ways to coordinate churches all over Maui, Oahu and even beyond – to bring relief to the precious people on Maui.
And now the second “something only God could do”. We were blessed to bring a stellar young man named Josue on staff a couple years ago to help in the kitchen. He had a heart to lead an intern program for people to come from other states to learn how to care for the homeless. About 5 months ago we expanded his position to be our “teams” leader which includes interns, short term teams from other states, and weekend teams from local churches and youth groups on Oahu. Little did we know that 5 months after naming him our “teams” leader, he would be thrust into a pivotal position of leading teams on Maui, coming to give comfort to people who have lost so much. Our teams and work on Maui is taking off and even this week Josue will host 3 church teams coming to serve on Maui.
The third and last “something only God could do” is one of my favorites. Ian signed up 5 months ago to come do an internship with River of Life Mission from Denver. He arrived on Oahu on the afternoon of Friday, August 11, 2023. We asked Ian, “What do you think about going to Maui and helping with the fires?”. To which he said “Yes,” and the next morning he was off to Maui. Well, 5 months ago when he signed up, he didn’t know he would be going to serve at one of the greatest disasters of our time, but we also didn’t know that Ian speaks fluent Filipino. What we also discovered after Ian went to Maui, is there is a large Filipino population in Lahaina. So Ian was the absolute perfect person to be in Maui, as they put out an island-wide call for someone who speaks fluent Filipino to go to the war memorial where all the big organizations like FEMA, Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse were trying to help people. Ian went and translated so many, many people could get the help they needed. Wow, this truly is “something only God could do!” A young man signs up 5 months ago to do an internship with a mission on Oahu, and gets redirected to be a pivotal person in the recovery of the people on Maui. God is truly so good. And we hope that in the middle of this storm, you will see that God is still working and God is continuing to use River of Life Mission.
Thank you again for your support of all we are doing to share Jesus and bring compassion. Your generosity, and faithfulness to prayer, has continued to fuel us forward in the work God has called us to do. We praise God that the miracles keep on coming, and that we truly are saying daily – “this is something only God could do”.
Pastor Paul Gates