New hope's angel tree christmas luncheon
hundreds come to jesus...

Over 500 children and family members of Hawaii’s prison inmate community attended the annual Angel Tree Christmas Luncheon at New Hope’s Sand Island LEAD Center on Saturday, December 10, 2005. They came to enjoy a delicious Hawaiian plate lunch, entertainment by top island performers, gifts, door prizes and compelling testimonials that offered hope and encouragement. Hundreds left with a gift that we pray they carry within their hearts for the rest of their lives.

Blessings All Around…
The event, spearheaded by New Hope’s Prison Ministry team, required the participation of a hundred volunteers to ensure that every detail was in place. According to Pastor Roy Yamamoto, his prayer was that everyone there would be blessed and come to know Jesus. A worthy prayer, indeed!

Guests were blessed in so many ways! The spectacular line-up of entertainment included David Kahiapo, 7 Simple Pieces, Malani Bilyeu, as well as performances by New Hope’s Hula Halau, Hip Hop Team, New Start Sign Dancers and the talented Wendi Tamura. Hawaii’s very own Oprah-discovered Paul Robbins was also on hand to entertain and the ever-spirited Piilani Crabbe-Jones served as event emcee.

Each child participating in the Angel Tree outreach received a gift on behalf of his or her imprisoned parent. Behind-the-scenes, New Hope “elves” prepared hundreds of gifts for distribution! Volunteer Lyn Naruo was among those who arrived at 6:30 a.m. to organize the packages and ready the room. “It is especially wonderful to see the kids at this event. I volunteered because I wanted to do something that would make a real impact for the kingdom,” said Lyn.

Words of Inspiration
After the fabulous Hawaiian plate lunch provided by local diner “K & L,” guests heard the testimony of former prison inmate Robbie Faris . Robbie’s story is one of a lifelong struggle with alcohol and drug abuse that resulted in his serving hard time on several occasions.

In 1997, with a loving wife and child beyond his reach, Robbie remembers crying out to God for help from his prison cell. His life did begin to change and a relationship with Jesus blossomed. While in prison, Robbie enrolled his kids in the Angel Tree program and they were touched by the gifts they received “from him.” Angel Tree, he recalled, really made a difference.

Upon release in 2000, Robbie began attending New Hope. When the opportunity presented itself, Robbie volunteered with the church’s Angel Tree outreach. “We signed up thinking that we would help and bless other people but in the end it blessed us,” said Robbie. “God has given me back my family.”

…And They Will Never Be The Same Again!
In conclusion, Pastor Roy addressed the children. “The best Christmas I ever had was in prison because I got the gift of Jesus,” he said. “The best thing you can do for your moms and dads is to pray for them!”

Pastor Roy then encouraged guests of all ages to accept God into their lives by opening their hearts to Him. Requesting a show of hands for those who took the life-changing step, a few hands were raised into the air. “Don’t be shame. Raise your hands. God is not ashamed of us. Don’t be ashamed either,” he said. Suddenly, the floodgates opened and dozens and dozens of hands proudly stretched up. Surely, these lives will never be the same again.

Continuing To Walk In Faith
In the midst of the event, Prison Ministry member Derek Yoneoka reflected on the broader goals of the ministry that serves some of our most desperate island brothers and sisters. Derek is one of the volunteers who worship weekly in prison with the parents of these very children.

“It is great when they come to the Lord in prison but it is awesome to see them after they come out of prison and continue to walk in faith,” said Derek. To understand how saving one life in prison could have a significant ripple effect for the Kingdom, one only needed to look around the packed room at the many separated loved ones.

So Many To Thank
Event coordinator Julie Peralta had nothing but praise for all the volunteers, staff and supporters who made a commitment to the event, including Hawaii Self Storage for storing hundreds of gifts donated by New Hope members. “The volunteers were wonderful and so many people really bent over backwards to make this event happen. It’s amazing how it all came together,” said Julie.

A big Mahalo to all who contributed to the event. By lending a hand, donating a gift or sharing a talent, you have made an impact. Let’s pray that the ripples extend to the far corners of Hawaii, the U.S. and perhaps the world! Merry Christmas.