Early in 2020, Pastor Ofa Helotu Langi moved his family from a small Washington state town about 75 miles from the Canadian border to Auburn, which sits between the cities of Seattle and Tacoma. There he would be taking over the senior pastor position at Auburn City Adventist Church. Little did they know that the world was about to turn upside down.
Pastor Ofa and his family were just getting to know their new church family when the shelter-in-place orders came through. At that time, church members were no longer able to worship together in person (the church has since begun outdoor gatherings in the parking lot), but that didn’t stop Pastor Ofa from getting to know his congregants and community.
He and another local pastor got together and assessed the most pressing needs.
Food was most essential as the number of unemployed people rose. “We have people here that are hungry and people that need a little bit of hope,” Pastor Ofa says.
He and Auburn City Adventist Church wanted to help ease the burden people were shouldering. They started calling a lot of local organizations to see how they might be able to get food for families in need but kept hitting dead ends.
A past of adversity
But Ofa had faced adversity before. When he was just 12 years old, his father died. Young Ofa’s anger at God for allowing this to happen ruled his life. He dropped out of school in sixth grade and didn’t attend for the next two years either. He started down the path of a life of drugs, alcohol, and violence.
Before he turned 18, he had two DUIs and was in an accident that left him with a shattered femur. Even though he was angry, he reached out to God. He prayed the words of John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
God honored that promise of a full life and has led Ofa to 20 years of sobriety and to the ministry. And then led him to the community of Auburn to serve during a global pandemic.
The end of dead ends
Ofa leaned on his faith and the promises God had already honored in his life. He and the church team prayed over and over for food to provide to a hurting community. Then a World Vision staff member reached out offering Fresh Food Boxes.
World Vision partnered with the Farmers to Families program. The program sources surplus food that isn’t selling during COVID-19 closures and provide it to families in need through local churches and community organizations.
By October, through church partners, World Vision had distributed 1.6 million boxes of fresh meat, produce, and dairy in nearly every state of the country to serve 4 million people.
Pastor Ofa is all about collaboration. He feels that when organizations partner together they’re able to go farther and move more quickly towards their mutual goals.
He includes the donors in that collaboration too. “They’re raising the water level for different people,” he says. “I really want to thank them for being the hands and feet of Jesus. They have given of their fish and their five loaves, entrusting them to our care so that we could end up multiplying that so that all could be satisfied at the table.”
Health and hope
Pastor Ofa also appreciates how fresh the boxes’ contents are.
“What you eat really impacts your mood and your health. Especially in these times of added stress, a healthy diet is just that much more important to helping people stay healthy,” he says.
One component of mental health is having hope. Ofa offers a final message to donors and potential donors: “You’re investing more than just money. You’re changing lives and restoring hope and bringing a bit of joy to someone’s life who might be struggling.”
Pastor Ofa might also be describing himself and the people of his congregation who keep giving sacrificially and inspiring hope and joy for people in need.