Regina’s Testimony

Sunday 12/13/09 at the River at Tampa Bay Church was an amazing day.  For my husband and I and a few others the day started at 6AM as we arrived early to make final preparations for the local community outreach.  1600 toys and 800 boxes of food stood in preparation as the wee hours of the morning slipped by.

By 7AM many others had arrived as the day’s festivities were set to begin.  Bus Captains, Co-Captains, Van Drivers, and Bus Drivers all arrived to receive final instructions before the fleet of 8 buses and 4 vans left to pick up people from all over the city.   For many weeks now River church members have been knocking on doors, holding community meetings and passing out flyers to announce the Christmas Outreach.   Within 30 minutes after the buses left,  Bus Captains began calling stating their buses were filling up fast.  Several buses filled up by the 3rd and 4th stop.  In addition many visitors began arriving 2 hours early in their own vehicles.  All of these signs indicating our grass-roots marketing blitz paid off.   Before we knew it, it was time for service to start.  Buses and vans rolled in.  Families were met by teams of friendly volunteers, all ready to assist and escort the guests as needed.  Church Service began.

Teams of volunteers continued working outside to ensure smooth sailing for all of the services being offered to visitors and church members alike.  After delivering a solid word based message Pastor Rodney began the altar call.  As the invitation was made to receive Jesus, swarms of people got up and crowded the altar.  As usual the altar calls at The River are breath-taking but most importantly they are  always fueled by the Holy Spirit.  Lives were changed right before our eyes as the Holy Spirit began touching hearts.  Tears flowed, and echos of cries were heard all signifying God was at work.

After church everyone headed outside for the food and toy giveaway.  The children were thrilled as they received toys such at Tonka Trucks, baby dolls, actions figures, jewelry sets etc.   No cheap toys were given only the best toys were made ready. Then the families headed to receive their box of groceries filled with cereal, chunky soup, tuna, vegetables candy, juice, pasta and much more.  In the end over 300 men, woman and children gave their heart to Jesus, and that is what this outreach was all about.

Hearing The Lord

Rodney Howard Browne explains that even in human relations, you can fail if you do not work on the relationship and if you leave everything up to the other person.

Bob and I were sitting in the church van number two (on stand by), ready to rush off and pick up the crowds that could not fit on the chartered tour buses.  There was excitement in the air as the huge tour busses continued to turn into the vast palm tree lined parking lot at the River.  Our excitement increased with each bus, bus after bus, one purple, some white or bright yellow came into view from the city’s interstate highways.

 As the buses rolled up to the front entrance, the passengers with many excited children, hurried up the walkways to the draped cloth covered tables under the awing.  An excited greeting party waited to enroll the first time visitors and present them with a gift from Pastors Rodney and Adonica Howard-Browne on this special Spanish Outreach Sunday.   There was an air of expectation from all the students of River Bible Institute who had labored with all of the staff, during the hectic and rewarding previous weeks of preparations.

 In the spacious newly renovated lobby the large screens flashed out the sights and sounds of the worship team on stage in the sanctuary.  Original pieces of art work by the hand of Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne were on display throughout the lobby as well as a plethora of his encased works of teachings on CD’s and DVD’s and books.

 The smell of Starbucks coffee emanated from the River’s Café Organic, as the excited masses viewed the array of bicycles to be given away to the children today.  Many greeters welcomed the arrival of the first time visitors, the faithful, and the many streaming in from a packed parking lot with vehicles that had license plates from New York, Illinois, Maryland, Georgia, and many other states.  The abundant flags of all of our proud states of America mixed with most of the world’s flags waved in the slight breeze from the light polls, on this sun basked warm winter morning, here at the River.

 The west parking lot and south parking lots were alive with activity as the huge busses were being filled with hundreds of boxes of food that were being loaded by the green fork lift and numerous volunteers, volunteers, volunteers everywhere with their orange vests, sorting gifts, directing traffic, and even selling hot dogs and sodas to the sound originating from the local Spanish Radio Station’s sound truck.

 The parking lots were lined with yards of red and yellow ribbons to section off areas for the food distribution and hundreds and hundreds of gifts to be given to the children after the Big Event which climaxed with an altar call of hundreds.  Yes, hundreds stood, many weeping, with the acceptance of the Lord Jesus into their hearts.  Yes, the hand of God is here, the movement of the Holy Spirit has a free reign here at the River; and that is the most exciting feeling, expectation, exposure, we can ever have: the move of God that we have come accustomed to here at the River.  It is always exciting here at the River!  As we follow our leaders in reaching the Harvest in the United States of America.

Richard Parks Testimonials

The day was a perfect storybook day.  Clear, sunny, (not scorching hot), but a great perfectly warmed day with a slight breeze.  It was the best day that anyone could have wished for or prayed for. We were obviously not the only one pleased to be sharing our, “more than enough”.  When we saw the faces on the parents and kids who participated and received gifts and food, it was apparent that we, on the earth were not the only ones smiling.  It took a lot of physical work and co-ordination of many of the churches’ assets to bring about this wonderful celebration.  And this was just a pre-curser to what is planned for the upcoming week as we near the Christmas season.   All who contributed their efforts were more than rewarded by the laughter and smiles evident every way one turned.  More than fun, this was a rewarding experience for those of us who normally are prone to remaining out of the direct action behind our chosen pseudo conservatism.  This Sunday was a chance to go all out to make someone happy while sharing in the excitement.

My wife and I are in a somewhat unique, enviable position of volunteering for the Food Ministry where the food is put together. Then we are in the distribution where it is handed out each week.  We have also been meeting, encouraging visitors and being a small part of the Bus Ministry where folks are picked up for transport to and from our church. So we are fortunate to watch the progression of folks from on the street without a church to attending our church. The new faces are worth any effort that we could muster.

This Sunday, we were blessed to see so many new faces who had answered our street ministry calls. Some of those came were here for things missing in their lives.  Many of the people new to us were from Plant City.  We as a church have reached past our immediate vicinity and four walls of the church to touch more people for Christ than ever before.  We are sowing into peoples’ lives daily, although we recognize some came as a result of seeds planted by others in whatever near or distant past.   In a way, it’s sad that so many people need help, but on the other hand, this is a living ministry and we have the ability to give needed assistance now.  Some of our workers were talking to the people, in turn teaching them to sow an item of food into their neighbors’ lives, and sharing their experiences at River Church.  That is more than awesome.  Our church is showing people how to take what they have and sow no matter what is available to share.  We are showing people the Biblical way to move away from lack.

The church volunteers were wearing orange or yellow safety vests which someone remarked made us stand out like worker ants. In fact, when I looked across the parking lot, it really was like watching ants.  Everyone was so busy with toy distribution, food ministry, bus ministry, hot dog sales, music, etc.  A really great thing was everyone was smiling and friendly and jovial amidst all of the hard work.  The pace was a little hectic, but we were having so much fun blessing people. 

First time visitors seemed to enjoy being a part of this enormous family enjoying life.  Will we see them again? Yes, we will see many of them. And perhaps some of them much later on in the great scheme of things!

Ron DaCosta Testimonials

Ever since I started going to The River my life has changed I always feel a joy inside of me and a passion for the things of God. I remember while we were remodeling the church I stopped and looked around and saw all these people just working around the church and I thought to myself, this can only be love, the fact that everyone is working and not expecting anything back is love! That was something that really hit me and I was just amazed on how everyone helps each other out.

During the toy distribution I was playing in Studio B (kid’s church) and I thought it was so awesome to see 156 kids answer the altar call and get saved. I remember looking down at the kids during worship; it was so amazing to watch them worship God and I remember looking at one of them while Joe Manno was talking about what Jesus did for us, he used me as an example to play Jesus and I’ll never forget, when I looked down at the kids I saw tears running down their faces and that’s something that’s just so hard to describe! All I can say is that it was such an amazing thing to see those kids connect with God. One thing that was really cool is how before the kid service started you get to talk to some of the kid’s and then when you meet up with them after they answered the altar call everything about them has changed, from their face expressions to how they talk to you. There is so much peace in their eyes. To me I love seeing the work of God in the lives of Younger People because that’s an encouragement to me, it makes me want to tell other people that anybody can be saved and can get smacked by the power of God. I can’t wait until the next toy distribution, and to see more people get saved!!

Rosemarie Morgan Testimonials

The River Bus Ministry and Outreach Program are two powerful ministries working together to reach the unsaved – I have seen lives so touched, impacted and changed in the few months since I have been at the River. I see hope given to people who otherwise would choose to release their grip on life. The effort both in terms of financial support and manpower leaves me speechless – It can only be the hand of God at work through the River church.

While making phone calls this month to the Skipper Road community in Tampa, I greeted a lady and asked her how she was doing. She said “not too well, I am recovering from breast cancer surgery, and the chemotherapy is hard on me, and I feel like giving up, and the test results are not good”.

I told her that giving up was not an option but that she should believe God for her healing. I recited Mark 11:23-24 to her and asked her if she could believe in her heart without doubting that God will move this mountain from her. She said yes, I explained that if she asked God to heal her and believed in her heart without doubting that he has heard her, she would be healed right now. I told her Jesus healed all who were sick Acts 10:38 and that sickness was not of God. I asked her again if she could believe in her heart without doubting, she said yes. I prayed for her, I could hear her praying on the other end of the line. After we finished she said “God must have really made you call my number, because I feel so much better already”. I invited her to church; she said she did not think she was strong enough to make it.

On Sunday morning to my amazement, I recognized her immediately as the Bus pulled up at the Skipper road community stop; her head was completely bald from the chemotherapy. I was at the back of the bus, so when I got a chance to move to the front of the bus I greeted her and asked her how she was doing today. I asked her if someone from the River had called her house and prayed for her this week, she smiled and said yes. She said she was feeling much better today. The peace of God was so evident on her, it was not necessary to prolong the conversation. God is a good God!!