Haleiwa Beach Park
Bring a beach mat, lawn chair or blanket and an appetite.
Worship: 10 a.m.-Noon
Upcoming services: Nov. 30 and Dec. 28
At the Once-A-Month Church, people don’t give an offering, they get one — $2 for each person.
When is the last time you walked into church and drove away with a car? If your clients stop by Oahu’s Haleiwa Beach Park on the last Sunday of the month, it could happen to them. At the very least, they can take part in one of the most unconventional worship services ever. No offering is taken; instead, participants get money ($2). Sermons last 10 minutes, tops. They can dance to a live band. After the service, they can stay for a barbecue chicken lunch and take home groceries. And, they can pick free library books and get a free medical screening.
Dubbed the Once-A-Month Church, the non-denominational Christian worship service on Oahu’s North Shore is the brainchild of pastor Ron Valenciana, who says God gave him the idea and the name for the church in 2004. Starting with no budget and no team members, Valenciana wrote the initial plan overnight on his computer with the vision of taking the church to the homeless and low-income residents.
"I thought this was crazy, because I didn’t know any homeless people," Valenciana said.
He and a friend scoured the North Shore. During the next several months they met men, women and families living on the beach and under bridges. Many listened to his invitation, but no one committed to coming.
Picking a number from thin air, he told one of his friends to cook chili and rice that first meeting for 100 people. And then the unexpected happened: 300 of the island’s most marginal residents appeared at the first Once-A-Month Church ready for anything. It didn’t take long for word to spread. People from local churches started volunteering. Residents donated televisions, baby strollers and kitchen appliances. These days, one man barbecues the 300 pounds of chicken for lunch each month. Another makes beef stew.
Valenciana, who sports a white beard and ponytail, speaks of God’s transformational love and hope. A Sunday service looks like this: At 8:30 a.m. people register their names to qualify for groceries from the local food bank. Everyone’s name is put into a hat, and from 9-10 a.m., a drawing takes place. Winners pick one item from a table full of presents, all donated.
"We just keep pulling names until everything is gone," Valenciana said.
The epic moment of the giveaway comes when someone pulls the name of the winner of a car. Used vehicles come from local dealerships or individuals. From 10 a.m. until noon, the service features music, worship, hula, prayer and a short sermon.
"We stop exactly at noon because people are hungry," said Valenciana.
Each month, 350 to 500 people flock to the celebration. Lives are changing. The homeless are helping at the services. Car winners are able to secure jobs because they have transportation. Four years into this new ministry, Valenciana is still enjoying the journey.
"God does the work," he said. "I just sit back and watch."