On January 17th, 1994 out of the rubble of the Northridge earthquake, the Lord called a small church to reach out to a community devastated by the 6.7 magnitude quake which resulted in 72 deaths and over 9,000 injured. The Lord showed Himself faithful as Calvary Chapel Rancho Santa Margarita set a relief center up in a church parking lot, and watched as God provided over and above anything we could imagine in the way of food, clothing, supplies, water, volunteers and thousands of desperate people, who were not only to be fed in the physical sense, but also spiritually as the Gospel was presented and souls were saved. From this outreach Safe Harbor International Relief was birthed.
From April to mid-July, 1994, at least 800,000 people were brutally murdered as a result of the political upheaval between Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu tribes. When Safe Harbor learned of this atrocity, a small team was sent to assess the situation. The team administered aid to orphanages in Rwanda while showing the love of Christ to the Rwandan people who had lost so much.
One year to the day of the Northridge earthquake, January 17th, 1995, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Kobe, Japan. With over 5,000 deaths and 400,000 injured, the need for assistance was great, and once again Safe Harbor was called upon to respond. The Lord provided a huge cargo plane and Safe Harbor was asked to fill it in 24 hours! A call to the body of Christ went out over the airwaves and God’s people responded. The plane was filled with 25 metric tons of food, water and supplies, which were then flown to Japan.
In the years following, Safe Harbor would go on to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of thousands of people throughout East Africa, Nicaragua, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Israel, Romania, and the United States (including the 911 terrorist attacks).
While in Rwanda, Safe Harbor encountered refugees from Sudan who asked our team what America was doing to address their plight. At that time, we were unaware of the horrific events that had been taking place in Sudan. This unexpected meeting on a dusty road in Rwanda set in motion a chain of events that allowed Safe Harbor to minister countless times in several regions throughout Sudan, including both Darfur and Southern Sudan. Over the next decade and a half, Safe Harbor would focus ministry and resources to impoverished areas of East Africa.
In 1998, Safe Harbor sent a medical team to Midigo in response to the cholera epidemic, which surfaced as a direct result of the Southern Sudan conflict that had caused the displacement of Sudanese refugees into Yumbe district. Safe Harbor recognized significant gaps in basic medical care as public avenues provided a mere one room health clinic with little medicine or staff for service to a population of nearly 70,000 people. At the time, 200 out of 1,000 infants were dying at birth. Safe Harbor approached Dr. Juventine Emuku from Kampala, who agreed to establish a health facility alongside one nurse in the remote town of Midigo. Over the past 12 years, God has provided Safe Harbor with the direction and resources to expand clinic health services into a fully operational hospital, including an operating theatre and in-patient wards. During this period of time, Dr. Emuku began a Bible study, which eventually led to the establishment of a vibrant church who are committed to growing in the Truth of the Gospel. This growth eventually led to a church plant in Yumbe town in 2009 and Arua in 2010. Safe Harbor has also focused resources upon ministry and development in the West Nile Region (NW Uganda and Southern Sudan) through Project Midigo, establishing a church that now is a ministry hub for remote rural churches. The school has also developed, and hundreds of students are receiving high quality, Christian education, and both of these projects are now functioning independently.
Safe Harbor continues to labour in Africa helping those in crisis that are in need of relief, with the emphasis of sharing the Gospel; in the hope that all will hear His Word and dwell with Him in eternity.
Safe Harbor continues to focus on SERVING Christ as a resource to the local Church for the global Church; RESPONDING to crisis in places where few will go; PROCLAIMING a Christ-centered, biblically-based gospel by word and deed; TRANSFORMING communities spiritually, physically, and educationally; and TRUSTING in God alone for lasting change.
This calling means readying ourselves for the next crisis that God may be calling us to; being watchful and prayerful; ready to respond where called and purposeful to go the ‘extra mile’ where other organizations leave. Throughout the many years of ministry around the world, Safe Harbor acknowledges that it is God who has accomplished all, and to Him alone belongs the glory and praise. As Safe Harbor turns the corner of 15 years of ministry, we are excited to witness God’s mighty hand in revealing the wonderful Truth of His Son Jesus Christ both here and to the far reaches of the world throughout the days to come.
Safe Harbor was formerly led by founder and CEO Pastor Gary Kusunoki until 2008, and is now directed by current CEO and President of the Board, Pastor Sanford “Sandy” Otsuji.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:2b-7 ESV)