Posted on October 7, 2016
“The Salvation Army saved me with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Kenneth Yoshikawa shared his story with more than 30 CEOs, business and community leaders at our inaugural The Salvation Army CEO Sleepout at the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda in September. Here is a condensed version of his path to The Salvation Army.
My name is Kenneth and this is how The Salvation Army saved me with the answered prayer of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and led me to The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Iwilei.
My life was pretty normal until age 14 when my mother walked out on our family and my father turned to alcohol. I had to become the “man of the house,” working long hours throughout my high school days to take care of my family’s bills. After graduation, I worked two jobs while attending UH West Oahu as a full-time student. Before long it seemed I had it all. I bought a townhouse and a car. Life was good until friends introduced me to cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol. I finally felt relaxed and stress-free. Then came the painkillers. Soon, my $100-a- day habit was $600-a-day. I lost my jobs, my home, my car, and my family. Then, living homeless and hungry, I lost all hope.
It was during this time as a homeless man on the streets of Honolulu, I pulled out a Bible I carried and it fell open to this verse in James, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” Starving, I jokingly said, “Okay, God, if you’re real give me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” Just 45 minutes later it appeared. A young woman walked up and offered me a PB&J sandwich, a prayer, and information about the ARC. God was reaching out to me through this prayer and a sandwich and I knew I had to seek help with the ARC in Iwilei. They immediately took me in, gave me a hearty meal, and lots of love.
The structured program was strict, but The Salvation Army Officers and staff genuinely cared for those of us in the program. I graduated in six months, became a dispatcher for the thrift store, and began attending worship services at The Salvation Army Kauluwela Corps near Chinatown. One Sunday after worship, a group of young people started making dozens of PB&Js to hand out to the homeless. I was blown away because it was that sandwich, prayer, and information about ARC that saved me.
With my life back on track, I am now the Residential Manager of the ARC. I take our clients to our Kauluwela Corps to show them how they can also do great things for others after they graduate. They might just turn around and save someone else one day. I am here today, clean and sober, with a stable job, and a group of friends who hold me responsible all because of The Salvation Army’s outreach program.