Bobby Hathaway is a husband, a father, a chef, and now—a Christian. He’s actively involved in a men’s group at Eastside Church and serves locally within his community alongside his family whenever an opportunity arises. He has a strong relationship with God that emanates into all areas of his life—family, work, and friends. He’s passionate about serving and using the skills God has gifted him with to give back to his community. But things weren’t always this way.

Bobby grew up as a Lutheran. He didn’t have a strong relationship with God and didn’t actively go out of his way to find opportunities to serve others. But when he and his wife placed their son in the pre-school program at Eastside, their initial interest budded into an unexpected attachment that quickly began to grow.

Bobby’s wife began attending Eastside Church, and he was quick to see the impact that Eastside had on her—she was healthy, meeting new people, and he could see her becoming a better woman before his very eyes. Her decision to get baptized is what finally led him to think, “Heck, if it’s good for her, it’s gotta be good for me.” He began attending Eastside, and when his family moved to the Anaheim campus, he made the decision to get baptized there. Bobby began getting closer and closer with the people at the church. “It really became apparent to me [that] my involvement [at Eastside] would be the key to growing in this church.” What Bobby didn’t know is that God was about to provide him with an opportunity to do just so.

Hearing God’s Call

“It’s funny how God works, because he knew I needed to have a little prodding,” Bobby laughs, reminiscing back on when he first heard God’s call to serve. “I was so enveloped in my own life, my own selfish ways, that I just wasn’t seeing the outside…I was listening to it at church—I was listening to the need—[but] I had no involvement in it.”

Bobby was ripe for opportunity. He was a chef by trade, and had studied at the Culinary Institute in New York. He had owned his own restaurant for twenty years, after which he had sold it to become a freelance chef. When another restauranteur from Eastside approached Bobby with a proposition—an opportunity to serve a community in Kenya with his passion for cooking—Bobby was doubtful. It took some prodding, but after continued encouragement from his friend’s wife and other men Bobby had built relationships with at Eastside, he finally caved.

Bobby recounts the moment he committed to what was going to be a life-changing trip: “I remember, I was coming out of a catering event job, and my phone was ringing, and it was the chef’s wife, and she says, ‘Hey Bobby, are you going to Kenya?’ And our due date [had] already [passed], everybody had already committed—they had already accepted all the positions (they only took seventy five people and there was no availability)—and she said, ‘If you don’t go, we can’t go, because we really need one more chef to go.’ And I was in this place where I had to say yes or no.”

When Bobby realized how many people were going to be affected by his decision, he knew he had no choice but to go. “It was kind of this pivotal moment, and I made the decision to go, and it was probably the best decision I made because it was my first time really going out there and helping other people in something that I truly knew.”

Bobby went to Kenya with an open mind and an open heart. He was touched by the kid’s hunger to learn the trade and art of cooking, and was amazed by how God used the trip to bless him in ways he could have never imagined. “When children in Africa come up to me and want to learn just the basic fundamentals [of cooking], and at the same time they’re teaching me things too—it’s awesome.”

When Bobby looks back at the experience, he admits: “My heart for serving showed up when I committed to Kenya.”

Cooking up Love on Serve Day

On a past Serve Day at Eastside Church, Bobby was given another opportunity to serve the community through his love for culinary arts. On this particular Serve Day, he was involved in a compassion project for an elementary school culinary program. The event gave volunteers the opportunity to build relationships with the principal, teachers, and students of the school as they served alongside their daughters, sons, and wives, who had also joined in to help. They set up a kitchen with five different stations and taught the students how to create a basic menu and cook simple items in their home that were reasonably priced. The goal of these lessons was to encourage students to come home and have a good meal rather than taking an alternative route and going to 7/11 for a slurpee, candy bar, or chips. The team brought together Eastsiders with a variety of strengths in a way that allowed them to work together and apply their skills to create a real impact in the lives of kids living in the local community.

Seventy-five kids had the opportunity to go through the different stations in the program. The students not only gained an understanding of cooking basic recipes, but skills that would support them in many other areas of their lives. The purpose of the event was not only to teach the kids how to cook, but to encourage healthy environments in their homes and communicate to them the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

Bobby’s heart was full after seeing how greatly the kids had been impacted by the event: “They had so much fun, it was hands-on, they’re making marinade sauces, they’re making pasta, smoothies, big chicken dishes, flouring, egging, mixing.  Some of these kids, when we spoke to them, had dreams of becoming bakers. Some kids wanted to become chefs. They asked questions like, ‘Where did you go to school?’” He remembers lots of kids with bright eyes, who got to take food home—families were happy. Bobby was humbled when he realized how truly far-reaching the impact of his decision to serve on that day would be.

At the end of the day, Bobby attributes his involvement on Serve Day to the community he was able to build through Eastside: “I’ve always had these ideas of doing these things, but it took this community of these people that have a passion for God and who want to just praise Him and [use] their strengths.”

Big Faith, Big Blessings

When Bobby first began attending Eastside Church, he was shy, sat in the back, and felt apprehensive about Christianity. “And then all of a sudden the Holy Spirit just started working in me. Now my hands are up, I’m sitting in the front row…I’m connecting, my fear is gone, my confidence level’s higher—it’s just made me ten times a better person. I just want people to experience that.” He has found that serving and getting involved in local compassion efforts at Eastside have helped turn a big church into a small church. Because of the community he’s built through serving, it’s rare for him to walk down a hallway without knowing someone.

Bobby has traded his inward, selfish thinking for fervent prayer and a growing passion for God’s word. Serving at Eastside has not only opened his heart and mind, but made him more humble. “I’m getting blessed. It’s amazing how much more blessed I’ve become. And tithing. I tithe completely more. I didn’t do that before. I would go months without tithing, and now it’s mandatory. It’s the first thing I do when a paycheck comes in…and out of nowhere I get phone calls from people I’ve never met before who want catering events and it’s just like God saying, ‘Here you go, Bobby, this is what happens when you take care of Me first.’ And it’s just been amazing! I’m just blown away.”

Bobby has been attending Eastside Church with his family for almost four years. Though young in his faith, he is a prime example that you don’t have to know it all to serve and create change in your community—you just have to be willing to let God use you.

Just be ready for Him to show up when you least expect it.