Breath of Life was started on Mother’s Day in 1996 by Pastor Tom and D’Lissa Iannucci. Along with a long time friend Dondi Ho (daughter of the legendary Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho) they met at the newly opened Kauai Veteran’s Center in Lihue. In a small room, with a stack of chairs for a podium and a total of five people, including Pastor Tom, Breath of Life was born.
Pastor Tom was ordained during that same time by Pastor Derald Skinner and Pastor Heath Habbeshaw of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor on Oahu. Pastor Derald and Pastor Heath had been guiding and mentoring Pastor Tom since their time together at Calvary Chapel Honolulu in the early 1990’s. It was Pastor Derald and Pastor Heath who initially took Pastor Tom aside prayed with him, because they felt he had a calling on his life while he was serving at Calvary Chapel Honolulu. Pastor Tom & D’Lissa were very involved at CCH and both attended the Calvary Chapel Bible college while there. Pastor Tom was involved with the “Men in Ministry” group, the Greg Laurie Summer Harvest Outreaches and taught a home bible study for CCH in Kahala.
Initially coming over to Kauai to help restore Calvary Chapel Kauai after the devastating hurricane Iniki, they served for one year, Pastor Tom in the role of assistant pastor, board member and bible study teacher; D’Lissa as part of the worship team and leading women’s groups. Moving to the West Side of Kauai they plugged into a local church and later launched Breath of Life in Lihue which was central on the island.
Thus the church was originally called: Breath of Life Calvary Chapel, because they had come out of Calvary Chapel and wanted to bring a solid bible based ministry to Kauai. After only a few months the church continued to grow and they had to expand to a larger room and a smaller one for the children that began to accompany their parents. Having bought his wife a guitar only a month or two earlier, D’Lissa became the worship leader with Dondi Ho accompanying her. Not knowing how to read music and only knowing only a couple of cords, D’Lissa began to write her own worship music. Those songs became quite popular within the church and it developed into its own style of worship that continues on today. Not only was she just learning to play, but in those days she had to learn to play while pregnant with their third child.
Within a year and a half the church had to move into a new location at the Kauai Fruit and Flower Stand just north of the airport in Lihue. They rented the back half of the building and they had to renovate the space in order to utilize it. A lot of work was done and the church continued to grow, so more work had to be done in just a short time. Knocking down a wall or two and turning the sanctuary around to accommodate more people the church eventually went to two services. During this time Pastor Tom continued to work full time as the island manager of the Sears Service Center in Lihue. He had to carefully balance family, work and church for the first six years of the ministry. There were some trying times, but the Lord was always faithful to see them through.
The church had many people rise up and help, one of which was a man who had been there from the beginning: Bob Castro. Bob along with his wife Irma came along side Pastor Tom & D’Lissa in the big brother, big sister way. Bob Castro became Pastor Tom’s first assistant Pastor and was truly a blessing to the ministry along with his wife. During the end of 2001 Pastor Tom and Pastor Bob began a search for a new building because the church continued to grow. They settled upon a warehouse in the Rice Shopping Center. Unfortunately Pastor Bob would pass away a few months later. He died on Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, of 2002. He was missed greatly but was also a catalyst in seeing the warehouse completed.
Around this time for many reasons, Breath of Life decided not to affiliate with Calvary Chapel, which was moving to have official affiliations and regional governing. Although coming out of Calvary Chapel Honolulu under Bill Stonebreaker and being ordained by Pastor Derald of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, Pastor Tom decided Breath of Life should become an independent ministry outside of the Calvary Chapel affiliation. Although the church remained associated with Calvary Chapel, they were not an “official” affiliate.
Pastor Tom says:
“During this time we were looking at what “church” was all about and what it really meant. We loved Calvary Chapel and we saw in it a successful ministry template that we could draw on. We also saw how God moved through Chuck Smith, who is an awesome man of God, in the creation of that ministry. At the same time, we also saw the uniqueness of Kauai where Calvary Chapel didn’t derive from. The question we had to ask was: What was God’s plan for Kauai? What did God want to do through us? Did we have the faith to step out on our own and see God do a new work, a unique work? There were many questions we had to ask ourselves. There was also a little turmoil and shuffling about on Kauai with new Calvary Pastors and new Calvary’s Chapels coming in. We had been ministering on Kauai since we had moved back in January of 93’ and we had saw many ministries come in and then go back out over the years, ministries that had come from outside of Kauai or Hawaii. Kauai was also my wife’s home, where she was born and raised and we really had a heart for the local people. To be focused on them. It became apparent to us that the Lord was moving us in our own direction, one that was specific to the island we were living on. Through prayer we understood that the Lord was calling us to do something new and develop our own island style of ministry that was Kauai focused. I also realized that I was trusting more in the “Calvary Chapel” name, than I was in the Lord and what He could do. It was challenging and a step of faith to not affiliate and go on our own, but we withdrew the affiliation papers and settled on becoming Breath of Life Christian Ministries. There was some heartache and headache over it, but in the end we see it was the right decision and we see the fruit of it. This was a step of faith that I think we needed to take. A step of faith that would have us trust in the Lord for something new, which was birthed and focused on Kauai. Years later we would return back to Calvary Chapel “officially” as they changed the process and made it a locally based process out of Hawaii, which we felt more comfortable with, but retained the name Breath of Life Christian Ministries. So like “Harvest,” “Horizon” and locally “Kumulani Chapel” with Ricky Ryan, we are simply known as Breath of Life to everyone and we are a Calvary Chapel affiliate returning back to our family ties.”
In 2002 Breath of Life took over the old Big Save warehouse in the Rice Shopping Center that Pastor Tom and Pastor Bob prayed about. The warehouse is located in the heart of Lihue where they wanted to be and felt the Lord directed them. The steel framed building itself was comprised of four black painted metal walls and one line of electric, with four light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. No plumbing, no bathrooms, no anything. Four metal walls, a concrete floor and a two hundred pound sliding metal door that tested many men. Opening and closing that door became a test in itself. It was truly a step of faith to take over this 8000 square foot building with no money or supplies. It had been used as a Teen Rave Spot where they would cram hundreds of kids into it, with no bathrooms or running water, running generators for their electric, a port-a-poty or two and pounding loud rave music well into the night.
Pastor Tom remembers:
“You had to have vision, really. It was a step of faith because it was hot, dark and void of anything we could utilize. There were some makeshift small plywood offices that we had to tear out and paint the walls white just to begin to work, because everything was black. There were no windows, many rats, a lot of heat and tons of work. Unfortunately a decent amount of people left the church because of it. Some lacked the vision, some just didn’t want to be inconvenienced. But many others did stay, sticking it out. They all were blessed by the completion of the work and the reality of the vision and just how this location has been used over the years. The greatest testimony was of a elderly Christian woman who lived in the valley below us, who shared with us one day that she use to pray on Friday and Saturday nights, when the music was blaring from above late into the night, that the Lord would shut the place down and make it a church! Her prayers and ours were answered!”
With only two thousand dollars in the bank and the contractors telling Pastor Tom he would need in excess of $275,000, Breath of Life stepped out in faith and took over the building signing a six year lease. During that first week a woman in the church explained that she believed in the vision that Pastor Tom had to build a church in this warehouse and she proceeded to give a check for $20,000.00 and the ball began to roll. Other visitors on vacation also stepped up with a $10,000.00 donation. A month or so later another visitor gave $7,000.00, another five and many one thousand dollar gifts as well came in.
During the early days of building, Pastor Tom flew over to Honolulu to take a one week certification course in grant writing. The cost of the course and trip was $1,300.00 which was a huge amount at the time, but off he went and he got the certification. A week or so later, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had a free Grant Writing certification course and Pastor Tom attended it as well. One month later he submitted his first grant and was awarded the most money that was ever awarded to a church by the Vidinha Trust, a whopping $45,000.00. He would go on to write another four grants for $9,000.00 + to gain supplies and equipment for the Christian Self Defense Academy Dojo, which is a free Martial arts outreach program that is operated in the church. The Lord was faithful to make something out of nothing.
The building phase of the church took quite a long time as the church itself did most of the work on weekends and after hours. The project itself could not have been done without the help Stone Tree Construction on Kauai. They came along side of us from the beginning and got us rolling. There were so many helping hands it would take a mile to list them all.
One of the earliest offers of help came from Mission Valley Christian Fellowship out of San Diego and their Pastor, Pastor Leo Giovinetti. Pastor Tom had called Pastor Leo after hearing him on the radio with his “Real Life Radio” program and they developed a relationship that had Pastor Leo and a team from his church come to Kauai, do an outreach and help build the church. The team was led by Carl Starrett of Starrett Construction Inc. and the people of Mission Valley.
This relationship led to many outreaches with Pastor Leo on Kauai and Pastor Tom being a guest speaker at MCVF’s men’s retreat as well as during one of Pastor Leo’s Israel Tours. The relationship between Mission Valley and Breath of Life continues to this day.
Today Breath of Life is a well established church on Kauai and continues to grow. The church is very active in the community and Pastor Tom has been asked to lead prayer at many state and county functions, inaugurations and events. Breath of Life is always evolving and growing and Pastor Tom looks upon the church as gym.
He says this:
“Hopefully we are not coming to church out of a routine or a ritual; just going through the motions of faith. Entering the building and going through the motions is not Christianity, because the building, the church facility, is just a “gym” where we come in to get strong, to be built up in our belief/faith and prepared to enter into the game. A place where we encourage and pray for one another, fellowship with one another, worship our Lord and learn of His desires for us through His Word. Then we leave. Church starts when we walk out the door and live and engage in our faith! We are some of the only churches people will ever go to, we are some of the only bibles they will ever read and the building is just the place we gather a few times a week to prepare us for living our faith outside the doors. So the game is on, the Lord needs all the players He can get and we need to get off the bench and get in the game and play. We need to live the faith we profess. Too many people are sitting on the bench. Come in, get strong, learn the plays and then get in the game!”
Today we continue to try to build up people and be creative in reaching out to the lost, becoming all things to all men so we might win some. We have an active youth fellowship, men’s groups, women’s groups and various other ministries to reach out to the lost and strengthen the body of believers.
Our current plans for the future are to find a piece of land and build a church that doubles as a shelter for the island in time of need and use that land and facility to reach further into the Kauai community and beyond presenting the Gospel of Jesus! Keep us in prayer as we venture forth in faith for this. Aloha.