LIHUE — The 14th Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon will be the last one for Bernard Carvalho Jr. as the mayor of Kauai.
It has grown from a few hundred in the first years to an expected 1,000 this Saturday.
And that brings a smile to Carvalho’s face. This event, one of the island’s most popular, has had an impact that goes beyond those who attend, he said. It has brought intangible changes that have influenced this island.
“We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “I believe this one opportunity has resonated throughout the island, has added to the healing. Sometimes, we have to heal together in the ups and downs. And more importantly, all the different churches coming together.”
He emphasizes all are welcome at the luncheon. It has always been that way: many faiths uniting for a day of prayer and praise and inspiration.
“Everybody worships differently but for me, I’m a Christian, but I’m open to all as a leader,” he said Friday during an interview in his office. “This is an opportunity to bring all people under one roof, at least one time out of the year.”
The 14th annual Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon put on by Kauai Island Ministries is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon at Kilohana Luau Pavilion. There will be music, prayers, dance and lunch. The guest speaker will be Pastor Joe Onosai of Destiny Christian Church of Hawaii who will speak on “Leaving a Legacy.”
Both the mayor and Onosai played football at the University of Hawaii. Both were offensive linemen. Both were part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Carvalho still speaks of the brotherhood, teamwork and relationships that were part of playing college football and representing the Rainbow Warriors.
“We never won every game, but we played hard. We never gave up. No matter what happened on the field, or off the field, we were united as a team,” he said.
The mayor often leads the blessing ceremony and opening prayers at gatherings around the island. Whether business, community, family or government functions, he isn’t shy about sharing his faith and often ends a brief prayer with “in Jesus’ name.”
“It’s just a personal relationship with the heavenly father,” he said. “But also to be able to lead and to be an example that you can lead, you can be open to all, but you can also have your true faith and what you believe in. Don’t be ashamed of it. Speak it, sing it, say it, dance it, because it’s OK.
“There’s so many ways you can deliver the message,” he added. “I want it to be open and balanced.”
Near the end of Saturday’s gathering, Carvalho will give his farewell address. He has a good idea of what he wants to say.
“No matter what background, no matter what you believe, the bottom line is, I always say the three most important thing: faith to stay strong, hope to never give up, and love unconditionally,” he said. “Because when you love, no matter what, anything is possible. That is my message and that’s what I want to say. Faith, hope and love covers everything.”
The Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon started under Mayor Bryan Baptiste, who passed away while in office in 2008. Carvalho worked in the Baptiste administration and attended every prayer luncheon.
“I’ve been to every one since it started,” he said.
When he was elected mayor in 2008, Carvalho wanted to continue the prayer luncheon. He liked that there were prayers for different areas, often led by people who didn’t necessarily believe the exact same thing.
“That really touched me,” he said.
The annual prayer luncheon has become even bigger than many expected and Carvalho is one of its strongest supporters.
“It’s evolved,” he said. “We took it to a different level.”
Key was an open-door policy.
“I just wanted to make sure if we’re going to do this, it’s open to all,” he said. “Whoever wants to come, come. Just enjoy each other’s company, connect.”
He has seen families, business leaders, students, educators and athletes taking part in the prayer luncheon. Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers have been there. That’s what Carvalho loves about it.
And he encourages those who haven’t attended, to consider joining them.
“I can tell you, if you come and join this wonderful event, it will at least open your eyes and I hope open your hearts to opportunities down the road. Look at other praise and worship opportunities, for your family, for yourself, for your friends and for the island. To me, that’s the biggest thing.”
Carvalho hopes the next mayor supports the prayer luncheon, too.
“We’ve come this far, opening the door for praise and worship open to all, and it is my hope and my prayers that it continues to grow, that whoever becomes the next mayor embraces this opportunity to work with Kauai Island Ministries and takes it to the next level.”
Tickets will be available at the door for $25 per person, or call 246-0774 or 652-2237 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.