History

Best told in the words of founder Dave Fankhauser…
In 1988, my wife, Sandy, and I stepped onto the inner city streets of Miami to assist a para-church ministry couple who offered food and hope to the throwaways, drug addicts, prostitutes, and chronic homeless of the area.

We were petrified! Our ten year suburban church life of pastoral ministry, finance committees, growth conferences, and home group beach retreats had never prepared us for what we were about to experience.

We had nothing to offer and none of the traditional approaches we knew of were workable – remedial education courses, human services counseling, job and career training, and drug and alcohol rehab plans had all failed the almost 200 people we saw before us.

We watched as the ministry couple, just as poor as the gathered crowd, handed out homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spoke consolingly to many people by name. They pulled a small portable generator out of their van and put up an old ironing board for a keyboard stand. They then proceeded to sing some old gospel songs while the crowd joined in. Looking around at the ramshackle buildings, razor wire, and worn out people, it was apparent that short of miracles there really wasn’t much of a chance for anyone to regain any life quality. Drugs, crime, and despair had taken its toll.

No one gathered there was stupid-uneducated maybe- but not ignorant. They knew deep down that the thread of hope our friends sang about was their only chance. Somehow, in their desperate trials, God was going to have to come through for them.

It was 2,000 years ago that two fellows on the way to church experienced the same thing Sandy and I faced. Seeing a crippled beggar in a hopeless state outside the church, the two men looked at him and said, “Gold and silver have we none, rise and walk in the name of the Lord.” And he did.

We walked through the crowd and asked each one we spoke to what their needs were, then, upon hearing their requests, we proceeded to pray for them. God answered the prayers- addicted were set free of their bondages, the chronic homeless started to find work and hold onto jobs, and the greatest miracle of all- people started to save money. They were able to get off the streets and move into apartments, not compelled to waste their money on selfish, short term, feel good desires.

Over nine straight months of weekly visits to the ghettos, we witnessed miracle after miracle occur. God was outside the box. Church for us would never be the same.

Our next destination was back to Orlando to the middle class church we’d left nine months before, but now our orientation was different. Sandy and I set up ways to move the pew sitters to ministering in the jails, nursing home, and missions. Our leadership oversight was to get computer programmers, homemaker, shopkeepers, and business professionals to places where they could be ministers of good news to America’s forgotten and hurting.

The church also saw the same as we did- God through all of us cared about His kids and He patched up the trouble in Orlando just as He did in Miami. We waited to return to the streets (since it was the most difficult of all to do well) and started in 1991, like the couple in Miami, with a keyboard and extension cord; by late 1991, we had a small truck and, in 1993, we moved up to a semi tractor trailer, incorporating as a 501. C.3 in 1994. Our Portofino:Rock equipment and ministry approach grew because the crowds and travel grew.

 

All along we have stayed consistent to our mission; first, training Christians and help the church move outside the four walls, second, help those who have needs meet the Lord, and third, reach the communities for the local church.

In 1997, we moved from Orlando to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, a small community in the East Tennessee mountains 50 miles southwest of Knoxville to be more centrally located within a day’s drive of 75% of America’s population.