Man on a mission


Steve Pool enjoys homemade root beer in his namesake restaurant.
Photo provided by OKVIM
Hammocks from Vietnam sway above guests at Soda Steve’s restaurant as its proprietor talks about his commitment to Christian mission.
Soda Steve’s offers casual dining and accepts mission donations on the Fin & Feather resort property at Lake Tenkiller. The seasonal restaurant will reopen in mid-January. Inspirational quotes and mission momentoes decorate the interior. Below is a Maasai tribal prayer.

Photos by Ron Wallin

"There are the 12 disciples and then 72 others without the business cards. All of us are ‘the 72 others’ (Luke 10)." — Steve Pool

By Holly McCray and Ron Wallin

His first taste of mission service made Steve Pool of Gore hunger for more.

This certified executive chef has filled his plate of life with missions. People are fed physically and spiritually because of his ongoing commitment.

Steve initially just wanted each of his children to experience a mission trip, "to see every place is not video games and air conditioners." So Steve and 12-year-old Zach went to Costa Rica as Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission in 2002.

The Pools’ involvement grew from that 12-day project. Each child has taken part in at least two church missions.

Steve has served on seven VIM teams, often as a leader, in four countries.

His second trip to Costa Rica inspired him to name his restaurant Soda Steve’s and promote missions to diners. It’s part of Fin & Feather resort at Lake Tenkiller.

Photo collages and artifacts large and small from the Pools’ mission trips decorate the restaurant. Donations by diners support projects near and far.

This man on a mission further expanded that outreach when he opened Soda Steve’s Market, a convenience store in Gore. A percentage of sales, including Mission Blend coffee, goes to missions.

"Lezli would call it ‘a God thing,’" Steve said of his wife. All the Pools in Gore attend the United Methodist Church there.

Steve grew up in church, but "my journey personally, after I started on missions, has become much deeper," he said. He credits his wife and also Office of Mission Director Jeremy Basset for helping him grow in faith.

"I’m one of the 72 others. Wow!" Steve declared, referring to Scripture.

Jesus "appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him, to every town and place where he was about to go. The 72 returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’" (Luke 10, NIV)

Steve explained, "There are the 12 disciples and then 72 others without the business cards. All of us are ‘the 72 others.’ I think everyone should be doing the calling they do best. My status is as someone willing to go a long way off."

His passion is international missions. Vietnam especially beckons to him and is where he has served three times. "Something about that country and the people tugs on my heart. I could easily get back on the plane the next day and go back," he said.

Challenges can occur on any trip, and flexibility is key, Steve counseled. He shrugs off travel delays, housing snags, etc.

"I really believe missions are one of my spiritual gifts. If it’s your gift, you’re gonna love it; you can pull it off easily," he said. "I have found my way in church doing something that I felt I could offer up" to God.

He recalled one Vietnam mission. "I can tell you the devil started fighting with me three months out," Steve said. "The better you’re doing something good, the harder he goes to work on you."

His daughter, then age 13, was reluctant to go. The team had to change hotels eight times in 14 days. Steve was the victim of a pickpocket.

"I just knew it was [the devil] trying to discourage me."

Missing important documentation, Steve walked into an unfamiliar hotel. The desk clerk asked, "Are you Mr. Pool?" The clerk had a phone message for him.

Steve and the caller, a bellhop, had met at another hotel, during a previous mission; they had exchanged business cards.

Someone had found Steve’s stolen wallet, with the bellhop’s card still in it, and called the man — who still had Steve’s card. The man had been trying to locate the mission traveler. The Oklahoman got back his wallet.

"The rest of the mission went perfect," declared Steve. "I honestly think the devil said, ‘I can’t get this guy down; I’m moving on.’"

If you are interested in mission service, don’t delay, Steve urged. "You can’t wait for somebody to ask you to go. Get on the VIM website, call your church, and say, ‘I’m going on a mission this year.’ You just have to go."

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