The Man Behind The Mission

This Friday is The Taste of David’s Refuge.  Yes its a fund raising event but it is so much more.  It’s a celebration of success, of a life giving mission being accomplished with excellence, and of a  community that believes in and loves the moms and dads we serve.

But I really like to think of it as a celebration of David’s life.  He lived, he gave joy, he trusted God, he suffered, and he died.  BUT HIS STORY DIDN’T STOP!  Hundreds of families have been given a taste of hope, reminded they are not alone, and loved because of David.  He is the “The Man Behind The Mission.”

Today I want to give you a “taste” of David and how his life inspired us to start David’s Refuge.  While I am biased in that I am David’s dad I believe you will be inspired by his story.

The Man Behind the Mission

David’s Refuge was started by Warren and Brenda Pfohl as a way to live out their faith in a God who is still good and powerful and loving despite the fact that their son, David died from a horrible progressive untreatable disease. Warren often says it is a story of redemption.  The Urban Dictionary defines redemption as follows: “to make something acceptable or pleasant in spite of its negative qualities or aspects.”  David’s life, suffering, and death have become more than acceptable or pleasant, it has become a masterpiece.  It was their faith in Jesus and the sure and certain knowledge that David lives on, not only in heaven but in his own personal story of faith, which empowered the Pfohls to create David’s Refuge.


David’s faith was simple, love others as God had loved him. While many said David was able to love without judgment due to his blindness, it was really his passion to follow Jesus’ example of unconditional love.   If you open up David’s Fayetteville Manlius High School yearbook you will find the following words under his picture, “Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say, It is well with my soul.”  For weeks David’s parents had tried to help him choose a quote, but David was never satisfied and was unable to clearly communicate what he wanted.  The day finally came when his quote was due.  Donna Richards, his teacher of the visually impaired, tried desperately to understand what David was trying to communicate.  Unfortunately all he could come up with were three words:

River, Soul, Well

Donna called Warren and asked is this one of David’s favorite bible verses? Not knowing he encouraged her to google them and see if it helped. When she did, she found the words to the hymn, It Is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford.  She started reading the hymn to David.  When she got to the line, Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, It is well with my soul, he yelled, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s what I want!”

Warren and Brenda engraved these inspiring words on the top of David’s gravestone. They are a reminder to everyone who passes by that David’s story isn’t finished.  They remind us that God is still in control and that from the ashes of David’s struggle with life and death God could bring something good from his life.

At his funeral over 1,000 people joined their voices to sing David’s favorite hymns. No doubt there were many there who thought, “Are you serious!  All is well?  David is dead.  How can they say it is well?”   Warren and Brenda would say,

  • David is no longer burdened by the brokenness of this world and his disease
  • Warren and Brenda are certain David is in heaven based on his faith in Christ and that they will see him again
  • God was able to take even the death of their son and create something of beauty
  • David’s story of hope, faith, and love live on in David’s Refuge and the families we serve

Psalm 46:10 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” There is no doubt David is proud to know that his story and faith created a “Refuge” where parents can be refreshed, restored, and renewed as their journey through the trial, joys, and struggles of raising their children with special needs.