It was Mark Twain who described Hawaii as “the loveliest fleet of Islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” He also said, “No area of land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one: no other land could longingly and beseechingly haunt me sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides, other things change, but it remains the same. For me, its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun, the pulsing of its surf is in my ear. I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud racks. I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitude, I can hear the splash of its brooks. In my nostrils still live the breaths of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”
“Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim His praise in the islands.” Isaiah 42:12
Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention has 149 churches and missions and are affiliated with worshiping in 14 different languages (English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Chuukese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Samoan, Tongan, Cambodian, Russian, Filipino and Laotian). Churches are located on 12 islands and one peninsula in the Pacific. Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Hawaii, Tutuila, Upalo, Guam, Saipan, Okinawa, Japan and Seoul, South Korea. Today, Hawaii is a mix of cultures and races. Strategically situated at the crossroads of the Pacific where East and West meet every day, Hawaii has been called the “Melting Pot” of the world. Baptists in Hawaii have a great heritage and reputation and must demonstrate the radiance of a living Christ to the mission field of the pacific.
Christians came to Hawaii in a very unique way. With the destruction of the temples and idols, the Hawaiians now found themselves without a religion. A series of events involving a young Hawaiian named Opukahaia, led the first Christian missionaries to embark on an unknown voyage to a “heathen” land to teach these people Christianity. Henry Opukahaia, a Hawaiian lad from the Big Island, obtained passage on a ship to New Haven, Connecticut. While there, the son of the president of Yale, Edwin Dwight, and Samuel J. Mills, leader of the group of students who launched the American foreign mission movement in the famous haystack prayer meeting, took an interest in Opukahaia. Mills taught his Hawaiian friend to read and write and won him to the Christian faith. Opukahaia planned to return to Hawaii with the gospel message, but he contracted typhus fever and died in 1818 at the age of 26. Mills used Opukahaia’s testimony to stir up missionary interest, challenging young people to give their lives for missionary service. Several couples accepted the challenge and set sail in the fall of 1819 on their five-month voyage, arriving in Hawaii on April 5, 1820. The evangelistic and educational work of these pioneer missionaries is one of the most inspiring chapters in the story of modern missions. So successful were these early missionaries, that by 1845, Hawaii was considered to be a Christian nation. Other religions were introduced—Catholics came to the islands in 1827, were banished, but returned in 1839; Mormons came in 1850; the Methodists arrived in 1854; followed by the Lutherans and Seventh Day Adventists. As the plantation laborers arrived from China, they brought with them Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. The Japanese laborers brought Shinto and other Buddhist sects.
Baptist work had its beginning in 1926 when Charles J. McDonald, a layman, started work in the town of Wahiawa with a Sunday School which eventually became the First Baptist Church of Wahiawa. A few Southern Baptist missionaries stopped in Hawaii for short periods of time between 1937 and 1938 but it was not until 1940, when all of the missionaries in China and Japan were forced out of these countries, that the International Mission Board (then known as the Foreign Mission Board) began thinking seriously about opening work in these islands. As these first missionaries came and surveyed the islands, they were surprised to find that only about 6 percent of the people were nominally Christian. On December 12, 1940, the Hawaiian Mission of the Foreign Mission Board, was formally organized and Wahiawa church was the first church to affiliate. In 1941, the Olivet Baptist Church was constituted in Honolulu out of the work which was started by layman, Joseph Tyssowski. Southern Baptist missionary, Victor Koon, was called as the pastor of Olivet. The work spread to the other islands. A group of Christians meeting as the Missionary Bible Church in Waimea, Kauai, asked for help, and the Waimea Baptist Church was organized on this foundation in 1943. A Baptist chaplain stationed on Maui began a mission which later became the Kahului Baptist Church. A public school teacher, who was converted at the Olivet Baptist Church, began a Sunday School on the island of Molokai in an unused Buddhist temple. This group became the Kaunakakai Baptist Church. Dr. and Mrs. Charles Leonard felt led to go to Hilo, Hawaii, to open work there and were influential in starting the Kinoole Baptist Church. And, the seeds were planted on each of the main islands of Hawaii. Meeting in school buildings, quonset huts, community halls, Buddhist temples, homes, tents and store buildings, groups of people studied the Bible and were converted and eventually constituted churches throughout six of the islands. With the generous help of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, attractive buildings soon replaced these temporary meeting places. The Hawaii Baptist Convention was organized in 1943, with five churches and continues to grow in number of churches and missions. Other work includes the Hawaii Baptist Academy which operates two campuses for grades K through 12; two Baptist Student Centers; and a state-run camp, Puu Kahea Conference Center. With the coming of statehood to Hawaii, Foreign Mission Board support began to diminish and the churches were challenged as never before to reach more adults, to increase in stewardship, to grow in total dedication to the cause of Christ, and to continue in their missionary outreach. With the help of the North American Mission Board and other agencies, Hawaii Baptists are continuing to add missions and ministry opportunities for God’s Kingdom.
The chain of islands known as the Hawaiian Archipelago stretches across the central Pacific for 1,523 miles and includes 132 islands, reefs and shoals strewn across the Tropic of Cancer. There is nothing but open ocean between Hawaii and southern California, 2,390 miles to the east-northeast, 3,850 to Japan and 2,600 to Alaska. The islands are the result of a rift in the ocean floor through which lava poured, building up, underwater, a series of mountains. Just to reach the surface of the ocean, the new peaks had to rise 15,000 feet. The lovely islands are really the tops of tall volcanic mountains, some just above sea level. One of these, such as active Mauna Loa, stands 13,680 feet above sea level, which actually means it is 30,000 feet above the floor of the sea and probably, as such, the greatest single mountain mass in the world. There are eight major islands— Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii (or Big Island), Kahoolawe (not inhabited) and Niihau (privately owned). Though Hawaii’s land surface adds up to only 6,425 square miles (larger than Connecticut or Delaware), the archipelago, including its territorial waters, covers a total of about 654,500 square miles-an area more than twice the size of Texas.
It is generally believed that the earliest settlers to Hawaii made the long arduous trip to the islands in outrigger canoes from the Society Islands, a distance of about 2,500 miles. Hawaii is the northernmost group of Polynesian islands found in the triangle formed by New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii, all similar in language, culture and religion. Hawaiians developed their own distinctive way of life. They developed a feudal system of government. The stronger men became chiefs. The settlers found fertile land, good fishing and a pleasant environment. The new settlers in Hawaii maintained only infrequent contact with their Polynesian home. For all practical purposes, the Hawaiian culture developed in an isolate surrounding cut off from contact with the outside world and soon the migrations ceased and no outside contact existed. About the time the English colonists were getting ready to break away from England and become the United States, Kamehameha The Great was born on the island of Hawaii. He was destined to unite all of the then-separate kingdoms of Hawaii under one rule. At the time of his death in 1819, Kamehameha had ruled the entire chain in peace for nearly a dozen years. In their religious life, these early people were animistic and superstitious. Hawaiians believed in thousands of gods. There were four chief gods: KANE: god of living creatures; KU, god of war who required human sacrifices, KANELOA, god of the dead; and LONO, god of growing things. The concepts of “mana” or supernatural power, and of “kapu” a system of rules and regulations to protect those who possessed “mana” were vital to this animistic religion. Rules affecting every phase of a person’s life and action were strictly observed. To break certain taboos meant death. After the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain Cook, British and American ships began to find Hawaii a pleasant and desirable stopping place on their long voyage to China, and with the coming of these foreigners, life in Hawaii began to change. During the mid-1800’s, whalers beached, seeking provisions and entertainment. Companies of missionaries arrived starting in 1820. These dedicated New Englanders converted the natives to Christianity and introduced plantation agriculture, commerce, and democratic government. Immigration from the East began in the last half of the century—the Chinese, then Portuguese and Japanese, and later on Filipinos—to work the sugarcane and pineapple plantations started by early New Englanders. Today, the ethnic make-up is comprised of 24.1% Caucasians (includes military personnel), 20.4% Japanese, 11.3% Filipino, 4.7% Chinese, 1.1% Korean, 18% Part Hawaiian, and 17.5% Non-Hawaiian. A population of 1,108,229 (from 1990 census) associates with approximately 148,800 visitors on an average day in Hawaii.
Explorers from the Western world stumbled into this Polynesian civilization by accident. On his third voyage of Pacific exploration, the British sea captain James Cook was searching for a northwest passage along the coastline of North America. On January 18, 1778, his crew sighted land never before seen by Western eyes. Capt. Cook named these islands the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich who sponsored the expedition. He was welcomed cordially by the inhabitants and was thought to be the incarnation of their god LONO. Cook, after re-stocking their ship, started back on the original search. Cook’s ship, damaged by storms, was forced to return to Hawaii for repairs. This time the islanders greeted him without enthusiasm. In a fight that took place in Kealakekua Harbor on the Big Island, Capt. Cook was killed. In 1820, the first Congregational missionaries arrived from New England. Other racial groups followed—the Chinese arrived in 1852 to work on the plantations, the Japanese arrived in 1885, then Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian immigrants settled in Hawaii. Today, the islands are called the cosmopolitan spot of the world. The Hawaiian monarchy ended in 1893 when Queen Liliuokalani was dethroned and a republic set up. On July 7, 1898, Congress passed a resolution annexing the Hawaiian islands to the United States. In 1903, Hawaii made its first bid to Congress for statehood and after that, sixteen statehood bids were made before the Statehood Bill was passed on March 12, 1959. For the first time, Hawaii had voting representation in Congress. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and other points of Oahu, and World War II began in the Pacific region. This event catapulted Hawaii into prominence in the Pacific area which has continued to the present. This event, no doubt, hastened statehood for the islands. Hawaii is situated at the crossroad of the Pacific in what today seems to be an emerging Pacific area in world affairs.
Until 1795, the islands were generally ruled by chiefs (or Ali’i) of great families on the larger islands of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu and Kauai. There was little stability or permanence. Government, social organization, the economic system, and religion were closely interwoven. The kahuna (or priests, doctors, sorcerers, navigators, and experts in various other lines) were a class closely associated with the chiefs. Kamehameha I (also called Kamehameha the Great) united the islands as a kingdom, promoted industry, restored prosperity, and maintained independence during the critical years when the islands were opened to the enterprise of traders and explorers from England, America and Europe. After his death in 1819, his son, Liholiho, became Kamehameha II. It was the queen mother who led in breaking the tabu which forbade men and women to eat together. She sat with her young son for a meal. News of this event spread quickly all over the islands and the people wasted no time in destroying their idols and temples. About this time the first missionaries from new England arrived. One of the first to become a Christian was the queen. At the death of Kamehameha II, his brother Kauikeaouli, became Kamehameha III. He was instrumental in giving the Hawaiians their first written constitution. He also coined the motto, “Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono” (The Life of the Land is Preserved by Righteousness) which is still used today on the official state seal. He secured Hawaii as an independent nation and set the educational pattern for Hawaii. Kamehameha IV ruled from 1854 to 1863. He introduced the Anglican Episcopal Church into the islands. Kamehameha V ruled from 1863 to 1872. He began the Hansen’s Disease colony at Kalaupapa, Molokai. William Charles Lunalilo ruled for a little over one year, 1873-74. He was the first king to be appointed by the legislature, and the first Hawaiian to leave his property to a benevolent institution, Lunalilo Home, for the poor and destitute. In 1874, Kalakaua was elected by the legislature as king. He concluded a reciprocity trade treaty with the U.S. At his death in 1891, his sister, Liliuokalani, became queen. The monarchy ended in 1893 with the dethronement of the queen in a “bloodless” revolution. The Hawaiian Islands is noted for the only authentic palace, Iolani Palace, in the United States. Completed in 1882 by King Kalakaua, it served as the official royal residence until 1893.
Because of Hawaii’s tropical position, the length of daylight doesn’t vary from one time of year to the next. Hawaii is five hours behind New York, four hours behind Chicago, three hours behind Denver, and two hours behind San Francisco (add an hour to all these for daylight savings time).
Hawaii is blessed with a pleasant and equable climate—it doesn’t change much during the year. Rain showers, if any, are short. There are occasions where there is heavy rainfall. The major islands share their tropical latitudes with such urban centers as Mexico City, Havana, Mecca, Calcutta, and Hong Kong. The average temperature the year round is about 72 degrees. The mean monthly temperature in Honolulu varies from 70 degrees in February to 78 degrees in August. The sun in Hawaii is much harsher than in more northerly climes. Because of the islands’ tropical location, the sun at noon is directly overhead twice a year and is never at an angle lower than forty-five degrees; and because of the clarity of the atmosphere over Hawaii, nearly three quarters of the solar radiation penetrates, on a clear day, to sea level. This calls for sunblock for all but the most acclimatized and dark-skinned individuals. Fair-skinned people should exercise extreme caution at all times. Even on “cloudy” days, the sun’s rays can cause sunburn.
Most people wear “summer clothing” in Hawaii. The usual attire is casual. Shorts are acceptable almost anywhere, though many businesses require customers to wear beach cover-ups and shoes or sandals. A light jacket or sweater may be needed for cool evenings or areas of higher elevation. Most people wear casual clothes to church. Most preachers wear a short-sleeved shirt or aloha shirt in the pulpit. A suit is rarely seen in the pulpit or in the congregation. The women usually wear muu-muus or light material dresses. The best rule of thumb is “comfort.”