“Honoring the Missionaries”
“I shall cause breath to enter you,
and you shall live.”
It was on this week 200 years ago that the first Christian missionaries landed in Hawaii. By the end of the year, there were mission stations in Kailua-Kona, Honolulu, and Waimea (Kauai). They arrived during a time of novel viruses and horrific epidemics. In the short span of just over 40 years before their arrival on March 30, 1820, the population of Hawaiian people had decreased by more than a half. By the end of the century, the population of Hawaiians was only 5-10 percent what it had been when Captain James Cook arrived in 1778.
In my online message this past week, I talked about the book I wrote, The Volcano Is Our Home: Nine Generations of a Hawaiian Family on Kilauea Volcano, which tells the story of the Hawaii from 1756 to modern day through the eyes of my Hawaiian ancestors and family. Throughout my research for the book, I tried to constantly imagine what it would be like to have so many people die in these islands. In my writing, I tried to put myself in the shoes of my ancestors who survived dreadful decades of epidemics—one after another for over 100 years.
The example of many of the missionaries of the time gave me hope—especially the doctors. In my research for my book and in the reading I have done since moving back to Hawaii in 2014, I have been greatly inspired by the physicians and their wives who left comfortable lives and promising careers in the United States to sail to a small group of islands half way around the world. While often living in uncomfortable conditions, they served the Hawaiian people and never gave up hope in saving them from extinction.
I’ve been reading the book, 9 Doctors and God. It tells the story of the nine missionary doctors who arrived in Hawaii between 1820 and 1849. Some of those physicians went above and beyond the call of duty in order to bring sick people to health and keep epidemics at bay. They also excelled in other areas. In my message I mentioned three in particular: Dr. Thomas Holman, Rev. Dr. Thomas Lafon, and Dr. James Smith. The last two served the church right here in Kōloa! I found that we could all learn so much from them, including how to live with purpose and hope during an epidemic.
- We can have compassion for the whole person and address spiritual and physical needs—and social and emotional too!
- We can take epidemics seriously and we can be smart about them. We who follow Jesus listen to the experts. We pay attention to those who know what they are talking about—and we follow their advice.
- We can pay attention to the social issues of our day and speak out against injustice.
- We can hold onto hope—even in the midst of fear, anxiety, emotional pain, and horrible epidemics.
I invite you to view the video of Sunday’s worship service to learn more.
I look forward to our next online worship service on Palm Sunday!
Kahu Alan Akana
“A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by Koloa Union Church, an Open & Affirming (ONA) congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a member of the Kauai Association and Hawaii Conference.
To see a video of a recent message by Kahu Akana, click HERE. You may see the Koloa Union Church YouTube channel to see many of his past messages and subscribe in order be notified when a new message is posted. Please share these videos with friends and invite them to church. Please feel free to “Like” any of the videos you see and share them on social media, such as Facebook, so that others will notice them.
You are welcome to join us on Sunday mornings! To see our Sunday morning schedule, click HERE.
Kahu Akana is also an accomplished artist! He specializes in creating vibrant watercolors of the flowers of Hawaii and hosts a Sunday afternoon reception in a gallery at his home, the Smith Memorial Parsonage. He also meets visitors by appointment. Most of the profit from the sales go for the maintenance and upkeep of the parsonage. To see a video about his art and gallery, click HERE. To see the gallery website, click HERE.