Clarence DeLude, now halfway through his theological training at Concordia - Irvine, has big plans for his fellow Hawaiians. His goal: to spread the hope of Christ across the islands.
And now, thanks to the women of the LWML (Lutheran Women's Missionary League) and their mission grant in the amount of $75,000, he is off and running.
A False Paradise
When we think of Hawaii, we often envision paradise, but hidden behind the palm trees are the Native Hawaiian people who have suffered treatment like that of Native American Indians and Alaska Natives. The overthrow of the Hawaiian sovereign nation, followed by the colonization of the islands, created a legacy of pain and suffering. Poverty (the highest per capita of any state) and abuse (stemming from past trauma) are rampant among the Native Hawaiians.
But abuse is not the Native way.
Clarence is ready to share the love of Jesus. He believes it is only through understanding God's love for us that peace and hope can return to his islands.
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) arrived in Hawaii in 1941 with the opening of a service center used by military personnel during WWII. In the years since then, Lutherans have typically ministered to other Lutherans, and the Native population separated itself from their activities.
Lutheran Indian Ministries in Hawaii, spearheaded by Clarence, aims to engage Native Hawaiians in the Christian Faith and to provide the support needed to overcome the serious societal issues that plague them. We will proclaim, disciple, and heal.
As a former teacher and school administrator, Clarence has a big heart for the Native Hawaiian children and that passion comes through in his work.
Last year, he helped his church, Trinity Lutheran in Wahiawa, to hold their first vacation bible school, after many years without a program. But he wasn't satisfied with simply inviting the children and youth of the church. Instead, he orchestrated a series of prayer walks around the surrounding communities inviting and encouraging local Native families to attend. It was wonderfully successful.
This year, VBS will be held again, thanks to volunteers from the church and community. Many non-Native churches have stepped up to provide volunteers, food, and supplies. Next year, however, Clarence imagines an even bigger event.
"The prayer walks were instrumental to our success last year," he explained. "But next year, I have bigger plans! Our homeless community is filled with families who are desperate for the hope of Christ. We plan on reaching out to a number of these communities and focusing on the relationships we can build with the children and their parents to help them to know and understand that they are loved and we are here to help. We plan to hold multiple VBS sessions; there are so many Native Hawaiians we need to reach! After all, Jesus came for the sick, not for the healthy, and we need to be Jesus' hands and feet to these people."
Taking this a step further, and based on the success of LIM's Teen Camp-Fairbanks, Clarence envisions a Teen Camp-Hawaii for Native Hawaiian teens, too old for VBS, but still in need of the guidance and love of our Savior, as they face the tumultuous teenage years. Because of the many similarities between Alaskan and Hawaiian ministry (they are very similar!), we are certain that replicating the program in Hawaii would create similar results.
Beyond this, Clarence wants to help the Hawaiian (and Non-Hawaiian) to proclaim to others.
Several years ago, Clarence accompanied his brother-in-law, Tim Norton, on a cross-cultural trip to Alaska. Natives and non-Natives alike came together, from New Mexico and Hawaii, in the remote areas of Alaska to share the love of Jesus with the Alaska Native people of Old Minto.
"The effects of that mission trip are still playing out in our own community," Clarence recalled. "The opportunity to serve other Native people changed the way many of those youth lived their lives. I can't wait to get more of them up there. Millenials, these days, are getting a bad reputation, but I've worked with so many who are dedicated to serving their Lord and getting them in the mission field only strengthens their faith and passion!"
Interesting side note: Carissa, our newest LIM ministry member, went on that trip as a teenager, proving a mission trip can change the course of your life!
Once the seed of faith has been planted, it must be nourished
There are a plethora of materials available to pastors and church leaders that assist in disciplining new (and experienced) Christians, but there are few that focus on the subtleties and intricacies of cultures that differ from that of the traditional Anglo-Christian. Clarence wants to change that.
He has already begun work on translating Luther's Small Catechism into Hawaiian and wants to expand into various Bible study curriculums. Likewise, he is encouraging Native ministers to do the same in their own Native tongue.
Clarence is also involved in the regrowth of Native Hawaiian house churches and sees the need for theological and leadership training for leaders within the communities.
"Right now, we have a population of Native Hawaiians who are learning to follow Jesus, but we don't have enough leaders to help continue their growth," Clarence explains. "They are like sheep without a shepherd. So, we're working on Bible Studies that really get to the meat of the Bible and digging into the true lessons of Jesus."
Lutheran Indian Ministries heeded the urgent cry for the healing of Native American hearts and communities. In order to do so, we are utilizing proven programs that already exist: Beauty for Ashes and Celebrate Recovery.
Clarence has experience in both programs and hopes to begin using them in his Native community. However, neither are specifically Native or Lutheran. And that's where Clarence wants to go next. With his training in curriculum research and writing (stemming from his work in schools), Clarence is working to rewrite these programs for Native ministry use.
In Beauty for Ashes, "participants join with others in a healing journey by exploring stories and events that have touched their lives." While it is faith-based and focuses specifically on helping Native peoples, there is work to be done to focus it more on the teachings of God's Word. (Read about our staff members experience at the training.)
Celebrate Recovery "was designed as a program to help those struggling with hurts, habits, and hang-ups by showing them the loving power of Jesus Christ through a recovery process." So while Gospel-based, it is not Native-focused. Clarence is in the process of taking the core of the program and making it relatable and usable in Native ministry.
But Clarence doesn't want to rewrite and refashion these programs solely for their use in Hawaii. His work will be applicable to each ministry site within Lutheran Indian Ministries, as well as serve as a valuable resource and tool for future Native ministry through additional ministry sites, local congregational outreach, and Native organizations. This work has the potential to lead people to Jesus through the healing of the trauma and pain that has affected Native communities for generations.
"From there, we come full circle," Clarence clarified. "Through the teaching and healing of the Native people, we prepare them to proclaim the Gospel to others. We learn in the Gospel of Mark that one of the men Jesus healed wanted to, then, follow him. But Jesus tells him to go home and share with others what Jesus did for him. The power of one's own testimony, their own story, and the ability to share it, is how we will grow God's Kingdom."