When one thinks of Hawaii, they typically think of paradise. Known as a vacation destination where azure skies melt into sapphire seas and palm trees sway in gentle breezes, tourists know Hawaii as a place that is resplendent with pristine golf courses, decorated in flowered lays and awash in abundantly delicious luaus.
But, to Native Hawaiians or “Kanaka,” Hawaii is quite a different place. Away from the cities that are populated primarily with Caucasian and Asian residents, you will find Kanaka people. In a fashion similar to the treatment of Native American Indians on the mainland of the United States, Kanaka people were victimized by the overthrow of their government, and the annexing and colonizing of the Hawaiian sovereign nation. In doing so, America oppressed a Native people and culture and created an enormous legacy of pain.
LIM VISION FOR MINISTRY IN HAWAII
The vision for LIM in Hawaii involves sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Native Hawaiian people, discipling the Native leaders to share the Gospel with their brothers and sisters, and addressing social sufferings in such a way that values their Hawaiian culture.
Embracing the Kanaka culture, involving the family, and meeting the “real” social needs of Kanaka people where they live - We believe that this unique approach to LCMS ministry is important to successfully engaging Kanaka people in the Christian faith and critical to providing the support and assistance that Kanaka people need to begin to overcome the serious social issues that have plagued them since annexation and colonization.
In March of 2014, Clarence DeLude III (Native Hawaiian) joined the staff of Lutheran Indian Ministries. Seeing the striking similarities of pain, suffering and the plethora of social issues suffered by Kanaka people on the Hawaiian Islands and Native American and Alaska Native peoples, we believed it was time for a Hawaiian Native to be God’s instrument of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to fellow Kanaka people as a called and ordained servant of the Word.
STORIES ARE KEY
“Stories play an important part in our lives,” Clarence says. “We read stories to our children to help them fall asleep. We tell stories of our day over the dinner table. We recount stories of times long past with old friends at reunions. “Stories teach lessons from the past and create ideas for the future. The greatest story of all, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, gives us hope and assurance for our eternity. This is the story the Native children of Hawaii need to hear.”
The Hawaiian culture, like most Native cultures, is deeply based in oral history and storytelling. Children grow up learning the stories of their ancestors: young Kamehameha and the Naha stone, the greedy king Hala’ea, and the god, Kane, who created the first man by forming him from red dirt.
“My people have a beautiful creation story,” Clarence explains. “But the best part is how similar our stories are to those we find in the Bible, and it’s those stories we need to bring to life for our children.” Whether it will be learning about creation in a place where God’s beauty abounds or comparing Jesus’ fisher of men to Hawaiian fishing, Clarence hopes to blend what Hawaiian children already know with biblical stories and lessons.
Through storytelling and relationships, Clarence seeks to engage and partner with others who are driven by their relentless desire to spread hope. This year, Trinity’s Vacation Bible School, the first after many years without a program, had plans to reach outside its walls and embrace the community. In the five weeks prior to VBS, Clarence and Trinity’s new Bible Study group held weekly prayer walks.
Clarence continues, “I have been lying awake at nights thinking and praying about how we can best make a difference for the Hawaiian people. I want to share the greatest story of all, the story of the resurrected Christ, with my fellow Native Hawaiians.
A BLENDING OF CHRIST AND HAWAIIAN CULTURE
Clarence realizes that it isn't enough to simply tell the story, and that the story of Jesus is more than a fairy tale to tell before you fall asleep. Hearing and believing that God sent His one and only Son for you is a life-changing experience. However, unlike the evangelism of centuries ago, Clarence does not want to take away the "Hawaiian-ness" of his people.
Key elements of the LIM Hawaiian ministry include:
- Teaching that their cultural expressions could be used to praise and worship Jesus Christ.
- Teaching from the Bible that God wanted to set them free to express their love and devotion to their heavenly Father through their unique cultural expressions of music, singing, dance, language and worship.
- Witness and nurture through Word and Sacrament, teaching and mentoring of other Hawaiian leaders; promoting health and healing in families and communities, and promoting self-sufficiency in community life.
- Exalting the name of Jesus Christ in the faith, walk and witness of Hawaiian Native Christians in the context of their cultural values and traditions and with respect to LCMS beliefs.
- Address the spiritual, social and emotional needs of Hawaiian peoples throughout Hawaii.
- Encourage Native leadership development and self-sustaining witnessing communities as valued members of the church, essential for growth.
BUILDING ON HAWAIIAN VALUES
Clarence further shares, “I have a Kuleana (duty and responsibility to serve my people). We in Hawaii see pastors come and go…and it hurts because in my Native culture. In Hawaii, it is all about the relationships. Relationships are hard to make when you know that these pastors may take a call home at anytime.”
It is Clarence’s ambitious dream to one day build a Native Hawaiian Lutheran Church and School Service Center where the most Hawaiians in the world live, Waianae. He envisions a day when a Native Hawaiian Mission Training Center exists that includes: an Early Childhood care center, social programs for the homeless, community resource center for parents of preschoolers, resources for Hawaiian language acquisition, a computer center for tutoring 6-12 graders to close the digital gap, and resources to help teen moms enter community college or begin an online degree program.
To begin this process, Clarence is focusing efforts on a volunteer program that will work with the various demographics of people indicated above: the homeless, preschoolers, and men dealing with addiction and abuse as they from prison back to the family, “Ohana.”
Clarence is a connector. He sees and is actively working towards future partnerships a variety of groups, clubs, and like-minded organizations and individuals to start on these big goals.
THE IMPACT OF MINISTRY IN HAWAII
Using racism as a tool of power and control, America classified Kanaka (Hawaiians) as a race of people, instead of citizens of an overthrown nation. This divided the Kanaka community within itself and Kanaka from the larger Hawaiian community.
The most dangerous thing to do is tell oppressed people that they are not oppressed and that there is no pain. When the oppressor denies even the existence of oppression, oppressed people eventually implode via self-destruction or explode in acts of violence.
Since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation, young Kanaka males have the highest rate of suicide in Hawaii. Likewise, Kanaka have the largest percentage of people imprisoned in the state of Hawaii. This implosion and explosion of rage is one of the sad legacies of the Kanaka forced assimilation into American society. Issues of poverty, homelessness, and poor education add to this problem.
POVERTY AND HOMELESSNESS
Due to exceptionally high costs of living, Hawaiian residents aged 65 and older are more than twice as likely to live in poverty. In 2012 Hawaii’s cost of rent was 60% more expensive than the nationwide average and the highest of any state. Because of geographical constraints, Hawaii’s utility costs are also among the nation’s highest. Electricity is supplied primarily by power plants fueled by petroleum, which is imported into the state. The poverty rate in Hawaii is the sixth highest in the United States.
In recent years, the number of homeless people in Hawaii has grown to a point that it is now the highest rate per capita (487 out of 100,000), which is higher than the homeless rates in New York and Nevada. Many of the homeless in Hawaii defy the stereotype of the mentally ill or drug addicted. They are often families, with men and women who work full-time jobs. They are struggling to get a foothold in a place with a high cost of living and low wages. Estimates put the number of homeless people on the streets of Hawaii at more than 8,000 people.
An Associated Press analysis found that nearly one in five children in Hawaii attends private schools, the highest percentage of any state. The reasons for this lie partly in Hawaii's history. Several elite academies were founded here more than a century ago by missionaries, as well as by other settlers or Hawaiian royalty. One such school, Kamehameha, is open only to descendants of Hawaiian Natives and is supported by a private trust worth billions. It educates 4,000 children, or nearly 1 of every 50 in Hawaii, most for under $1,400 a year.
Hawaii's heavy reliance on private schools only complicates the task of educating those who are left out - many of them impoverished immigrants from Korea, China and the Philippines living on Oahu. Administrators say it is difficult to extract excellence from a system that parents, politicians, and some teachers treat as a repository of last resort.
Continuing research shows the persistent lack of positive Native Hawaiian education experiences over the past 50 years has resulted in substantial and continuing gaps in achievement and growth, school engagement, promotion and graduation, and post-high enrollment and completion.
The number of Native Hawaiians living in Hawaii between the ages of 5 to 19 years old is projected to increase to approximately 218,000 in 2060 from 83,000 in 2010, a 263% growth in the 50-year span. With this projected exponential growth, it is imperative the state’s public education system ensures the next 50 years will be more positively impactful for Native Hawaiian students, families, and communities, which included narrowing academic achievement gaps.
Year-round school is common in Hawaii, but not only because there is overwhelming concern about children whose test scores are among the worst in the nation. Schools have not only become places of academic nourishment but physical sustenance as well. For many Hawaiian children, the only meals they eat are those they will receive at school. No school…no food!
Most ministry work in Hawaii is in urban areas where the homeless intermingle with the tourist. It is being done by non-Kanaka men and women to non-Kanaka men, women, and children. It’s time for the LCMS to embrace a new approach that includes Kanaka to Kanaka ministry where the Kanaka people live.