Christian Heritage Week - Celebrating Hawaii’s Godly Legacy - Henry Opukahaia, Hawaii


YouTube spots

Below is the text to eight radio spots prepared for broadcast during Christian Heritage Week.
Listen to them throughout the week on KGU, TheFISH, KLHT, KCIF (in Hilo), KESU (Kauai)

Aloha! This is Leon Siu for
Christian Heritage Week...

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii 

In 1809, an orphan from the wars of Kamehameha, named Opukaha'ia, sailed to New England. There he excelled as a scholar and embraced Jesus Christ with such a glad heart that American Christians were greatly impressed with his love for God, and for his people.

Opukaha'ia's burning desire was to take the Good News of Jesus Christ home to Hawai‘i. To prepare, he attended the Foreign Mission School and traveled New England giving impassioned pleas for the sending of missionaries to the islands.

He translated the Book of Genesis into Hawaiian. He began work on a dictionary and grammar. But in 1818, Opukaha'ia fell ill and died in Connecticut.

However, because of his promptings, the first mission to Hawai'i was organized and set sail from Boston in October 1819.

At the same time, on the other side of the globe,
the Hawaiian people were overthrowing
their old gods.

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

A popular misconception is that the American missionaries overthrew the Hawaiian religious system. In fact, the kapu system was overthrown 6 months before the missionaries arrived.

On October 3, 1819, Kamehameha the second, and the wives of Kamehameha the Great, sat and ate together at a royal banquet. By doing so, they deliberately broke one of the paramount rules of the kapu system… This meant that the king no longer regarded the old religious system as valid.

Furthermore, in support of the king’s action, Hewahewa, the high priest, immediately burned the nearby temple or heiau. The king and the kahuna, then ordered that all the temples in Hawaii be desecrated and the images of the gods burned.

Through a supernatural act of God; in
one fell swoop, the religious/political
system was cast down by those rulers
who benefited the most from that system.

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

On October 23, 1819 while the leaders of Hawaii were overthrowing the kapu system, the missionaries set sail from Boston. They left their comfortable homes and pleasant and secure lifestyle, and journeyed for five months, 18,000 miles in cramped quarters on the brig Thaddeus. They were determined to follow through with Opukaha’ia’s dream of taking the gospel to the Hawaiian people, a people they did not even know.

In April of 1820, the first group of missionaries arrived and found that the Kapu System had been overthrown, the temples burned, the idols torn down and the Hawaiian leaders waiting expectantly for “a new and greater God.”

Initially, the missionaries experienced severe culture shock and probably over-reacted to the strangeness of the situation.
But eventually, as they resolutely and
sacrificially served the people in whatever
way they could, the missionaries became
fierce protectors of and adamant
advocates for the Hawaiian people.

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

The first missionaries placed a high priority on education. So did the King and the chiefs. Building upon some of the groundwork laid by Opukaha‘ia, the mission immediately began the job of translating the Bible, and creating grammars, spelling books and so forth. When it came to reading, the Hawaiians were eager, enthusiastic and voracious.

When reading was first introduced, there were few books to go around. So people used to gather in a circle to read the text of the one book they were all sharing. As a result, many Hawaiians could read just as well forward, backward, sideways and upside-down! Reading proficiently from different angles is especially difficult in Hawaiian as the language has very few consonants, many redundant letters and syllables, every word ending in a vowel, and different meanings for identically spelled root words.

By the latter half of the nineteenth century, it is
estimated that 90% of Hawaiians could read.
Hawaii had become the most literate nation
on earth.

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

Within thirty years after the coming of the gospel, Hawaii experienced one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in the history of the church.

The awakening broke out on the Island of Hawaii in 1837 and spread throughout the kingdom. By the 1850s the census showed that 96% of Hawaiians were Christians! This period became known as Hawaii’s Great Awakening.

It was said, "One could scarcely go in any direction, in the sugar cane or banana groves without finding children praying and weeping before God." Families would also rise well before dawn to pray. In outdoor meetings, multitudes would be weeping aloud in repentance and prayer.
Haili Church in Hilo became the largest church in the world, with over 10,000 members;
and this, in village with a population of
only 1,000!

The Great Awakening was to literally
transform Hawaii into a modern Christian

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

KAMEHAMEHA THE THIRD did something quite remarkable. Like his brother had done twenty year earlier, he overthrew his own government. To be more accurate, he changed it from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Not only that, he declared that Hawaii was under God’s laws.

By issuing a Declaration of Rights in 1839 and a Constitution in 1840, the King established as Hawaii’s paramount principle: “That no law shall be enacted which is at variance with the word of the Lord Jehovah, or at variance with the general spirit of His word. All laws of the Islands shall be in consistency with the general spirit of God’s law.”

These are not just noble sounding words; they constitute a covenant with God that His law is supreme over the nation. It meant that the king of
Hawaii acknowledged that Jehovah God was
Sovereign over his nation. Not even the United
States openly declared this in any of their
founding documents.

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

In 1824, Chiefess Kapi‘olani trekked over a hundred miles to the active Kilauea volcano and committed an act faith and courage so great, it was told all over the islands and all around the world.
Kapi‘olani went to the volcano to expose the fire goddess, Pele. Against the dire warnings of friends and the threats of Pele worshippers, she made the journey, descended into the crater, close to the edge of the molten lava, and said to all those witnessing the event ...

"Jehovah is my God. He kindled these fires. I fear not Pele. If I perish by the anger of Pele, then you may fear the power of Pele; but if I trust in Jehovah, and he shall save me from the wrath of Pele when I break through her tabus, then you must fear and serve the Lord Jehovah.
All the gods of Hawai‘i are vain.

Great is the goodness of Jehovah in
sending missionaries to turn us from
these vanities to the living God and
the way of righteousness.”

© 2006 Christian Voice of Hawaii

In 1843, an ambitious and presumptuous captain of a British warship took over Hawaii and claimed it for Great Britain. Within a few months, a British admiral was dispatched to undo the illegal seizure and restore the Hawaiian Kingdom to its rightful ruler, King Kamehameha III.

After the formal ceremony including the lowering of the British flag and raising of the Hawaiian flag, the restoration of friendly ties was solemnized and celebrated at a worship service at Kawaiaha‘o Church.

It was at this event that the King declared what was to become the Hawaiian Motto… Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono. The Sovereignty of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness. Spoken in the context of the occasion and the setting, and within three years of his acknowledgement of God’s law being supreme over Hawaii, there can be little doubt that the righteousness the king was referring to was the only one who is righteous: Jesus Christ. Thus, it would not be improper to say, Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono o Iesu Kristo … The Sovereignty of the Land is Perpetuated in the Righteousness of Jesus Christ.


Kelii Akina interview with Leon Siu on ThinkTech Hawaii

April 4, 2016

A conversation on the importance of Christian Heritage
week. More insights on important persons and events.


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