Message Shared on 10-10-10:
I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant is what I’m told by my Mother. But as I draw back the pages of my spiritual journey from memory, I find myself as a young boy about 7 years old standing in a small pre-school used as a Church, in the town of Maunaloa. The room seemed quaint there are about a dozen of us in the room standing and singing. Mom has brought my brothers and I to this Protestant Church all dressed up in our proper Church attire. I don’t really understand what’s going on, except that we are at Church and listening to my parents was important to me then.
On the Island of Molokai, the Maunaloa community we lived in was rural and surrounded with Pineapple Fields. The weekly Chicken Fighting event at the local arena was a common occurrence. Being treated to a refreshing HaloHalo Dessert from one of the Filipino ladies selling out of the back of their station wagon was also truly heaven. The dessert was made with freshly grated coconut, chunks of papaya, small tapioca balls, all in a small cup with crushed ice and a splash of cream. I recall the summer relay games that took place at the park that included the potato sack race, bobbing for apples and other fun activities. Memories of a concession stand operated by my mother in the only local theater come to mind. I remember asking mom for a Coca Cola Soda which she pulled out from an aluminum box that somehow kept the bottle cold in iced water. It went down cool and refreshing as I watched a movie. And whether getting treated a tootsie roll candy or invited to pick a free toy for my birthday gift from Mrs. Rose Jinnai, the owner of the Local General Store, I believe those childhood experiences were beginning to shape the kind of person God wanted me to be.
Fast forwarding to my High School years about 10th grade, I find myself on the Big Island of Hawaii sitting next to a hospital bed watching my father deteriorate away and dying of cancer. He is 45 years old and in a matter of months, his 230 lb. solid body frame has caved in because of the disease. I am not prepared to see him get knocked out of our lives just yet. In our family then I had two younger brothers, and a baby sister. My older brother had already moved out of the house. Death was knocking at the door of my father (our Protector, Provider, and our Security) and soon there was going to be some really big shoes I would need to fill as head of the household. And so it happened, after Dad’s death I was lost, confused, but had no choice but to take the reign of our family and move forward. Not more than a year had past when we moved back to Molokai to rebuild our lives as a family without our earthly Father.
Before Dad’s death we attended the Jehovah’s Witness Church. It seemed like a natural progression to continue with that Church when we moved back to Molokai. But the responsibility of being head of the household, dealing with peer pressure and other relationships caused me to crack at the seams. I even got dis-fellowshipped or kicked out from the Church. So with a myriad of challenges going on in my life that I couldn’t deal with, I threw in the towel, booked a flight to Oahu, left my car at the airport, took all of the family food stamps from Mom’s purse and caught the next plane out. With no place to stay I aimlessly started walking the streets of Waikiki. I remember when it was getting dark and evening set in, it started to rain and got a little cold, so I thought to myself I’d just take shelter under one of the tables I saw in an empty Laundromat, and so I did. It was getting late, no one was around and I needed shelter for the night. So I knelt down under the table and got myself somewhat situated, I was lonely, empty, lost, confused and really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was desperate because I needed a father...I was desperate because I needed direction… I was desperate because I needed help…I was desperate because I needed security…but no one was there (at least I thought-for God was watching all the time). Later that evening I got restless and came out of the Laundromat. Somehow I ran into some neighborhood friends from Molokai; imagine that on an Island of almost a million people, they had made Oahu their home. I explained to them my situation and they graciously took me in for the next week in their small apartment. By the end of the week I came to my senses and returned home to Molokai with a loving mother who welcomed me back with wide open arms. Wish I could say the same about my older brother who was furious with the whole ordeal.
In 1979 after graduating from High School I moved back to the Big Island. I hung on to what I thought were the right values and morals as taught by my parents, right through 4 years of college and even further into my first Marriage. But the world had a way of pulling me off track and I found myself divorced, heavily into drinking and on my own again, searching. That empty lonely feeling started creeping in again. I needed direction…I needed help…I needed security…but no one was there (at least I thought-for God was watching all the time).
In 1991 I remarried then moved back to Molokai 2 years later with my wife and our 2 year old daughter, starting my life all over again. And although my wife found a little Non-Denominational Church called Friendly Isle Christian Fellowship in my childhood town, I continued on with my drinking and leading my own life, my way and on my terms. Until one day curiosity got the best of me and I agreed to go check out her Church even though the sting of being kicked out of a Church before lingered. Sitting in the back row with my sunglasses on and rocking our newly born son in the baby carrier, I listened to the contemporary praise and worship songs. Having experience myself in playing the guitar, ukulele, drums and even singing, I thought the style was pretty cool, inspiring and I actually was drawn to it. The Praise team displayed such a joyful-upbeat way of singing, something I was not accustomed to. The slow worship songs seemed like it was just them and God in a time of holiness, reverence, respect and awe. When the Pastor got up and started to Preach, things in my life seemed like it was put under a microscope. The Pastor began to unfold, unravel, and peel away at areas that I found a little uncomfortable as it pierced towards the core of my life, but yet I found relief in those truths. And after being exposed Sunday after Sunday with the unveiling of God’s Holy Spirit and His Love for me, I couldn’t help and broke down crying like a baby one Sunday and received Jesus Christ into my life as Lord and Savior on May of 1998. The crying was uncontrollable but the blanket of God’s Love brought peace and comfort at the same time. I later got baptized, served wherever I could in the Church and even joined the Praise and Worship Team. And through the course of time was later asked to sit on the Board of Directors for the Church.
I don’t know how I got from enjoying HaloHalo at a Chicken fight when I was a child, to a Board Member of the Church, but God does. So from 1998 until 2004 at Friendly Isle Christian Fellowship I grew and I groped in life as a Christian, and the more I learned about God, the clearer my path became. Then in the latter part of 2004 the Senior Pastor (Stephen Butters) decided to resign and relocate to Kona with his wife ("Polly") and newly adopted baby (Makayla). And although he had asked me to consider taking the role as Senior Pastor, I had declined, I just didn’t think I was ready. And so a gracious Pastor along with some of his team members from one of the Grace Bible Churches on Oahu stepped in and helped us for several months. But later the Board of Directors decided that the approach and style carried out by the Pastor and his team was not who we were as a Church. And with mutual agreement on both sides we decided to carry on and run the Church on our own.
So from 2004 up until the middle of 2009 the leaders began praying for a Vision for the Church. During this period of time we attended one of the "Doing Church as a Team” Conferences at New Hope Oahu. We also took time to attend the Hawaii Island Ministries Conference to glean more. To further my quench in Leadership I retreated for several days up in the cool country of Kaneohe at the St. Stephens Diocese Center. Along with 60 or so Pastors we were daily equipped and ministered by Don Cousins (Former associate pastor and one of the founding leaders of Willow Creek Community Church). I also took the opportunity at a later time to shadow Pastor Wayne Cordeiro for one week at New Hope’s Leadership Practicum with many other Pastors from around the states.
All the while the Senior Pastor’s role was tugging at me from within. And so finally in accepting my call as Senior Pastor I was set in and ordained on June 28, 2009 by several of the Island’s Pastors. The Vision was made clearer and in the midst of it all we renamed the Church to “Heart of Aloha”. There is still much for me to learn in this position as a Senior Pastor. But I’ve taken every opportunity I can to build relationships with our Core Leaders of the Church as well as other Pastors and Leaders on Island too. I’ve also gleaned from Mentors such as Dr. Charles Stanley, Joyce Meyers Ministries, Pastor Rick Warren, Dr. Myles Munroe, Max Lucado, Pastor Wayne Cordeiro and others through television, DVDs and books. However, I still felt the need to learn more through a formal Educational Curriculum. And this is why I found it necessary to pursue my Bachelors of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministry at the New Hope Christian College at New Hope Oahu as my next step in Spiritual Growth. Life has some peculiar twist and turns along the way but it is comforting to know that all along God is watching me not from a distance, but as close as the life giving air that breathes out of my body. I can finally say with much confidence that I’ve found what I’ve been looking for in God the Father through his precious son Jesus Christ. For he is a lamp unto my feet who gives direction, he is my deliverer who provides help in time of need, and he is my strong tower that provides security. I am comforted by God’s word that I will never feel lonely again in my life period, for God said "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Heb. 13:5) And in my own words, “Never will I have an under the table experience in a Laundromat” Amen.