To allot just four days for a visit to Hawaii is almost criminal! For years after our introduction to the islands I’ve said that if I could I would go to Hawaii every year. That hasn’t been possible, but the desire has never left. This state is simply breathtaking, whether one is on Oahu or Maui or Kauai or the Big Island (Hawaii).
So it was only natural to break up our return journey from Chiang Mai with a layover in Honolulu. When Dr. Nancy Pace invited us to stay with her and her husband Mel Kaneshige, we couldn’t say no. Nancy, a public health physician, has served on CMF’s board for many years. Mel, an attorney, has retired from hotel management (specializing in property acquisition and development for his company). They are a dynamic duo, volunteering in a host of worthy projects. Mel’s a native of Hawaii, where he and Nancy have lived together for 35 years. They have two adult children, a son in Hawaii and daughter and her husband in Florida.
Weeks earlier Nancy told us Ron Arnold, Kaimuki Christian Church pastor, had been hit with pancreatic cancer and needed to reduce his preaching load. I wrote him we’d be in town over a weekend. Could I give him a little relief by preaching for him? He accepted. It was an honor to speak for this pastor. A familiar chorus, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place,” could have been written of the Kaimuki church.
We arrived in Honolulu around noon on Friday. Our route had taken us from Chiang May to Bangkok on Thai Airways; there we overnighted, boarded Korean Air’s flight to Seoul for a layover of several hours, then took the red-eye from Seoul to Honolulu, to be greeted by Mel and Nancy. How glad we were to see them! They drove us to their home and then released us for a few hours of rest before my preaching assignment that evening.
On Saturday they showed us a bit of Oahu, particularly the famous East Coast from Diamond Point northward, where the surfers were doing their thing. As is so often the case, pictures can only give a hint of the beauty.
Sunday morning: two more worship services. They were inspiring in themselves, but the morning was made even better because we got to see Marie and Nofo Eletise, Hope International University graduates who were on campus during our time there. Marie’s the daughter of longtime friends Mike and Susan Maxson. Nofo is a Samoan whose infectious smile puts everyone at ease. Both are on the Kaimuki ministerial staff. It was a happy reunion.
Then as the second service was about to begin, in came Russ and Barbara Galbreath. Russ, now retired, was minister of West Seattle Christian Church for many years. We served together on the North American Christian Convention committee for several terms. The pastor of his former church is now Worth Wheeler, who grew up in Central Christian Church in Mesa (and whose parents faithfully follow this blog). I had the privilege of marrying him and Beth in LaPine, Oregon, where her father, Rich Butler, was the minister. This was a double treat, because Rich was a youth group boy when I was youth minister in Portland’s St. Johns Christian Church—clear back in the ‘50s! What a small, wonderful world, and what fun to trace these connections from the Galbreaths to the Wheelers to the Butlers.
While I’m name dropping, let me add one more. During the services it was announced that the president of FPM (Financial Planning Ministry) would be with the church the next weekend to help people prepare their living trusts. It’s a free service offered by the church and FPM. Mike Prior is the president in question. More importantly, Mike, who worked with me for many years on the staff of Central Christian Church, is our velcro son. You’ve met him on these pages before. I was sorry to miss seeing Mike in Kaimuki; we were here together about ten years ago, when we teamed up to teach and preach. I urged the congregation to tell Mike next Sunday they had just met his “dad.” When they see the dignified sixty-year-old, six-foot-three-inch, gray-haired statesman they will question whether he could be any kind of relative of mine, velcro or otherwise!
On Sunday evening Nancy and Mel hosted a dinner for us and our mutual friends David and Marsha Van Wagenen. Following David’s management career with Western Airlines, he and Marsha became CMF missionaries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they served for 30 years. While we had worked together in CMF, this was the first time we’d been together socially. What a treat! All four of these dedicated Christians made their faith-decisions as adults. When they gave themselves to Christ, they gave totally. There’s nothing merely “nominal” about their Christian walk.
On Monday Nancy treated us to some more sight-seeing, starting with one of her favorites, Honolulu’s Punchbowl, more formally known as National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Punchbowl is another Hawaiian beauty spot. Originally, the cemetery was the resting place honoring Americans who died in World War II and Korea, but it was later enlarged to include Vietnam War victims as well. There are now 53,000 graves for veterans of the Pacific Theater and their dependents in this meticulously groomed cemetery, which takes its name from the Punchbowl Crater in which it’s nestled.
In addition to the inspirational sites we visited, Nancy insisted we sample more mundane offerings of daily life in Honolulu. That included a delightful Vietnamese lunch followed by “shave ice”—which is a lot like our Snow-cones but more finely shaved—and malasada, like a really delicious donut without the hole!
Nancy and Mel drove us to the airport—in the rain!—in ample time for our 10:45 PM flight to Los Angeles. In more than ample time, since our takeoff was delayed by two hours. The reason was a first for us: the plane couldn’t take off because the door to the gray/black water holding tank was frozen and the airport had no way empty it. It gets pretty cold at 35,000 feet, where the deep freeze stopped up the sewage. The plane had just come in from Los Angeles and was leaving Honolulu for its return journey. Apparently American Airlines hadn’t prepared for this eventuality. We were put on hold until someone figured out how to thaw the ice. Our flight attendant said she’d never heard of such a thing in her 17 years of flying. As I reported once before, in our globe-circling days on the loose we’ve experienced more such airline delays and excuses in America than anywhere else. Doesn’t seem proper, somehow.
The delay caused us to miss our connection in LAX for Albuquerque. BUT—it offered another serendipitous meeting. As we settled into our seats (Row 10 A and C), right across the aisle (Row 10 D) sat Lee Gierman. Delightful surprise. We have known Lee since our Arizona days, when he was business administrator for the Pantano Christian Church in Tucson. Since then he has been the remarkably effective senior minister of Lake Sawyer Christian Church in the greater Seattle area—where he was our kids’ pastor when Ed and Kim lived in Maple Valley. As you can imagine, we had a good time catching up with each other. Lee has retired and he and Sandy are back in Tucson–and he’s begun preaching for a small church in the area. Hard to shut us preachers up!
One strong impression Hawaii makes on the visitor is this: Racial integration is the norm, not the exception, here. America has no other state quite like this one. Polynesians, the original Hawaiians, laid the foundation. Then along came Caucasian missionaries who announced themselves as prophets of a new religion and stayed to profit from their labors. These were the early haoles. Wikipedia calls haoles the “individuals who are not descendants of native Hawaiians or other ethnicities brought in to work the plantations.” On the original foundation the civil structure was built up with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Portuguese immigrants and, in more recent years, others from all over the globe. The result is a variegated population that coexists by tolerating and learning to respect one another. It’s a sometimes uneasy mix, admittedly, but it’s a refreshing break from the mainland’s current xenophobia. When Captain James Cook first came to Hawaii he was met by this welcoming spirit. Only a year later he was killed. You have to work at tolerance; it doesn’t come naturally, as one quotation from the Punchbowl’s mosaics asserts:
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned our visit to Pearl Harbor, a “must see” for visitors from the mainland. The truth is, we didn’t have time. It deserves a full day. Fortunately, on earlier visits to Honolulu we gave the day to the site where so many in America’s military service died during the Japanese attack that opened the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was a sobering experience. In Hawaii can be found the best and the worst of the human story.
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