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The Gospel in Hawaii

In Hawaii, there are many Christians and Christian churches. But how did the Gospel reach a few small islands in the middle of the vast Pacific? The story is a beautiful one which reminds us of how God sometimes uses the weak to shame the strong.

In the beginning of the 1800s, there was a young boy who lived on the Big Island of Hawaii named Obookiah. Obookiah 's father was part of a revolt against the king at that time, King Kameamea. After a losing battle, Obookiah's father was killed and his entire family was captured. Obookiah took his younger brother, who was only a few months old, put him on this back, and tried to run away. As he fled, a spear was thrown at him, which struck and killed his little brother.

Obookiah's life was a difficult one. He was forced to live with the man who killed his parents for two years, until he found an uncle who was willing to take him in. His uncle was a priest in the local Hawaiian religion and began to prepare Obookiah for a career as a priest as well. Obookiah was unhappy, and longed to escape to some other part of the globe.

In 1807, he had his chance, as an American ship was anchored near the shore. He swam out to the ship and begged the Captain, Caleb Britnall, to take him to work as a cabin boy. Meanwhile, another young Hawaiian named Hopoo also joined the ship's crew. The two young Hawaiians set sail to America, and, while on board, learned English and began to hear the story of the Gospel.

Eventually, they made it to New Haven Connecticut, where Hopoo (now called Thomas), began to attend school. Obookiah (now called Henry) also longed to gain more knowledge. A friend, named Edwin Dwight, introduced him to his father, who was also the president of Yale University and a Congregationalist minister. Henry lived with the Dwight family and learned about grammar and other secular subjects, while also learning more about God and growing in his faith.

Henry became a Christian in 1815, at which time he, along with other Polynesians requested training to learn how to spread the Gospel back in their native lands. Over time, he started to translate the Bible into Hawaiian. He shared his testimony at local New England Churches. His dream was to go back to Hawaii and preach the Gospel to his people. Tragically, however, he contracted typhus fever in 1818, and died at the age of 26 before he had the chance.

Even after his death, however, God wasn't done using this young man to do His work. Edwin Dwight, soon published a short work entitled "The Memoirs of Henry Obookiah," telling his dear friend's story. The book was quite popular, and helped motivate the idea of a mission to Hawaii. In 1819, seven American missionaries with their wives, set sail to Hawaii. Along with them came three native Hawaiian, including Thomas Hopoo.

In 1820, the missionaries finally arrived in Hawaii, to learn that King Kameamea had died and that one of his wives, Queen Kaahumanu, was exercising authority over the islands. The Queen was intrigued by Christianity and invited the missionaries to the island. She learned the Gospel's from the missionaries, and, in 1823, her sister became the first Hawaiian to be baptized in Hawaii. Two years later, Queen Kaahumanu was also baptized. She allowed the building of schools and churches and fought for a kingdom based on Christian principals. Thus, it was through the work of two young Hawaiian refugees that God began to save the Hawaiian people!

Henry once wrote the following in a letter to a friend; "Do remember, my dear friend, those that are around you whose sins are unpardoned. Do pray for them. Remember my poor countrymen who know not the way of life by a Redeemer." May we all remember the lost around us, and follow Henry Obookiah's lead in spreading the Gospel!


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