A HISTORY OF KAILUA CHRISTIAN CHURCH
On the evening of April 13, 1956, while people were sleeping, a violent incident took place at the Kailua Beach Pavilion. There had been bad feelings between local youths and Marines. During one confrontation at the Pavilion there was an argument, tempers flared, some of the Marines were pistol whipped and one was fatally shot by a local youth. The following day, screaming headlines informed the people of the tragedy.
Most people, upon learning about such an incident, would merely grit their teeth in despair and do nothing. But two women, one a realtor (Irene Kanetake) and the other a beautician who was also a Deaconess of Makiki Christian Church (Gladys Kiyota), read the news with Christ-like compassion and concern. Together they asked God to use them as instruments of love to bring new hope and comfort to both the youth and his mother. Then, with fear and trembling, the two women went to visit the broken-hearted mother to present Christ as the answer to her heartaches.
Upon their arrival they found a woman whose heart had been broken by several tragedies. Following her husband’s death, her daughter burned to death. Next, a younger son was lost through accidental poisoning. Then, only eleven days later, came the news of her son’s involvement in the tragic shooting. But the love of Christ, as expressed by the two women to this broken-hearted mother, was able to overcome the sting of death. Within five days of the visit she received Christ as her Lord and Savior. Her new found faith created a deep hunger for the Word of God and Christian fellowship. So the realtor opened her home to meet the needs of this hunger and the beautician taught her the basic Scriptures of the Christian faith.
One evening, while the three women were studying the Bible, Jiggs and Wendy Tamashiro, by the providence of God, were led into their midst where they witnessed a wonderful transformation in the life of the mother. Instead of bitterness and sorrow, they saw a new hope and joy in her face. Because of what they saw, they too became interested in Christianity and opening their home for Bible studies and Christian fellowship. It was here in this home at 170 Ulupa Street that the Kailua Christian Church Branch Mission of the Makiki Christian Church was begun. Kats Kurosaki, the beautician’s neighbor, began wondering about the mysterious mission that she was involved in and he joined the group. In like manner others began to assemble at the Tamashiro’s residence. This group grew rapidly so Rev. Paul Nagano, Pastor of the Makiki Christian Church, was called for consultation. Rev. Nagano recommended that Rev. Bill Tamagi, Associate Pastor of Makiki, be their shepherd. The group continued to meet at this home for the next six months. As in the days of the early church in the Book of Acts, many more homes were opened for Bible studies, prayer and fellowship. The Maikai Quartet and other faithful members from Makiki came at various times to encourage this new group with inspiring testimonies and singing. The testimonies were indeed inspiring. One woman said, “I am so grateful to God. This is the first Christmas that my husband is home with us, He usually goes out on a spree with his working gang.” Another said, “Things are so different now in our home. We don’t yell at each other like we used to. I praise God for this new fellowship.” Still, another said, “It is so good to see another couple riding to work like sweethearts, you know, sitting close together.”
As the group grew in number and spirit, the parents felt the challenge to provide a Sunday School for their children. They negotiated the use of the cafetorium at the old Kailua High School site which is now the location of Kailua Intermediate School. On January 13, 1957 at 3:00 p.m. the first Sunday School and Worship Service were conducted at this location. Rev. Nagano delivered the first message challenging the group to live dangerously for Christ. When the members of Makiki Christian Church heard of the further needs of this group they again volunteered to teach Sunday School and to assist in the Worship Services. This meant teaching Sunday School and attending the Worship Service at Makiki, eating a fast lunch, driving the old winding Pali road to Kailua for the Sunday School and Service in the afternoon, then returning to Honolulu for the Makiki Evening Service. They served in this manner for six months with joy. Many others came from Makiki on two separate occasions to join the Kailua group in canvassing the community and publicizing the church’s ministries.
In the summer of 1957, Rev. Bill Tamagi, because of his responsibilities at Makiki, had to be reluctantly relieved of his responsibilities in Kailua. Ted Ogoshi, who had just returned from Fuller Seminary, took over the reins of this fellowship. Under his able leadership, the Kailua Mission was further organized. He recommended a five-year plan for the Mission to become financially independent and autonomous. This was an undertaking that required much faith and sacrifice because the weekly offering at this infant stage was only $8.00 per week. It was a time of child-like faith and child-like prayers. Some of the prayers uttered were, “Dear Lord,…uh…uh…well Lord, you what I mean, Amen.” “Dear Lord, we thank thee for our brother Ted Ogoshi. Although I give him a bad time, he still comes back every Wednesday to teach us the Bible.” This child-like faith soon brought results. On June 23, 1957, the Kailua Christian Mission changed its worship time from the afternoon to morning with immediate results in attendance.
During the latter part of September, 1957, Ted Ogoshi left for the mainland for studies in Pastoral Counseling. Rev. Bill Tamagi returned as Interim-Pastor once again until Rev. Roy Ishihara was called from Sacramento to be Kailua’s first full-time pastor. He and his family arrived here on November 30, 1957. The very generous gifts from the members of Makiki Christian Church made this possible. They paid for the cost of bringing the Ishiharas’ to Hawaii and their salary. They also donated a brand new station wagon and loaned the Mission the down-payment for the purchase of a parsonage on Hualani Street.
On February 1, 1959 a special service was held during which the Kailua Christian Mission was officially recognized by the Oahu Association of Congregational Churches and the Hawaiian Evangelical Association which is now the Hawaii Conference, United Church of Christ. Then a search for a church site was initiated. Irene Kanetake, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at that time, expressed her faith that in due time the Lord would provide a place. Soon two sites were considered, one of which was a large piece of property in Keapuka behind Windy’s Drive Inn. A representative of the Hawaii Conference recommended a Kaneohe location. The members decided to purchase the present site in Kailua because of promises made to people during the Site Fund Campaign.
The members and friends of the church are to be commended for their perseverance in giving sacrificially to both the General Fund and the Site Fund and for their tireless physical labors for the Lord. This present property was on sale for $50,000.00. There was $13,000.00 in the Site Fund and a monthly pledge for $500.00 toward this Fund. The property owners were offered $12,000.00 down and $500.00 a month on an Agreement of Sale at an interest rate of 6 ½ per cent to be refinanced at the end of five years.
The members were so inspired by the thought of having their own land that the monthly Site Fund income doubled at various times. At times $2,000.00 a month payments were possible. This enthusiastic giving resulted in the full payment for the property in less than five years. On April 18, 1964 a mortgage burning luau celebration was held. Invitations were sent to everyone who contributed any amount. People asked, “How much do the tickets cost?” When they were told that it was free they couldn’t believe it.
On September 9, 1964 a ground breaking service was held with Rev. Paul Nagano as the challenge speaker. The following month, on October 23, construction began with a turnout of twenty-six men. This was the beginning of months of sacrifice by the church families. At a special meeting the wives agreed to be both father and mother to the children because the fathers were going to be very busy, even during the Christmas holidays. The men worked hard on the building while the women set up teams to feed them. Jiggs Tamashiro was so busy that he had to have his boys come to the job site for their haircuts. Hundreds of coconut trees had to be removed from the site. They were given to Henry Kaiser in exchange for heavy equipment which was operated by Fred Iona to level the ground. The night when the roof was put on, sixty men were doing one of two things, either hanging on for dear life or hammering away. It was a sight to behold. Men from Makiki Christian, Kalihi Union, Kaimuki Evangelical and Manoa Valley churches came to lend their assistance on that day. It was very heart-warming to see their interest expressed by their labors. Brian Nakashima wired the entire church free of charge. The estimated cost of the original plans with labor furnished by the men of the church was about $120,000. But the Lord blessed so abundantly that a library and two offices with waiting room were added without any further costs. An amazing phenomenon was that there was not a single injury during the entire construction period except for Kats Tanigawa’s nail puncture which wasn’t considered to be serious.
Although the construction was not quite completed the first service was held in the sanctuary on Easter Sunday in 1966 with Dr. Bevalaqua, the Conference Minister, as the guest speaker. The final service in the cafetorium was held on June 26, 1966. The first service in the completed sanctuary was held the following Sunday, July 3, 1966 with Rev. Ted Ogoshi. On September 10, 1966 the second Feast of Thanksgiving for the building was held with Dr. Mas Toyotome as the speaker. The following week, on September 16-18, special Dedication Services for the building were held with Rev. Paul Nagano and Rev. Roy Ishihara, invited from the mainland as guest speakers.
Like all other churches, Kailua Christian Church has had its share of ups and downs. But the Lord and His people have been faithful and His work has grown. Having once been the recipients of assistance from others, the members of this church are now reaching out to lend assistance to others in various ways. The giving of missions and other causes are very generous. Two of its earliest members, Ed and Katherine Yasuhara served as missionaries in Japan. In September, 1971, under the inspiration of Rev. Hiro Higuchi and the direction of Jiggs Tamashiro, two men from Kailua Christian and three from Manoa Valley Church went to Lanai to reroof and paint the Lanai Union Church. A ministry to Isseis was added to its outreach. They were led at various times by Katherine Yasuhara, Rev. Kusuhara, Rev. Kashitani, Rev. Shinpei Higuchi, and Rev. Peter Sakuma. During 1964 and 1965 Ginny Lum was hired to raise the level of the Christian Education program. In 1976 a Youth Internship Program was initiated with Dale Sanderson as the first intern to assist with the ministry to the youth of this church as well as the other youth in this neighborhood. Also in 1976 the Kailua Christian Church Preschool under the direction of Terumi Yoshida was started. With the help of various Interim Pastors (I) and Pastors such as Rev. Chuck Schuetz, Rev. Dexter Edwards Jr., Rev. Howard Yoshida, Rev. Dr. Paul Brennan (I), Rev. Dale Vallejo-Sanderson, Rev. Alan Maeno, Rev. Ronald Ching (I), Rev. Faith Jackson (I), Rev. Elizabeth Plumbo (I), Rev. Timothy Weible, and present, Rev. Jack Belsom (I), Kailua Christian Church has continued to grow. Other pastoral leaders included: Issei Pastors, Pastoral Associate, Constance Ching, and Associate Pastor, Rev. Diane Weible.
The members look to the Lord for greater blessings in the future.