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Hawaii 's Great Awakening  1835 - 1840 

"In 1837 the slumbering fires broke out. Nearly the whole population became an audience. He was ministering to 15,000 people. Unable to reach them, they came to him, and settled down to a two years' camp meeting. There was not an hour day or night when an audience of from 2,000 to 6,000 would not rally to the signal of the bell."

Titus Coan: Missionary to Hawaii . 1835 - 1881


"There was trembling, weeping, sobbing, and loud crying for mercy, sometimes too loud for the preacher to be heard; and in hundreds of cases his hearers fell in a swoon. Some would cry out, "The two edged sword is cutting me to pieces." The wicked scoffer who came to make sport dropped like a dog, and cried, "God has struck me!" Once while preaching in the open field to 2,000 people, a man cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" - Titus Coan


TITUS COAN: GOD'S SERVANT                                                   

 Just prior to the missionary meeting of 1836, a new member of the mission team had arrived in 1835 in Hilo , on the island of Hawaii , to become the pastor of the church. His name was Titus Coan. The church in 1836 had 23 members, although Coan reported in his missionary report the Sunday attendance was 300 adults and 100 to 150 children. This church was about to see a massive change, for God had brought to the islands the second ingredient for the Great Awakening, the man of faith.

 Titus Coan was born in Connecticut in 1801, the child of a devotedly religious family. His mother was the aunt of Asahel Nettleton, the well-known evangelist of the Second Great Awakening in New England . Although exposed to the gospel most of his life he did not surrender himself to Christ until 1829, during a revival in his home town after a prolonged illness. His surrender was wholehearted and he began to pursue opportunities to involve himself in ministry. In the summer of 1830 he met with Charles Finney and a number of his associates while working with a minister friend in New York . After two years of study at Auburn Theological Seminary, a brief stint as a missionary in Patagonia , he married and soon after took his bride to become missionaries to the Sandwich Islands .

 It is important to weigh Coan's contributions to the revival in light of all that happened. All the islands experienced a revival. However, it was the island of Hawaii 's revival that accounted for 3/4 of all the new members added to the church. Secondly, it was Titus Coan's belief and those like him that helped to spur on the revival. Let me explain this point. S.E. Bishop in his article published in the March 1902 issue of The Friend gives an interesting insight. He states, "...I think it true that the severer forms of Calvinism presented by the earlier missionaries were less adapted to facilitate the work of the Divine Spirit, than were the gentler and sweeter forms in which the Gospel was presented by those more lately arrived who had been in the wonderful revival under Finney's preaching." He goes on to tell his own personal experience as a child in hearing the gospel presented by these new missionaries. He went on to conclude that the "entrance of these devoted men into the Hawaiian work gave a new impulse to the evangelization of the people. There was a more direct and efficient presentation of Christ, less encumbered by the old and stiff Westminister forms of doctrine. This new preaching undoubtedly contributed much to the great spiritual awakening among the Hawaiians.'' In another article in December 1902, Bishop names the missionaries who experienced the Charles G. Finney revivals in New York . They were, "Dibble, Coan, Lyons , and Lowell Smith, whose souls had felt the peculiar kindling of the Spirit and who brought with them His peculiar flame.''

 These new missionaries had experienced revival in the United States and believed God for revival in their respective fields. They caught a vision, a new vision of what God could do, without which the revival could not have happened. This vision of revival was all encompassing in that they did the very things they had seen God use to bring revival in the United States . Dr. Rufus Anderson recorded that: "the means employed were those commonly used during times of revival in the United States , such as preaching, the prayers of the church, protracted meetings, and conversing with individuals or small companies." He went on to note that during "the protracted meetings much care was given to the plain preaching of revealed truths, with prayer in the intervals." He even jotted down some of the topics preached which were so effective: "The gospel a savor of life or death; the danger of delaying repentance; the servant who knew his Lord's will and did it not; sinners not willing that Christ should reign over them; halting between two opinions; the balm of Gilead; the sinner hardening his neck; God not willing that any should perish." Anderson states that the topics most insisted on was the sin and danger of refusing an offered Savior."

 The rationale for the reproducing of what God had done in the revival movement in the United States is provided by Titus Coan who found that "like doctrines, prayers and efforts seemed to produce like fruits."

Not only did Coan take the success of the Finney revivals and reproduce it in Hawaii , he characterized what attitude a missionary was to have if they were to be used by God powerfully to bring forth a great harvest. He exemplified the incarnation principle, love in action. Historian Gaven Daws comments that "Love was the driving force in his life: he loved his wife, he loved Christ, and he loved his work." In a letter Coan wrote to colleagues concerning the passion of his early Christian love he stated: "When I came to these islands, and before I could use the Hawaiian language, I often felt as if I should burst with strong desire to speak the word to the natives around me. And when my mouth was opened to speak of the love of God in Christ, I felt that the very chords of my heart were wrapped around my hearers, and that some inward power was helping me to draw them in, as the fisherman feels when drawing in his net filled with fishes.''

 S.E. Bishop spent his childhood in Hawaii and Titus Coan was his spiritual father. He comments on Coan's "personal magnetism of love" that drew him, "sweetly and irresistibly, to the love of God in Christ." He goes on to mention how in later life he personally met Finney and was influenced by his intellectual and spiritual power, but he never met anyone that matched the "winning power of love" like that of his spiritual father, Titus Coan."  

The incarnation is expressed so beautifully in John 1:14, "the word became flesh and dwelt among us." This is what Titus Coan attempted to emulate. His love for the people was expressed first by the mastery of the Hawaiian language and secondly by his desire to preach the gospel to everyone living in his district, which was around 15 to 16,000 all living within the distance of 100 miles. In order to preach to everyone, in the fall of 1836 he decided to make a tour on foot of his entire district.

 In his autobiography he tells about this tour and how he "preached three, four, five times a day, and had much personal conversations with the natives on things pertaining to the Kingdom of God ." He goes on to share how in the Puna area there was a greater response among the people, all eager to hear the "word of life". He states, "Many listened with tears, and after the preaching, when I supposed they would return to their homes and give me rest, they remained and crowded around me so earnestly, that I had no time to eat. And in places where I spent my nights they filled the house to its entire capacity, leaving scores outside who could not enter." This went on till midnight and would resume at the crack of dawn. In the most popular area of Puna, in two days, Coan preached ten sermons while spending the time in between the services in personal conversation. A number of people were converted, one being the High Priest of the Volcano, a violent man who was a drunkard, adulteress, robber and murderer. He broke and began to seek the Lord. This first tour was 30 days long during which he not only preached, but examined 20 schools with a total of 1,200 pupils.

 It seems, from what I can gather, that Titus Coan went on tour often times each year attempting to personally touch for Jesus every person in his parish. In fact, he had a unique and thorough follow-up system in order to keep track of his converts and new members. Coan states, "I had a faithful notebook in my pocket, and in all my personal conversations with the people, by night and by day, at home and in my oft repeated tours, I had noted down, unobserved, the names of individuals apparently sincere and true converts. Over these persons I kept watch, though unconsciously to themselves; and thus their life and conversation were made the subjects of vigilant observation. After the lapse of these, six, nine or twelve months, as the case might be, selections were made from the list of names for examination. Some were found to have gone back to their old sins; others were stupid, or gave but doubtful evidence of conversions, while many had stood fast and run well. Most of those who seemed hopefully converted spent several months at the central station before their union with the church. Here they were watched over and instructed from week to week and from day to day, with anxious and unceasing care. They were sifted and re-sifted with scrutiny, and with every effort to take the precious from the vile. The church and the world, friends and enemies, were called upon and solemnly charged to testify, without concealment or palliation, if they knew ought against any of the candidates.''  

Coan goes on to tell how on his numerous tours he would take his book with him and call the roll of church members in every village. "When anyone did not answer the roll call, I made inquiry why. If dead, I marked the date; if sick, visited him or her, if time would allow; if absent on duty, accepted the fact; if supposed to be doubting or backsliding, sent for or visited him; if gone to another part of the island, or to another island, I inquired if the absence would be short or perpetual, and noted facts of whatever kind.'' This personal care even extended to his parishioners who became sailors. When they returned he would check as to whether they lived for the Lord or not. Even while in Honolulu once a year he would put up a public notice and 50 to 100 people who were his parishioners that had moved to Honolulu would show up for a meeting.

 Both Titus Coan and Lorenzo Lyons who was also a missionary on the island of Hawaii , his district being Waimea on the other side of the island from where Coan was, were used mightily by God in the growth of the church. For example, in six months from January to May of 1838, Coan admitted 639 new members, and Lyons 2,600. Their two stations combined were responsible for 3,239 of the 4,930 additions of formal members to the church in 1837-1838.

 In the following year, Coan admitted 5,244 and Lyons 2,300. This tremendous addition to the church brought criticism from some of the more conservative missionaries and from some of those back home in New England . Their concern was whether people were really converted and could it be people were brought into membership too fast. Some even criticized the way Coan and Lyons preached and what happened in their meetings. But, Coan was convinced what was happening was a work of the Spirit. He felt strongly that to leave people outside the protection of the church in the name of caution was to abandon them to "wander in darkness, uncertain as to their own character, exposed to every temptation of earth and hell, unknown and unrecognized as the sheep and lambs of the Lord Jesus, and in danger from the all-devouring lion.''  

Coan had a tremendous concern for the lost to be found. His love for lost souls drove him because he feared that he would die before the task of seeing his people saved was accomplished. This made him a "people person" having great results. His critics were silenced when after a number of years, it was found that his losses were not any different proportionally than his critics who were over cautious in admitting new members. The reason for this was his hard work in reaching, sharing, and caring for people.

A final aspect of Titus Coan that represents the kind of person God used mightily to bring forth the Great Awakening was the fact that he saw things in light of a spiritual battle. To Coan the work was a tremendous spiritual battle. He referred to the "weapons of our warfare" and a militant view of God. Repentance was brought about by "Jehovah's Hammer" or the "battle-ax of the Lord," or the "Arrows of the Almighty". In fact, he saw the struggle for souls as a fight that he wanted to fight till he died.

 The man of faith seems to be an integral part of a great revival. Titus Coan was that man or at least exemplified that kind of person. What is fascinating to note is that even twenty years after the Great Awakening, Titus Coan was asked to tour Oahu . The tour produced a revival and more people were added to the church in Oahu than at any time since 1839, the height of the Great Awakening. It was reported by Coan as the "gentle revival". However, the fact that this could happen in Titus Coan's later life speaks much to the fact that he was genuinely a man of faith, a key in the Great Awakening.

 Coan's wish was "to die in the field with armor on, with weapons bright." God gave him that wish for in the midst of a revival, he suffered a stroke and died praising God. He had served the Lord for forty-seven years in Hilo and by 1870 had received 13,000 members to his church, the largest number by any pastor in his generation.


 "On the 7th of November, 1837 , at the hour of evening prayer, we were startled by a heavy thud, and a sudden jar of the earth! The sound was like the fall of some vast body upon the beach, and in a few seconds a noise of mingled voices rising for a mile along the shore thrilled us like the wail of doom. Instantly this was followed by a like wail from all the native houses around us. I immediately ran down to the sea, where a scene of wild ruin was spread out before me. The sea, moved by an unseen hand, had all of a sudden risen in a gigantic wave, and this wave, rushing in with the speed of a race-horse, had fallen upon the shore, sweeping everything not more than fifteen or twenty feet above high water mark into indiscriminate ruin." So Titus Coan describes the great tidal wave that hit Hilo . Houses, furniture and everything else along with two hundred people were floating or struggling in the great waves. It was so unexpected that no one had time to prepare for it. All one could do now was hope their loved ones were not in the waves. Cries for help were heard while frantic children, wives and husbands ran looking and calling for lost family members.

 Titus Coan goes on to comment that "had this catastrophe occurred at midnight when all were asleep, hundreds of lives would undoubtedly have been lost. Through the great mercy of God, only thirteen were drowned." To Titus Coan this tidal wave was as if God was speaking to the people to "Be ye also ready." They began to listen. Titus Coan mentions how they buried the dead, "fed, comforted, and clothed the living, and God brought light out of darkness, joy out of grief, and life out of death." He states, "Our meetings were more and more crowded, and hopeful converts were multiplied.'' This was not only the case for Hilo , but in other places in the islands that were affected by the tidal wave. People realized their need for God when coming so suddenly close to death. The revival increased in intensity because God's third part of the Great Awakening, his merciful judgment, had taken place.


 In answering the question of how did The Great Awakening happen, we have seen how the stage was set, how God raised up a man of faith and others like him, and how his merciful judgment was poured out.

 This brings us to the fourth aspect of the Great Awakening, what I call the marks of revival. Whether these marks brought about the revival, are simply the results of the revival, or how a revival is known to be happening, is not clear. It can be said however, that these elements are common to other recorded revivals and were clearly a part of Hawaii 's Great Awakening.


The writers who recorded what happened during the Awakening were struck by the tremendous emphasis of the people on prayer. The missionaries in their annual meeting of 1836 had prayed and had sent requests to the United States for prayer on behalf of the Sandwich Islands . The Hawaiian people themselves it was noted had a unique ability to give themselves wholeheartedly to prayer. Missionaries on each island reported a tremendous interest in prayer. On Molokai , Mr. Hitchcock noted that "a number were in the habit of rising an hour before light and resorting to the school house to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit.'' This was before an awakening took place on Molokai . Rufus Anderson in his book, History of the Sandwich Island Mission... states, 'Missionaries declare that they had never witnessed more earnest, humble, persevering wrestling in prayer, than was exhibited by some of the native Christians at this time; and that they had reason to bless God for being so greatly edified, comforted, and assisted by their earnest supplications.'' This was not only true for the adults, but the children as well. Mr. Baldwin reported how in Lahaina, for a lengthy period of time that "one could scarcely go in any direction, in the sugar-cane or banana groves, without finding these little ones praying and weeping before God.'' An interesting preface to the revival was what took place on board a ship that was loaded with re info rcements from Boston for the Sandwich Island Mission. The missionary team prayed both morning and evening and preached on Sunday with a revival taking place on board ship. The captain, one of his officers, and several on board ship made an open commitment to Christ and were taken in as church members along with the Hawaiian people on their arrival in the Sandwich Islands .

 A unique aspect of the Holy Spirit's work in causing the people to pray was the kind of praying the people participated in. The prayer was united and verbal, each one expressing himself individually but all out loud together. Each one would intercede over what the Holy Spirit had impressed on their hearts to pray. They would pray earnestly and with much emotion oblivious to the fact they had joined a whole chorus of people praying out loud together. This kind of praying was unique in the 1830's at least among the early New England missionaries who had first come to the Sandwich islands therefore some of them opposed it. However, for those who had experienced revival fires in New England before joining the missionary team in the islands, it was a mark of God's working. It seemed as though the Hawaiians were fulfilling James 5:16, "The effective, fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much." (NKJV).


This brings us to the second mark of this revival: repentance over sin was expressed openly. The people desired to be righteous. At times such emotion was evoked that the missionaries did not know how to handle it. Titus Coan reports such an incident. He was holding an outdoor meeting in Puna while preaching on "Repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus." One man burst out in the middle of the meeting with much emotion and tears saying, "Lord, have mercy on me; I am dead in sin." Titus Coan goes on to record how his "weeping was so loud, and his trembling so great, that the whole congregation was moved as by a common sympathy. Many wept aloud, and many commenced praying together. The scene was such as I had never before witnessed. I stood dumb in the midst of this weeping, watching, praying multitudes, not being able to make myself heard for about twenty minutes.'' This soon became a pattern in the meetings. The burden to be rid of sin, through confession of sin and restitution was real. Loud crying, shrieks, falling down, and wailing was not unusual in the meetings. Titus Coan reports, "I arrived yesterday at 8:00 A.M. Found a large company of children the meeting houses besides several hundreds of adults. I was a little weary, but I felt the Spirit break upon my heart; so I went right in among the children and fell upon my knees and looked up to Heaven. The Holy Spirit fell instantly, so soon as I opened my mouth. The place was shaken. The congregation was all in tears, and there was such a crying out as I had not heard before. The overt expression of repentance manifested in the meeting continued for over two years. Some missionaries criticized Coan and Lyons for allowing such displays. But, to Coan the physical manifestations of repenters were a "token of the Holy Spirit".

 It is fascinating to note that holiness, right living, and open repentance was much a part of the Great Awakening that even after this move of God, people still saw this kind of life style to be the normal Christian life. Rev. H.T. Cheever who visited the islands not long after the Great Awakening described a communion service.  

"In the afternoon was the sacrament. Kaipuholo, our host, had previously come to ask Mr. Bond (the missionary in charge) if his wife might come to the communion. He said that the evening before, after the preparatory lecture, she had quarreled with her neighbors about her goats getting into their enclosure. As we entered the church the man with whom she had quarreled was confessing his sin before the whole congregation and professing his repentance. His wife followed, and with great dignity and self-possession, confessed the same."

 "But Kaipuholo's wife remained silent. At the communion when it was asked if any had been omitted in the distribution, she arose to confess her sin, and when the elements were passed to her, she partook with considerable hesitation. The whole incident evinced a conscientiousness and sense of propriety the more pleasing as it was entirely self-moved."

Hearers felt God's power so strongly that their muscles quivered. They waited in "tremendous throes" like a "dying giant or broken down with an "earthquake shock". Sometimes the fallen lay "groaning on the ground for fifteen minutes or half an hour after the fight was done!''

The Word of Life

 A third mark of the revival was the tremendous hunger for God's word. The town of Hilo swelled to ten times its original size growing from 1,000 people to 10,000. This was due to people moving in from outlining areas so they could attend church and hear God's word. Titus Coan first saw this hunger manifested in his 1836 tour. He describes how people would hear him speak in one town and walk over with him to the next town so they could hear another message. Titus Coan mentions how during his tours throughout his parish he saw the following take place. He writes: "There were places along the routes where there were no houses near the trail, but where a few families were living half a mile or more inland. In such places, the few dwellers would come down to the path leading their blind, and carrying their sick and aged upon their backs, and lay them down under a tree if there was one near, or upon the naked rocks, that they might hear of a Savior. It was often affecting to see those withered and trembling hands reached out to grasp the hand of the teacher, and to hear the palsied, the blind, and the lame begging him to stop awhile and tell them the story of Jesus.'' Protracted meetings, that is meetings everyday became a common thing in each of the stations. People could not get enough of God's word.

 Dr. Wetmore tells of the style of life of the Christians due to their hunger for God's word. He writes: "It was intensely interesting in those earlier days to see Christians keep with them at home and abroad their "ai-o-ka-la" (daily food), and their hymn book, and to hear them day by day repeat over and over again, (whole families of them), the passage of Scripture specially designated that they might thoroughly commit it to memory as a portion of their Sabbath school exercises, and their strive to learn its meaning and the lesson it taught." Rev. Coan, because of the hunger for God's word, would send out church members from Hilo two by two to preach, throughout his parish.

 One final item that should be mentioned that helped to encourage this hunger for God's word was the printing and distributing of the Hawaiian language New Testament. In fact, Queen Kaahumanu was given the first copy of the Hawaiian New Testament on her death bed in 1832. This availability of God's word in the language of the people and the fact a large number of people had learned to read helped to foster a hunger to understand what the scriptures meant and how it applied to one's life.


 The generosity of the people was a fascinating mark of the revival. Titus Coan remembered how although extremely poor his people did not want to come to church empty handed. He writes, "Among their humble gifts, you will see one bring a bunch of hemp, another a pile of wood for fuel, a mat, a tappa, a male, a little salt, a fish, a fowl, a taro, a potato, a cabbage, a little arrowroot, a few ears of corn, a few eggs. The old and feeble and children who have nothing else to give, gather grass wherewith to cover and enrich the soil. Each give according to his ability and shuns to approach empty-handed."

 The giving was not just in things, but in time and talent. This was especially seen in the building of the churches. The building of the church whether it was a timber thatched with grass or structures made of stone or coral, the task was undertaken willingly and joyously. The amount of work done for the building of a single structure was incredible. If it was a wood structure, the men who had axes went to the mountains and cut down trees then transported the logs by hand to the building site. This would need hundreds of people to complete the task, both men and women. Others wove mats for the floor or thatched the roof from grass and reeds they had been collecting. The task was even greater when it came to stone constructed churches.

 However, their giving was more than simply their time or resources, they gave of themselves to the work of the gospel. During the awakening it was not unusual to see people bringing others to the meetings with them. Some of them were blind or lame, elderly or the infirm. Their concern for others to hear the word, motivated them to reach out and bring people to worship with them.

The Work of the Holy Spirit  

Throughout this revival there was one reoccurring theme, that the Great Awakening was a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Everyone who wrote about the revival saw that it was the Holy Spirit that caused the people to pray, to share their faith, to hunger for God's word, to repent of sin, and to give. The missionaries saw their powerful preaching of the gospel as a unique work of the Holy Spirit. S.E. Bishop recalls as a youngster, the impression made upon him on one Sunday morning at the beginning of the revival. His father was preaching, but not like he had done before. It, was Prophetically powerful. He writes about his father's preaching: "He was usually colloquial in his preaching, without special impressiveness of manner. On this occasion, he seemed to be another man, flaming with the power of the Spirit. I had at that time learned only a few words of Hawaiian being sedulously kept from doing so. But, I remember the impassioned emphasis with which the preacher said 'U'oki! U'oki!' (Stop! Stop!). He was manifestly another man, with a divine power inspiring him. I think that this was a common experience of the missionaries."  

The Spirit's work was not only seen in the preaching, but even through unusual demonstrations of power. One interesting example is what happened during one of Titus Coan's meetings. He writes: "A young man came once into our meeting to make sport slyly. Trying to make the young men around him laugh during prayer, he fell as senseless as a log upon the ground and was carried out of the house. It was sometime before his consciousness would be restored. He became sober, confessed his sins, and in due time united with the church.''  

There was an awesome reverence for what the Holy Spirit was doing. Titus Coan mentions how his wife "who's soul was melted with love and longing for the weeping natives, felt that to doubt it was the work of the Spirit, was to grieve the Holy Spirit and to provoke him to depart from us.''

 For all involved in this Great Awakening, it was clear that God had demonstrated in their midst the reality of Zechariah 4:6: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts."


 The revival made a major impact on the nation and the Pacific. As to the nation, Hawaii became known as a Christian nation. In the law code of 1846, the Christian faith was established in this statement, "The religion of the Lord Jesus Christ shall continue to be the established national religion of the Hawaiian Islands .'' After a brief takeover of the government by the British, the kingdom was restored on July 31, 1843 . Kamehameha III's speech was simple, but reflected the faith of the people. "The life of the land, is preserved in righteousness." The revival's effect in the Pacific was seen in that the native church became so strong it sent out its own missionaries. The Hawaiian Society of Foreign Missions was formed in 1850, with the desire to share the gospel with other nations. On July 15, 1852 , the first Hawaiian missionaries set sail for the Caroline Islands with a letter of greeting from King Kamehameha III to all the chiefs of the islands of the Pacific urging them to receive the missionaries kindly, and encouraged them to renounce their idols and worship the true and living God.

Although the revival had a powerful effect it waned. This was due to a number of items. First the nature of revival is that it is like a wave that breaks against the shore and draws back. There are seasons in God's working. Just as in the natural realm, there are seasons in the spiritual realm. There is a time for planting and a time of harvest. In spite of this, men of faith see the harvest when others do not. They precipitate the harvest through their vision, and through their perseverance continue to bring people to God even though others have ceased. Titus Coan is a good example of this for although the Great Awakening had passed, he continued through his efforts to see people added to the church, even seeing the gospel thrust into the Pacific through the purchase of ships to take missionaries to other island nations.

 Secondly, the revival waned not simply because of the nature of how God moved, but due to a number of other factors. Hawaii became inundated with other religious expressions. After a stormy beginning, the Catholics, under the protection of the French government, established its mission on a permanent basis in 1839. The Mormons arrived in the 1850's and the Episcopalians in the 1860's. Coupled with this change came the tremendous changes in population. The decline of the Hawaii population that had begun in the thirties escalated in the 50's through unbridled epidemics like smallpox and measles. With the rise of the sugar industry came the need for workers and large numbers of Chinese, then Japanese came into the islands bringing their own religious beliefs and customs. By the end of the century other groups had begun arriving in large numbers with each one bringing with them their own traditional-religious beliefs. One historical commentator interestingly saw the gold rush in California as another factor. His point was that the life-style of the population changed when money became the common medium of exchange.'" With it came a shifting of people's minds from the concerns of their soul to that of secular matters. Political changes was another factor which caused much confusion and in some cases resentment that hardened some to the gospel. Also, men like Titus Coan were a dying breed. He continued in his evangelistic fervor till he died, but others who followed him did not seem to have the same kind of commitment to the lost. By 1870 the American mission had closed its doors leaving the work to be carried on by the national church. The church in Hawaii had come of age, but there was a need for men of vision and without them the church settled into the task of simply maintaining the work. Help from missionaries' children who still lived in the islands was disappointing, as far as the Preaching of the gospel was concerned, since most chose to go into business and politics.  





(A brief mention in 'The Revival We Need, by Oswald J. Smith.' Chapter 2, 'The Outpouring Of The Spirit,')










In the year 1835 Titus Coan landed on the shore belt of Hawaii. On his first tour multitudes flocked to hear him. They thronged him so that he had scarcely time to eat. Once he preached three times before he had a chance to take breakfast. He felt that God was strangely at work.

In 1837 the slumbering fires broke out. Nearly the whole population became an audience. He was ministering to 15,000 people. Unable to reach them, they came to him, and settled down to a two years' camp meeting. There was not an hour day or night when an audience of from 2,000 to 6,000 would not rally to the signal of the bell.

There was trembling, weeping, sobbing, and loud crying for mercy, sometimes too loud for the preacher to be heard; and in hundreds of cases his hearers fell in a swoon. Some would cry out, "The two edged sword is cutting me to pieces." The wicked scoffer who came to make sport dropped like a dog, and cried, "God has struck me!" Once while preaching in the open field to 2,000 people, a man cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" and prayed the publican's prayer, and the entire congregation took up the cry for mercy. For half an hour Mr. Coan could get no chance to speak, but had to stand still and see God work.

Quarrels were made up, drunkards reclaimed, adulterers converted, and murderers revealed and pardoned. Thieves returned stolen property. And sins of a lifetime were renounced. In one year 5,244 joined the Church. There were 1,705 baptised on one Sunday. And 2,400 sat down at the Lord's table, once sinners of the blackest type, now saints of God. And when Mr. Coan left he had himself received and baptized 11,960 persons.




Taken from the introduction of Coan's book entitled ADVENTURES IN PATAGONIA

The writer of the following narrative is one of the most venerable of living missionaries, and a noble type of the "high caste" to which he belongs. With the strong religious conviction which comes from Puritan birth and training, with a faith that never doubts, and a zeal that inspires courage and devotion, he unites a practical turn of mind, a natural sagacity, and a quickness of adaptation to all vicissitudes of experience which may come to him in strange lands and among strange peoples--qualities which, combined, have made the American missionary a marked character in many parts of the world, and given him great success.

The Rev. Titus Coan is a native of New England, born in Killingworth, Conn., where his life began with the century, February 1st, 1801. He was the son of a farmer, and had no advantages but such as were afforded by the common schools. He developed a stalwart and rugged frame, and became noted for his physical strength. In manly sports he was an athlete, performing with ease the feat of lifting a barrel of flour to his shoulders. He joined a military company, in which his strength and courage gave him precedence, and he soon rose to be a captain. This military training was not lost upon him, and the endurance thus developed did him good service in the privations, hardships, and exposures of his after-life.

One could not live in Connecticut in those days without having his religious impressions and experiences. The famous evangelist, Asahel Nettleton, a native of Kiilingworth, was then setting New England aflame by his fervid eloquence. Wherever he went he was followed by crowds, to whom he preached with an earnestness and solemnity that filled them with awe. Young Coan was a cousin of Nettleton, and could not but be moved by the tide of religious feeling that swept over the country, though it was not till he had grown to manhood that lie took the decided stand implied in making a "profession" of his faith. When religion takes hold of a strong character, it takes the stamp of the man, and stands out pronounced and positive. One who had been the athlete of his native town, foremost among his comrades, was not likely to be afraid of letting them see the new stand that he had taken. Prompt and bold in everything he did, no sooner had he come out on the Lord's side, than he "wheeled into line" with the precision of a soldier, and taking Christ for his Captain, marched in the van under his great Leader.

Hardly had he taken this stand, before his thoughts turned to the profession of the ministry. He was then living in Western New York, near Rochester, and the nearness of Auburn Seminary offered him a place for theological study. Preparing himself with such opportunities as he had (without the delay of going through college), he entered the Seminary in the fall of 1831. Looking forward to his future career, he had already decided to (devote himself to the work of foreign missions, when the American Board (being assured by a sea captain lately returned from South America that a hopeful field might be found among the tribes of Patagonia) was looking around for a couple of intrepid soldiers of the Cross, to undertake an exploring expedition, and fixed upon young Coan, who had at once the physical strength and the fervent spirit. Reports were conflicting about the country and its people, and the expedition promised to be one of a good deal of adventure, if not of personal danger. It might be too much to say that the adventure and the danger were an attraction to the late captain of the militia but they certainly did not intimidate him. After due deliberation, taking counsel with his teachers, and with one whose voice might be more potent still, since she was to share his life and his fortunes in any quarter of the globe, he accepted the appointment, and with a fellow-student set out for the extreme point of the continent.

The following pages contain the narrative of his adventures in Patagonia, which were certainly full enough of excitement and of danger to satisfy the most ardent spirit. A few months' experience of the wild country and its untamable inhabitants showed him that the field was not so promising as he had been told, and he returned to the United States for further orders He then married, and accompanied by his bride, set sail for the Hawaiian Islands, which through the voyages of whaling ships had become somewhat known to the American public. There was then no overland route, nor short cut across the Isthmus of Panama. They took the long course around Cape Horn, and were just six months on the voyage, when they came in sight of the beautiful islands which were to be their home for the rest of their days Then began that long course of service which has few parallels in the annals of missionary life-- few in the display of fidelity and devotion, "enduring hardship as a good soldier," and fewer still in its marvellous successes. Cast almost like a shipwrecked voyager on a distant shore, among a strange people, with whom at first he could only communicate through signs or by an interpreter, he set himself at once to master the language, and so quickly did he catch the words and inflections, that in three months he preached his first sermon to the natives in their own tongue. In his intercourse with this simple people, of whom he sought to gain the affection and confidence, he showed a tact which was his birthright as a son of New England. He had a great deal of mother wit and natural shrewdness and pleasant humour, which gave a charm to his conversation even with these untutored children of nature, while his overflowing kindness soon opened to him the door of every native's hut and heart. Desiring only to do them good, he tried to aid them in every way. He was a little of a doctor, knowing the remedies for the more common diseases, and, having a chest of medicines, prescribed for the poor people who were suffering. Often the natives stood in great numbers on the porch of his dwelling, with dusky arms outstretched, waiting for vaccination, or for his lancet to open a vein, that by bleeding they might be relieved of a burning fever. He even performed graver surgical operations. Those who had domestics troubles of any kind--wives who had shiftless husbands, or husbands who had termagant wives--alike sought the counsel of Father Coan, who was the general peacemaker. Thus he seemed to unite in himself the duties of preacher, pastor, and magistrate, and to be at once the teacher, guide, and friend of the whole population.

Nor were his labours confined to the spot where he lived. He made missionary tours to other parts of the island, now sailing in a canoe along the coast, and landing at the different places where he had made appointments to preach, and now climbing the slopes, which ascend in a series of ridges towards the mountains which make the centre of the island. In these journeys he encountered every sort of hardship. The tropical rains often came down in floods, converting in a few hours a rocky gorge into a foaming torrent, which no boat could cross and no swimmer could stem. But here his ready contrivance did not desert him. Calling to the natives on the other bank to throw him a rope, such as they make of the bark of the hibiscus, he seized it with his strong hands, and tying it around his body, was dragged across.

Thus the fame of this man of God spread abroad, and wherever he went the people "thronged him."

When he could not go to them they came to him. From all parts of the island they flocked to Hilo. "Whole villages gathered from many miles away, and made their homes near the mission house. Within the radius of a mile the little cabins clustered thick as they could stand. Hilo, the village of ten hundred, saw its population suddenly swelled to ten thousand, and here was held, literally, a camp meeting of two years. At any hour of the day or night a tap of the bell would bring together a congregation of from three to six thousand. Meetings for prayer and preaching were held daily."

Congregations so vast and so long continued have not often been assembled since Apostolic times, and the Spirit came down upon them as on the day of Pentecost. The preacher himself was thrilled by the scene, and catching an inspiration from the thousands of eager eyes and listening ears, felt lifted up with a strange power. "There was a fire in his bones." Were the congregation ever so large and tumultuous, it hushed at the sound of his voice. He said: "I would rise before the restless, noisy crowd and begin. It wasn't long before I felt that I had got hold of them. There seemed to be a chord of electricity binding them to me. I knew that I had them, that they would not go away. The Spirit would hush them by the truth till they would sob and cry 'What shall we do?' and the noise of the weeping would be so great that I could not go on."

As the fruit of these remarkable scenes a large part of the population abandoned heathenism, and professed to be converted to the Christian faith, insomuch, that when they came to be baptized, the good man was obliged to perform the sacred rite for them en masse. Seizing a brush like an aspersarium, and passing to and fro among the crowded rows of the candidates, he sprinkled them by scores and hundreds, pronouncing over them the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Strange as it may seem to us, the service did not thereby lose any of its solemnity, but was rather more impressive from being done in this grand, majestic way, whereas on a smaller scale it might have lost by the endless repetition. By these immense additions the church at Hilo grew till it numbered over five thousand members, making the largest Protestant church in the world.

Mr. Coan and his wife remained on the islands thirty-five years before revisiting their native country. When they came back in 1870, they found another world than that which they had left. All things had become new. They had made their outward voyage in a small sailing vessel. They returned in a steamship. When they landed in San Francisco they had scarcely seen a railroad. Now they were whirled in fire-drawn cars up the mountains and over the plains, across the whole breadth of the continent. The fame of the missionary had gone before him, and wherever he came among the churches he was welcomed with an enthusiasm such as had not been manifested since the heroic Judson came back from Burmah, years before. When they visited New York they were guests in the house of the writer, where we were charmed alike by the intelligence, sprightliness, and animation of the veteran missionary, and the sweetness of her who had been his faithful companion during his long exile. It was then that, as we sat in the library, he talked freely, though very simply and modestly, of all the way in which God had led him. Among other things he related his early experiences in Patagonia, and it was perhaps in response to our suggestion and that of others that he prepared the narrative which follows.

They returned the following year, and when they reached the Islands were received by the natives with great demonstrations. Here was to be their home for the rest of their days. Two years after the wife and mother died, while the father still lives in his eightieth year--a hale and hearty old man, happy in the recollection of the past, happy in the good which he has done to the people to whom he has given his life, and happy in their tender and affectionate veneration. He cannot be expected to continue long. In a few more years he will be laid beside her whom he so much loved. Though they sleep far from their native land, it is not unmeet that they should be laid to rest in the island for which they had done so much; on those beautiful shores where the waters of the Pacific come rippling and murmuring up the beach. Nor will their memory depart. As long as the generation that knew them shall remain, the simple natives will often visit their graves, and recall their virtues with tears of love and gratitude.


NEW YORK, March, 1880


Introduction  Henry Obookiah      

The purpose of this introduction is to give you some background information and insight into how the Memoirs came about. In the eighteen-hundreds few Christian movements or endeavors brought more people to Christ than "The Memoirs of Henry Obookiah".  

The Memoirs changed the way the white man thought about the dark man, and the way the dark man thought about God. Civilized people thought the "heathen" could not learn or understand the God of the Bible. But then they met Henry Obookiah, a brown man from a "heathen" land, who could out-think, out-spell, and out-read most of the civilized folks he met.Henry Obookiah was not a proud man but humble and always presenting himself as a Christian. He was the first Hawaiian to become a Christian. His actual name in Hawai'ian is Opukaha'ia which means "stomach split open." We can only speculate as to the reason for such a name. Perhaps a chief's wife had a child born by Caeserean section and Opukaha'ia was given that name to commemorate the event.

 The ship captain probably gave him the name of Henry. It was a practice to give Hawai'ians English names, as they were easier for the white people to pronounce and remember. The New Englanders gave Henry the name Obookiah as it was the way his original name sounded to them. In his letters and other documents, he signed his name as Henry Obookiah.  

After he arrived in New England , Henry was found by Edwin Dwight weeping while sitting on the steps of Yale college. He was crying because he had no one to teach him. Edwin was so moved by Henry that he began teaching him how to read and write. Later he introduced him to his father Timothy Dwight who was the president of Yale collage. And so Henry's education began on the steps of Yale. Henry was an exceptional scholar. He translated the Book of Genesis from Hebrew into Hawai'ian, and was also working on a Hawai'ian dictionary, grammar, and spelling book shortly before his death.

 Henry was a powerful evangelist in the New England area. He inspired and touched hundreds of individuals. He awakened them to the need of sending missionaries to Hawai'i . Large sums of money were donated for the Hawai'ian mission because of Henry's speeches and sermons. It is safe to say that the Foreign Mission Society received much of it's funding because of Henry's anointed sermons.  

Everyone assumed that Henry was chosen to be the one to bring the Kingdom of Hawai'i to Christianity. But alas on February 17th,1818 at the age of 26 Henry died and so did the hope of evangelizing Hawai'i . At Henry's funeral, Lyman Beecher said in his sermon:

 "We thought surely this is he who shall comfort Owhyhee ( Hawai'i ) We bury with his dust in the grave all our high raised hopes of his future activity in the cause of Christ."  

The Christian community was so devastated by this Hawai'ian man's death . . . one who they loved so dearly . . . that they deeply etched these words into his tombstone:

IN Memory of HENRY OBOOKIAH  a native of  OWHYHEE.

 His arrival in this country gave rise to the Foreign mission school, of which he was a worthy member.he was once an Idolater, and wasdesigned for a Pegan Priest: but by the grace of God and by the prayers and instructions of pious friends, he became a Christian. He was eminent for piety and missionary Zeal. When almost prepared to return to his native Isle to preach the Gospel, God took to himself. In his last sickness, he wept and prayed for Owhyhee, but was submissive. He died without fear with a heavenly smile on his countenance and glory in his soul.

  Feb, 17, 1818 ; aged 26  

As the voice of Abel's blood cried to God from the earth, so was the death of Obookiah crying to God for Hawai'i . Shortly after Henry's death, Edwin Dwight, Henry's friend and teacher was now to become his biographer. He began by collecting letters that Henry had written and other biographical information from Henry's many friends. Just a few months after his death, the "Memoirs of Henry Obookiah" was published.  

The book was a best seller that touched the heart of a nation. Farms were sold and the money donated to the Foreign Mission School which would not have existed if not for Henry. This large influx of funding to the Mission School was able to send missionaries to many nations. The Memoirs were eventually published in three languages. Woman and men solicited for marriage so that they may be considered to be sent as missionaries to Hawai'i and other lands. All of the first company of missionaries to Hawai'i were inspired to leave their comfortable lives in New England for a life in Hawai'i . And so the dream, the cry, of Henry Obookiah became the dream of thousands.

 C. Scott Berg


Henry Opukaha'ia

The Youth Who Changed Hawai'i

by Betty Fullard-Leo

 Henry Opukaha'ia was only 26 years old in 1818 when he died of typhoid fever in Cornwell , Connecticut , but because of a slim volume he wrote about his life, his feelings, and his philosophies that was published after his death, the destiny of Hawai'i was forever changed.

 Few details are known about Opukaha'ia's early life, though most historians believe he was born about 1792 in Ka'u at Ninole near Punalu'u on the Big Island . From Opukaha'ia's own account, written much later, both of his parents were killed during a war made after the old king died, to see who should be the greatest among them. Opukaha'ia, who is thought to have been ten or 12 at the time, fled from the rampaging warriors carrying his infant brother on his back. A spear thrown by one of the soldiers found its mark, and the baby brother was killed. Opukaha'ia survived, but the same soldier who had killed his parents became his guardian for the next year and a half.

 During this time, Opukaha'ia discovered that a kahuna at a nearby temple was his uncle, so he was allowed to go to live with his grandmother and this uncle. While he was visiting an aunt in a nearby village, soldiers came to take her prisoner for some infraction of the kapu system, but Opukaha'ia once again survived by escaping through a hole in the grass hale (house). While he watched, a soldier threw this aunt over a pali (cliff) to her death. Opukaha'ia returned to the home of his uncle at Napo'opo'o where he was schooled in the rituals of the priesthood, so eventually he could take his uncle's place as a kahuna at Hiki'au Heiau, the same heiau where Captain James Cook had met his demise two decades earlier in 1779.

 In his memoir Opukaha'ia wrote, ...I began to think about leaving that country to go to some other part of the world... probably I may find some comfort, more than to live there without father or mother.

 As soon as the sailing ship Triumph anchored in Kealakekua Bay , he went on board. Captain Brintnall invited another young Hawaiian boy named Hopo'o, along with Opukaha'ia, who spoke no English, to stay for dinner and to spend the night on board ship. The next day, it was arranged that the two boys would sail with the ship. Opukaha'ia was 16 years old.

 The sailors called Opukaha'ia Henry, and spelled his last name the way they pronounced it, Obookiah. During the next two years, Opukaha'ia sailed on the Triumph to the Seal Islands (situated between Alaska and Japan ), back to Hawai'i , to Macao , and around the Cape of Good Hope , landing in New York in 1809. On board he developed a friendship with a Christian sailor named Russell Hubbard, who began teaching Opukaha'ia how to read and write, often using the bible as a primer.

 When the ship was sold in New York , a merchant invited Opukaha'ia and Hopo'o home for dinner. The boys were astounded at the number of rooms in the house and by the fact that cooking was done indoors, but they found it even harder to believe that women sat at the same table and ate with men, and the gods did not harm them. In Hawai'i , the old kapu (taboos) were still observed; women could not eat with men.

 Opukaha'ia continued his studies while he lived with Captain Brintnall and his family in New Haven , Connecticut , but it wasn't until he met a man named Edwin Dwight, a student at Yale College who became his teacher, that he made real progress. Certain English sounds proved especially difficult-r was often used in place of l for example. Years later, in the writings of early missionaries, words such as Honolulu and Kilauea were written Honoruru and Kirauea.

 With his new reading skills, came a new view of religion. As Opukaha'ia began to believe in a Christian God, he compared Hawaiians' worship of gods represented by wooden idols. He said, Hawai'i gods. They wood-burn. Me go home, put 'em in fire, burn 'em up. They no see, no hear, no anything. On a more profound note he added, We make them (idols). Our God-he make us. His new faith was further ingrained when he lived for a time with the family of the president of Yale College , who, as he put it, was a praying family morning and evening.

 During the spring, summer and early fall, Opukaha'ia moved from farm to farm around Torringford and Litchfield, Connecticut and Hollis, New Hampshire, planting, harvesting and always studying. The church communities of Litchfield encouraged him, and by 1814, in addition to speaking publicly, he began to translate the bible into Hawaiian and to start compiling a dictionary/grammar book in the Hawaiian language. People in Connecticut had begun to talk of sending missionaries to foreign countries-Hawai'i, in particular, as several young native Christians (like Opukaha'ia) would be able to pave the way. Opukaha'ia continued to fill his inquisitive mind with knowledge at Yale College . Not only did he undertake Latin, Hebrew, geometry and geography, he improved his English by writing the story of his life in a book called Memoirs of Henry Obookiah. By 1815, he had finished writing his personal history and had begun to keep a diary that detailed his feelings about his faith.  

By 1817, a dozen students, six of them Hawaiians, were training at the Foreign Mission School to become missionaries to teach the Christian faith to people around the world.

 But the following year, Opukaha'ia fell sick. A physician, Doctor Calhoun, quickly diagnosed his illness as typhus fever. Though treatment seemed at first to help, Opukaha'ia continued to get weaker and weaker, and he died on February 17, 1818 . Attendants noted a heavenly smile on his face. He was 26 years old. Among his last words were Alloah o e-translated in his memoirs as My love be with you.

 The little book about his life was printed and circulated after his death. It inspired 14 missionaries to volunteer to carry his message to the Sandwich Islands . Of those who sailed on the Thaddeus on October 23, 1819 , only Samuel Ruggles had met Opukaha'ia face-to-face. The work Opukaha'ia did on translating the bible and recording the Hawaiian language in a grammar/dictionary/spelling book, paved the way for the missionaries to print the first Hawaiian primer and bible stories in the Hawaiian language.

 Opukaha'ia's body was buried in a hillside cemetery in Cornwall , Connecticut , where it remained for 185 years. In 1993, a group of his descendants, spearheaded by Deborah Lee, brought the body home to the Big Island . The remains were reinterred at Kahikolu Cemetery in Napo'opo'o, near Kealakekua Bay in South Kona . A plaque marks the spot, cared for by Ka 'Ohe Ola Hou, a group formed to perpetuate the achievements of the devout young man who is believed to be the first Hawaiian convert to Christianity-a young man whose zeal was the reason the first missionaries came to Hawai'i in 1820.

                                                            THE HENRY OPUKAHA'IA COLLECTION


The text of the 1818 first edition of The Memoirs of Henry Obookiah, published in Hartford, Connecticut

First Section  Second Section

A collection of published accounts from the 19th century describing Opukaha段a痴 influence on the American Protestant missionary movement

Information about the plans of Ka 前he Ola Hou, an organization based in Hilo, Hawai段 working to perpetuate the memory and legacy of Opukaha段a, holding him up as a positive role model for the people of Hawai段.

An updated overview of Opukaha段a痴 life by Chris Cook, which was first distributed in Kailua-Kona in 1993 during events marking the return of his remains to Hawai段.

Mark Twain痴 description of being emotionally moved while studying the life of Opukaha段a in Sunday school.

An account of the death of Captain Cook told by Opukaha段a to his roommate 

in a Bradford, Massachusetts boarding house.



The most accessible source of information about Opukaha'ia is an edited edition of The Memoirs of Henry Obookiah published in 1968 by the Women' Board of Missions for the Pacific Islands, the Hawaii Conference, the United Church of Christ, Honolulu. That edition commemorated the 150th anniversary of Opukaha段a's death. Additonal text by Albertine Loomis and Edith Wolfe, chapter notes and a number of photographs enhance the text.

Thanks to the efforts of the Lee family and the supporters of their organization Ahuhui O Opukaha'ia, Henry's remains were removed in the summer of 1993 from his burial site in Cornwall, Connecticut. Following a series of services in Honolulu and the Island of Hawai'i, his remains were interred at the peaceful churchyard of the Kahikolu Congregational Church in Kepulu (Napo'opo'o) overlooking Kealakekua Bay in the Kona District, Island of Hawai'i. That year the issue of Sovereignty for the Hawaiian people was a major topic, and the return of his remains was a timely reminder of the work of God in and through the Native Hawaiian people. In 1994, the 176th anniversary of Henry's death in Cornwall in 1818 from typhus fever was marked at the Kahikolu Church with the dedication of a new headstone and raised platform at his grave site. The service coincided with the first Christian Heritage Week in Hawai'i.

Third Edition - Hawai段 Statehood Edition 2009
First Edition Released February, 1994 on the occasion of  Hawai段's First Christian Heritage Week
Second Edition Released 2006, for Hawai段痴 Christian Heritage Week





By C. Scott Berg

Isolated by time and space, alone and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean for thousands of miles in all directions lies Hawaii , the outermost part of the world. Captain James Cook did not discover Hawaii until January 18th, 1778 , 286 years after the discovery of America . Cook took a year exploring the Islands laying in provisions and making ships repairs. Unfortunately, Cook and his crew wore out there welcome and on February 14th in a skirmish at Kealakekua Bay Cook was killed. Captain Clerke the second in command of the mission wanted to smooth things over with the Hawaiian's and make peace with the chiefs. A few more skirmishes occurred but on the 21st of February 1779 the Hawaiians returned some of Captain Cook's bones and there was peace. No other ships came to Hawaii until 1786.

The fur traders and merchant ships heading to China realized they could economically barter for provisions in Hawaii . For instance any type of iron, a common nail, chisel, or knife, could fetch far more fresh fruit meat and water than a large sum of money would in any other port. The Hawaiian alii (royalty) and chiefs were eager to obtain modern weapons and rewarded those captains who supplied them handsomely. The captains of these ships not only sought food and supplies, but manpower. As it was a frequent occurrence for sailors to die or desert on these voyages good willing sailors were hard to find. The strong adventurous Hawaiians were more than up to the task of sailing on these tall ships.

Five of these adventurous Hawaiian sailors Henry Obookiah, Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honolii, and George Tamoree made it to New England were they became Christians. These young men leading very exciting and adventurous lives separately all found The Lord Jesus in there own unique way. Their desire was to return to Hawaii as missionaries. They came from Hawaii were The Kapu religious system demanded human sacrifice for the breaking of a tabu. If men and women ate together, the penalty was death. If a woman ate pork or certain fish or fruits the penalty was death. If the shadow of a commoner fell on an alii or chief the penalty was death. The Hawaiian gods were hard taskmasters demanding all manner of sacrifice and offerings. The Kapu system was enforced by the alii who gave authority to high chiefs and the high chiefs gave power to their various sub-chiefs and at the bottom of the system was the common Hawaiian. All of the commoners were slaves to the chiefs and the chiefs were slaves to the alii. You owned nothing except by the graces of your superior.

The chiefs and alii were constantly fighting for power. From these warring chiefs arose Kamehameha The Great. Through intelligence, strength and some help from the English and their guns, conquered and united all of the Islands ( Kauai was not conquered but did submit to Kamehameha's rule) to became their King.

In one of these battles for power between two warring chiefs, Henry Obookiah at the age of about twelve helplessly watched his parents being butchered before his eyes. Henry escaped with his infant brother, but as he was running with his brother slung over his back the child was struck with a spear and died. Henry was then forced to live with the man who killed his mother and father. After that, it appeared he would be sacrificed to a god for the other prisoner with him had just been thrown over a cliff as a sacrifice. Being alert to the peril he took a chance and escaped. Shortly after an uncle rescued him.


Life in Hawaii had not been good to Henry and when he saw that tall ship, the Triumph in Kealakekua Bay he swam out to it, with all the hopes and desires of leaving Hawaii for a better life. Captain Caleb Brintnall through interpreters realized Henry wanted to leave Hawaii on his ship. Henry now about fifteen years old was signed on as a cabin boy. Henry met Thomas Hopu another Hawaiian boy in search of adventure on the ship. Both Henry and Thomas would become original members of the American Board Mission to Hawaii ; though only one would return to Hawaii . As fate would have it at the age of 26 in Cornwall Connecticut , Henry would succumb to the typhus fever on February 17th, 1818 . Henry's testimony was published and became a best seller. The profits of the book "Memoirs of Henry Obookiah" were used to finance the missionary journeys to Hawaii and other lands.

Inspired and encouraged by the dramatic testimony and conversion of Henry Obookiah the first missionaries sailed for Hawaii , on October 23rd, 1819 aboard the Thaddeus. The Missionaries sold all that they possessed, farms, homes, and their future in America . They made a solemn commitment to God and each other to spend the rest of their lives serving the Hawaiian people. Yet, they knew all to well that they needed the approval of King Kamehameha and that the Kapu Priests would not welcome their presence. On the morning of March 30th, 1820 the missionaries saw Hawaii for the first time. The Thaddeus cruised along the Kohala coast on a southwest course nearing Kawaihae. The wind and water became calm so Captain Blanchard sent a small rowboat with James Hunnewell a ships officer, Thomas Hopu and John Honolii two of the Hawaiian Missionaries ashore. Their task was to find out the whereabouts of King Kamehameha and the state of his Kingdom. One disapproving word from the King and the mission would be over before it had begun. Minutes passed like hours as they watched for the boats return. Finally three hours, an eternity, later the boat returned. Thomas and John were so excited they could only speak in Hawaiian, then James Hunnewell spoke up with these incredible words:

"Kamehameha is dead; his son Liholiho is king; the tabus and kapus are abolished; the images are burned; the temples are destroyed. There has been war. Now there is peace."

It was obvious to the missionaries that God had prepared the way for them. The great Hawaiian miracle had taken place all of the obstacles that could have prevented the Gospel from being preached had been removed. Even Hewahewa the highest kahuna (priest) and direct descendant of Paau, the original Kahuna from Tahiti , was the first to set fire to a heiau (temple). He declared:

"I knew the wooden images of deities, carved by our own hands, could not supply our wants, but worshiped them because it was a custom of our fathers. My thoughts has always been, there is only one great God, dwelling in the heavens." Hewahewa also prophesied that a new God was coming and he went to Kawaihae to wait for the new God, at the very spot were the missionaries first landed.

King Kamehameh died five months before the missionaries sailed but they had no knowledge of his death before their departure. In less than the span of one year from his death, and as the missionaries were at sea, the Kapu system had been dissolved, and a civil war had taken place. Only the creator of the universe, Jehovah, could have scripted these timely events. In the midst of this chaos, the stage is divinely set for the entrance of the missionaries with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The missionaries brought a message of peace, tranquility, and Aloha

I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands. Isaiah 42:8-12

Studio portrait Lihu'e Village, Kaua'i, 1887 Kealakekua Bay with Captain Cook's Monument, Hawai'i Island The Queen's Guard and Barracks, Honolulu, 1892

Flower and lei vendors Pu'ukohola Heiau, Hawai'i Island Our Lady of Peace Cathedral, Honolulu, late 1880s Lava flow, Mauna Loa, Hawai'i Island, 1881

Kawaiaha'o Church, Honolulu Picknickers at the top of Nu'uanu Pali, O'ahu, late 1890s Mahukona Railroad and Train, Hawai'i Island, 1882 'Iolani Palace, Honolulu, early 1880s

The photographs reproduced in the Hawaiian Historical Society 2003 calendar are from a collection of albumin prints by James J. Williams (18531926) acquired by the Society in May 2002. Williams was active as a photographer in Hawai'i from 1879 to 1926. He was one of many photographers who opened a studio or gallery in Honolulu . By 1890, approximately sixty photographers worked in the Islands , twenty in Honolulu . Copies of photographs are available for purchase as reproduction prints or scanned images.




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