Monday, August 16, 2010

In the Gulch Part II

To read Part One of The Gulch Story, click here or simply scroll down this blogspot...

Jimmy appeared to have been the spearhead of the operation. He had unlocked the three gates along the long windy "road" that led us down into the gulch. So at lunch after perusing the plants and then hiking deeper into the gulch, conversations with Jimmy and the others began.

It was then that I began to discover that while Jimmy may have written the grants, it was Gladys and Kawika whose passion for the land and the people were driving this project. After much discussion (and after spending half an hour drinking water and napping in the car to fight off dehydration after the hike) I returned to conversation between Kawika and Jim, my Aunt's boyfriend. Jim is a networker, so I wasn't surprised to find him hard as work selling his next project to the workers of Lana'i. But as it turned out, he and Kawika actually knew one another from a project they'd both worked on 20 years earlier on Oahu.

Kawika has a worker's hands, covered in callouses and dirt, similar to his feet which were bare. Additionally, his face is sun-worn and there is a tattoo or perhaps a tattoo covered by another tattoo next to his right eye. I guess for this reason I had dismissed him as a sort of contract laborer instead of the passion behind the project that I came to discover.

Kawika and Gladys work with troubled children on both Oahu and Lana'i. The teenager, I eventually learned, was one such student who, having been taking under Gladys and Kawika's wing, had met this community of people and found them to be family. That's how mama and dad got their names. I can't remember their given names but mama and dad was the name the teenager had given them. They with their three chiuauas worked hard on the land alongside Jimmy, Kawika and Glenda.

In addition to their work with under-priviledged students, Kawika and Gladys devoted their time to rescuing this gulch, to re-claiming it for the Hawaiian people. Gladys teaches hula (fun!) and even goes to Mexico several times a year to teach workshops there. In addition she speaks the native Hawaiin language, or rather dialect, of the people who lived in the gulch.

These people were amazing. They were not rich financially, but they were rich in vision, in compassion and in devotion. They saw a need and they sought to meet it. My dad said if he'd had the money he would have written them a check on the spot. I began envisioning a mission trip here. Learn about the ancient hawaiian civilization... plant crops... talk with these amazing people... work with students...

People joked while members of my staff and I were gone about "suffering for Jesus in Hawaii" and while we weren't on a mission trip (rather attending an inspirational conference called the Baptist World Alliance), there is work to be done even in beautiful, magnificent places. Want to know the number one missionaries to the Hawaiian islands? Mormons. 2/3 people I met on Lana'i were Mormons. Mormons run the island's stable and horse farm. Mormons walk to church on Saturday (when mom and i were trying to find a yoga class) and even Jimmy's wife (who arrived later) was a Baptist who converted to Mormonism and now teaches at the BYU extension campus on Hawaii.

After spending a day with these people, with Jimmy, Kawika and Gladys, the teenager, Mama and Dad (in addition to myself, my mom and dad, aunt glo and jim), we gathered in a circle and having learned that day that I was a minister, they asked me to pray a blessing over them. So I did. And out of all the times I was asked to pray in Hawaii (mostly by people nervous about us being baptists and wanting to be polite so as not to offend us), this was the one time I was happy to comply. I prayed for them and over them and I blessed them in the best way I knew how and as the prayer closed as we began hugging one another and saying goodbye, I saw that the teenager was crying.

Maybe there is need for Mission in Hawaii... maybe we need only join in.

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