THE REV. HENRY HO‘OMANAWANUI preached a sermon at the graves of the family of Charles Titcomb, the founder of Kilauea Plantation, nearby Kilauea School in the mid-1980s. A gathering at the graves sought to protect them from disappearing, from being dislocated. (photo by Chris Cook)
The Rev. Henry Ho‘omanawanui – Independent Evangelist
(from special Ke Aka -Year of the Hawaiian issue published in The Garden Island newspaper, Lihu‘e, Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i in March, 1987.)
by Chris Cook
Rev. Henry T. Ho‘omanawanui’s bloodlines ran back to Kaua‘i’s King Kaumuali‘i. The late Nawiliwili resident, who died recently at the age of 74, was a familiar figure at land blessings and other Hawaiian gatherings on Kaua‘i in recent years.
In the weeks before his death, Rev. Ho‘omanawanui related stories about his life, the life of his ancestors, and the coming of Christianity to Hawai‘i.
Rev. Ho‘omanawanui, who labored as an evangelist rather than as a pastor, said he would visit sick Hawaiians, offer personal help to those in need, help people with prayer, and daily walk out his evangelistic mission to Hawaiians and other peoples of Kaua‘i.
Born on the Big Island at Ke‘ei, Kona on Jan. 20, 1913, Ho‘omanawanui was almost 40 old before he became a devoted Christian and began his ministry.
That occurred in 1951 at a Pentecostal meeting at the now long-gone Civic Auditorium on Beretania St. in Honolulu, at a time he was suffering from a number of respiratory diseases.
“I received the Word of God, and turned my life over to Him; the Lord called upon me then,” he said. He studied under Rev. Kahale at the Kawaiha‘o Church in Honolulu and joined the evangelistic “fishermen’s group” at the church.
His first duties as a minister took him to rural Waikane Valley, on O‘ahu’s Windward side, where he spent three months “building a church back up.” Following that, he labored in the ministry at seven other churches on O‘ahu.
Ho‘omanawanui also worked as a stevedore on the docks of Honolulu for 26 years, working for Castle & Cooke, and Hamilton and Renney, before retiring in 1973. He and his wife, Kealoha Davis Ho‘omanawanui, moved to Kaua‘i in 1976. Rev. Ho‘omanawanui was then associated with the late Rev. Elinor Wong and the Church of the Living God.
Following a stint with the Kapa‘a-based branch Church of the Living God, Ho‘omanawanui worked as an independent evangelist.
Looking back at his ancestors and Hawai‘i’s past, Ho‘omanaanui offered insights into the spiritual path Hawaiians have followed since their Polynesian ancestors began their centuries-long trek from Southeast Asia to the islands of the Pacific.
He said all peoples were once under the “one, true God,” but people began to separate and believe in different gods, becoming disobedient to the true God by worshiping idols, and the created, not the Creator.
This disobedience resulted in the building of the Tower of Babel as described in the Bible, he said.
Ho‘omanawanui said that in order to stop early man’s attempt to take over the heavens and the earth, God confused the one language all peoples then spoke.
“All people were disbursed throughout the Earth and the one language they spoke was confused, and changed into many tongues, and the world‘s many races were formed,” he said.
He also claimed that the Hawaiians’ roots are found in the Bible, and that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel.
The elderly Hawaiian minister said the kings of Hawai‘i were related to Jacob, son of the biblical patriarch Abraham, because according to the Bible, all kings come from the womb of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
He compared the wandering of the Polynesians from the Holy Land to the East, and on to the Pacific Islands, to the wandering of the Hebrews in the desert under the leadership of Moses. Prophets guided the Hawaiians during their generations-long journey, in the same way Moses led the Hebrews out of their bondage in Egypt, he said.
The man who was perhaps the first Hawaiian – Hawai‘i Loa brought his people to Hawai‘i in a manner similar to Moses, Ho‘omanawanui said.
He said this Polynesian discoverer of Hawai‘i, returned to his homeland, located “in the East” after discovering the Islands, and later returned with his family.
After returning, he said, Hawai‘i Loa named every mountain in the Hawaiian Islands after his children, from Kaua‘i’s Wai‘ale‘ale to the Big Island’s Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
Ho‘omanawanui said the ability to read stars that navigators aboard the voyaging canoes used to sail to Hawai‘i was a skill similar to a gift the magi, or wisemen, of the Bible had when they were led by a star to the birthplace of the infant Christ child.
He said, as generations passed, the beliefs of the first settlers of Hawai‘i were added to, idols became objects of worship and the belief in only one God became obscured, covered over by beliefs in a large number of gods.
However, Ho‘omanawanui said, within the ancient Hawaiian religion a Christian-like belief in a trinity continued.
“The Hawaiian gods – Kane, Hina and Kanaloa – were the same as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that the “missionaries taught about,” he said.
The New England missionaries.came to Hawai‘i because of the Hawaiian Henry ‘Ōpūkah‘ia who fled a vengeful uncle, and ended up attending a mission school in Connecticut, he said.
He said the Big Island youth who was known as Obookiah in New England, was a relative of his, and a member of the Kamehameha family line.
‘Ōpūkah‘ia’s speeches to churches in New England inspired members of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to send missionaries to Hawai‘i beginning in 1820.
He died at the school before he could return to his homeland, and is buried in Cornwall, Connecticut.
He said just as Hawaiian prophets foresaw the settling of the Hawaiian islands, they also knew beforehand that Christian missionaries were coming to Hawai‘i to tell of the “one true God of the Bible.”
Ho‘omanawanui said an account of such a prophecy was told to him by his grandfather: The event occurred during the time of Kamehameha the Great, to an ali‘i who lived along the beach near Kona on the Big Island:
The ali‘i put a kapu on his village’s main heiau, in preparation for fishing the waters off Kona.
Several large fish were sacrificed on the altar of the temple, and a kapu with a death penalty was placed on the heiau.
When the men set off to fish, two of the ali‘i’s grandsons went into the temple and desecrated it.
Upon discovering what had happened. the ali‘i sorrowfully ordered warriors to hunt the boys down. However, the boys could not be found.
For five days the youths hid in a cave outside the village, miraculously existing without food and water and undetected by the warriors.
On the last day of the boy’s exile. the ali‘i had a prophetic dream, which he asked the priest of the village who served as a prophet to interpret.
The ali‘i told the prophet that he had dreamt of a white child floating in the pastel-colored clouds of a dawn along the Kona coast.
The prophet said the child foretold of the coming of a new revelation of the one true God, who would be revealed to the Hawaiians through the teachings of a white-skinned man. The ali‘i found peace after the prophecy was declared, and said his grandsons could live.
Anticipating the new revelation, the ali‘i destroyed the idols he worshiped, and ended the practice of the old Hawaiian religion in his village.
The young boys returned that day, and within the year missionaries arrived, telling of Jesus, a white-skinned man.
Ho‘omanawanui said the cause of the loss of the land by the Hawaiians is their turning away from the true God.
“The Hawaiians have been disobedient, like the lsraelities. However, I believe if we can put our heads together and worship the true God He will open the way. Only God is able to do that.”