CT: Maui Fires Burn Site Where Hawaiian Queen First Brought Christianity to the Island

Tragically, in addition to the human lives, homes, and businesses, there were many local churches in Lahaina Town that were lost to the flames — including the historic Waiola Church, Lahaina United Methodist Church, Grace Baptist Church, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church. Remarkably, Maria Lanakila Catholic Church is still standing.

Excerpt from Christianity Today: In Lahaina, local Christians grapple with the widespread damage. While the leaders of Lahaina Baptist Church were “amazed” to learn that their church was still standing—despite everything around it “literally in ashes”—all but two of their church families lost their homes. …

While Christians from all over have offered donations and prayers, it’s locals who understand the scope and significance of the loss, concentrated around the place where Christianity first came to Maui.

“It’s a historic town with a lot of cultural and historical significance for the Native Hawaiian people,” Rocky Komatsu, pastor of Waiehu Community Church, told Baptist Press, who compared the devastation to a war zone. “A lot of people talk about it as a tourist town, but it really is very important to the Native Hawaiian community.”

When Queen Keōpūolani—married to the ruler who united the Hawaiian islands, King Kamehameha—moved to Lahaina in 1823, she invited two American missionaries who brought the faith to the island. Americans William Richards and Charles Stewart taught Scripture to Keōpūolani and prayed with her, and she converted shortly before her death later that year.

After Honolulu, “Lahaina is home to the second-most complete complex of historic Hawaiian Christian sites in one place to be found in all of Hawaii,” said Chris Cook, an expert on Hawaiian missionary history. “The loss of all but the Lahainaluna sites leaves a major gap in the statewide census of intact Hawaii missionary-era (1820–1863) structures.”

Lahaina’s historic Waiola Church just celebrated its 200th anniversary. The church dates back to a service that Richards and Stewart organized in May 1823. Buried in its graveyard are members of Hawaii’s aliʻi, or royalty, including Queen Keōpūolani. Previously known as Waineʻe Church (Waineʻe means “moving water” in Hawaiian; Waioli means “water of life”), over the years, its building has been damaged or destroyed four other times by strong winds and fires, and the church hall was engulfed in flames in last week’s blaze.

“Buildings can be replaced, even though our church has an awful lot of history,” Anela Rosa, the church’s lay minister, told USA Today. “Our strength lies in our people, who are just as important, if not more.”

Read Morgan Lee’s complete report for Christianity Today HERE. Photo: Maui Landsat Photo.jpg




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