Chris Bruno is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author ("The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses", "The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words", "Biblical Theology according to the Apostles: How the Earliest Christians Told the Story of the Old Testament", etc.) and teacher who desires to give his life to helping others see the centrality of Jesus in all the Scriptures for the glory of God. He has served at Trinity Christian School in Kailua, HI. Before that, he was pastor of discipleship and training at Harbor Church in Honolulu, HI. He is currently Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is transitioning back to Hawaii where he will be launching, with Training Leaders International, and act as director of the Bethlehem College & Seminary the Oahu Extension Bachelors and Masters degree programs. With a love for Biblical Theology Dr Bruno seeks to invest in pastoral training, on-going equipping, and mobilization to the nations in and from Hawaii.
200 years ago the first Christian missionaries arrived in the Kingdom of Hawaii. There remains a great heritage and legacy of faith in the islands (as well as, sadly, no small residual pain from deplorable acts). There’s a great need for the kānaka ʻōiwi to return to the ancient faith. Dr. Chris Bruno and his ohana, along with others faithful saints, are resolved to proclaim the compelling truth of the grand story of God in the islands and across the Pacific. He hopes Christians will see from our “Biblical Theological” Bible readings, how all cultures and peoples of God’s good earth find their own stories woven into this great single story captured in the 66 books of the Bible. Join us as Dr. Bruno points us to what a faithful reading of the Old Testament, and the rest of the Bible, looks like and results in – one that is not just a mere nugget of inspirational truth gleaned here and there, but a cohesive understanding that results in a right view of reality and truly connects us to the creation and culture, Aloha ʻĀina (that pronounced “it is good”), the people of Isreal, Hawaii and all sons and daughters of Adam in that lush garden, and how everything joyously climaxes in Jesus Christ.
RESOURCES/OTHER(Please comment below if want to include any others):
To follow the ministry of, and stay updated on, Chris Bruno and the ministry in Hawaii please go to www.ChrisBruno.net
If you are stirred, or are willing, please pray with us for the Hawaiian islands, the Brunos and the laborers and ministries listed above each Thursday
GET YOUR TISSUES OUT AND LIFT UP A PRAISE WITH CHURCHES ACROSS THE KINGDOM OF HAWAII:
Chircken skin time! A gift from the Churches of Hawai‘i, The Hawai‘i Blessing was recorded during the first week of May 2020 by worship leaders from 25 churches across all 6 major islands of Hawai‘i. During this time of sheltering-in-place, isolation and uncertainty about the future, we could all use a blessing and a sense of togetherness. In Hawai‘i, we call that ‘ohana – family.
THE BRUNO OHANA
FOR A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF CHIRSTIANITY IN HAWAII (Taken from a commemorative Bible marking the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the missionaries)
“When I heard the word of Jesus, when it reached my ear from afar, it was a soothing refreshment to my heart, saying, ‘Come unto me all ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ And again his voice called out, ‘Let him who is thirsty come and drink the water that gives life.’ I, therefore, arose and went to lie down in the shadow of his feet with great trembling…”
—Queen Kaahumanu of the Kingdom of Hawaii, 1831
With those words, invoking that part of John 4:14 proclaiming “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” Queen Kaahumanu describes how the Word of Jesus, the Living Water, crossed eighteen centuries and the Pacific Ocean, the greatest of earthly waters, to reach not only Kaahumanu but countless other Hawaiians as it touched off a spiritual renaissance. In sharing her moment of Grace, she shows that Hawaii’s reception of the Gospel was not (as is sometimes portrayed) an external event driven by colonization and the gun. Rather, it was sanctioned by the Hawaiian chiefs and opened a door to an authentic and indigenously-driven awakening. Missionaries, including Hawaiians, may have brought the spark, but Hawaii’s people built the fire.
In 2020, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of those missionaries’ arrival in Hawaii. The Bible you hold is one of 8,000 printed in commemoration of that extraordinary event. Though Salvation through God’s grace comes to us all in the same way, every journey to Christ is unique, and each mission has its own miraculous and inspiring tale to tell. The missionaries and native Hawaiians who brought Christ to the islands are no exception, this is their story.
Kapu System: The Rise and Fall
Centuries ago, Paao a priest from southern Polynesia, arrived in the islands bringing with him the original elements of the Kapu system (meaning “taboo” or “forbidden”) —an intertwined social system of cultural values, behavioral codes, and religious beliefs. While the Kapu system had constructive aspects, such as carefully managing fishing and other resources preventing the kind of environmental disasters that befell other island civilizations, it resulted in a caste system granting absolute authority to some over those beneath them and was, therefore, susceptible to all the abuses occurring whenever absolute power and temptation coincide. It also instituted human sacrifice and mandated harsh punishments for various offenses; such as killing a commoner who touched the hair or fingernails of a royal or noble alii nui.
The Kapu system dominated the Islands for more than half a millennium, continuing through the reign of Kamehameha the Great. Initially, the conqueror of Hawaii Island, Kamehameha the Great unified the windward islands of the archipelago, first through conquest, then by statesmanship, and finally by establishing a unified administration and economy. At the death of Kamehameha, two of his widows were among the first to work to loosen the grips of the Kapu system. They supported the heir, Kamehameha II (named Liholiho), and encouraged him to oppose the Kapu system. Kamehameha the Great’s favorite wife, Queen Kaahumanu, later embraced Christ and went on as Kuhina Nui (Queen Regent) to rule jointly with Kamehameha II over the Kingdom of Hawaii.
The Kapu system forbade men and women to eat together. However, in October of 1819 at a great feast at Kamakahonu in Kailua, Kamehameha II went among the women and ate with them, signifying that the time of the Kapu system was at an end. That act calls to mind how Christ demonstrated the unity and equality of all before God by going among men and women, breaking bread with the high and low alike, performing miracles at the feeding of the multitude and the wedding at Cana.
Kamehameha II sent an edict throughout the islands that the Kapu was at an end. This resulted in the abandonment of most heiau (sites for religious rites). Standing at the King’s side and supporting the desecration of the heiau was Hewahewa, High Priest since the reign of Kamehameha the Great and a direct descendant of Paao, the foreign priest who brought the strict Kapu to Hawaii. The debate continues regarding why the alii nui chose to end the Kapu system. Exposure to ways of the foreigners who paid no attention to the Kapu system, caused many Hawaiians, alii and commoners alike, to question the Kapu system. On a more pragmatic level, alii nui may have decided the Kapu system was inadequate for building the kind of strong, modern state necessary for Hawaii to survive the colonial impulses then sweeping the world. Contrary to the notions of some, it is clear that whatever the motivations, the Kapu system was abolished before the arrival of Christianity, and it was Hawaiians themselves who ended it. Providence delivered both a unified Hawaii and a religious vacuum in the Islands before the arrival of American and Hawaiian missionaries from Boston.
The Story of Opukahaia
The Great Commission given by Jesus is that the Gospel be spread to all lands and peoples. The Good News would have reached the Islands one way or another. But specifics matter, and, as it happened, Christianity’s arrival in Hawaii dovetails with the story of one man. During the time of Kamehameha the Great, a young boy named Opukahaia (anglicized “Henry Obookiah”) lived in Kau on Hawaii Island. In the battle Ninole, Opukahaia’s family was murdered and he was abducted. Later, he was “liberated” by his uncle Pahua, who was a high priest of the Hawaiian god Lono. Opukahaia trained to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. One day, spotting a trading ship on the ocean, Opukahaia swam out to it and convinced the captain to let him work on the vessel in exchange for passage away from Hawaii, a place of pain and sorrow for Opukahaia.
After more than 2 years at sea, Opukahaia, ended up in Connecticut, then a center of missionary activity and revival. Throughout his travels, Opukahaia encountered Christians who showed him love, kindness, and concern. Aware of his own sin, pains, his need for a gracious savior, and inspired by their love of Christ and passion for spreading the Good News, Opukahaia not only embraced Christ but, also resolved to carry the Word of Jesus back to Hawaii. He began training as a missionary. Sadly, Opukahaia died of typhus fever before he could achieve his dream. Soon after his death, Opukahaia’s friends published the young man’s memoirs, The Memoirs of Henry Obookiah. His story and his fire inspired others, including four young Hawaiians, to return to the Islands with the first company of missionaries. The life of Opukahaia inspired generations of believers yet to come.
In many ways, the life of Opukahaia encompasses the entire story of Christianity’s arrival in Hawaii through the lens of a single, humble life. He was the kind of believer who epitomized the best and most noble in us since the Church’s earliest days. His life shows how God’s love transcends and overcomes the world’s pain and sorrow. It also demonstrates the essential role native Hawaiians played in spreading the faith to the islands.
Disciples in Hawaii. Disciples from Hawaii.
Those who studied with and were inspired by Opukahaia, including his four fellow native Hawaiian students educated at the Foreign Mission School, formed the first pioneer mission company that landed in Hawaii in April1820. In the tradition of true Apostles dating back to the years after the crucifixion and resurrection, the first missionaries in Hawaii asked for nothing more than space to build their homes and churches as well as freedom to spread the powerful news of Jesus.
It was the alii, the chiefs and nobility, who were among the first to embrace the new faith, spreading it to all classes of the population. If it was missionaries who brought the spark, it was the alii who built a fire and lit torches that set alight faith’s flame in hearts across the islands. The alii did so much more than make a space for missionaries. Whatever their individual reasons, they ensured the missionaries’ message would be heard, embraced Christianity themselves, and became its greatest champions. Their success was nothing less than remarkable, a profound social and religious change sweeping the islands in the span of decades. The kind of transformation that so frequently travels alongside the Good News. In Hawai’ian society of the time, without the enthusiastic blessing of the alii, it is impossible to imagine the faith spreading so rapidly or so deeply.
One of the clearest expressions of the policy toward the Mission and its teaching, as well as the collaborative effort of alii and missionaries, is found in the testimonies published in the Hawaiian language pamphlet entitled Ka Manao o na Alii (The thought of the Alii). Printed at the end of 1825 (3,000 copies) and again in 1827 (20,000 copies), just as literacy was rapidly spreading throughout the islands. It contains exhortations by six alii: King Kamehameha II (Liholiho), King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli), Chief Minister of Kingdom of Hawaii Kalanimoku, Queen Kaahumanu, Princess Nahienaena, and Royal Governor of the island of Oahu Boki (Kamauleule). The pamphlet opens with King Kamehameha II words, written before his departure for England, including a direct command to abandon the old gods and attend to the new:
“All you alii, people, commoners, and children, hear what I say. Turn (repent) and listen to the word of our Father who has made us, the God in heaven. I tell you, obey the good word by which we are made righteous, by which our souls may be saved, that our bodies may be sound. That is my command to you. Do not suppose this comes from me, but rather from the God in heaven, that you may hear the message of salvation. Let us not be slow to do service to God, that He might show us kindness. Do not attend to the deceitful gods, that He might hear us. Aloha to you, O Jehovah and Jesus Christ.”
—King Kamehameha II (Liholiho) of the Kingdom of Hawaii, 1825/1827
King Kamehameha III echoed the command of his predecessor with his charge to the Hawaiian people to pursue God and His word:
“Aloha to you, missionaries and Native teachers, and all you learners. My heart rejoices in the turning of this land to God’s word. We have now received the scripture, by means of which our bodies and souls may have life. My heart rejoices in this our testimony that we do so. Entertain no thought of being indolent in this. Aloha to all.”
—King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) of the Kingdom of Hawaii, 1825/1827
With regret, it must be acknowledged that some who followed in the footsteps of the first wave of missionaries were not always so pure of heart and intent. Those who profess the faith are not immune to temptation and misguided zeal. There is no denying that some who came later, and even some descendants of the first missionaries, succumbed to greed, pride, wrath, and all the other bitter fruit of original sin to which humanity is susceptible, some were even complicit in overthrowing the Hawai’ian Kingdom and, for reasons of worldly gain and ethnocentrism, rendering it an illegally-occupied colony.
We are blessed that, before such dark moments occurred, the seeds sown by the first missionaries and watered by many others, both from Hawaii and beyond, had born fruit. The 1840 Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom declared it a Christian nation as part of its fundamental principles. It was the alii, the chiefs and nobility, who were among the first to embrace the new faith, spreading it to all classes of the population. While it is impossible to say that every conversion was sincere, and not merely one of convenience or curiosity, the eloquence and passion found in quotes such as the one by Queen Kaahumanu, which begins this brief survey, testifies to the earnestness with which many embraced the Christian faith. A faith which endures and prospers here in Hawaii to this day, two-hundred years since Opukahaia and others ensured that the Living Waters that first lapped at our shores and then swept it up in a great wave will abide.
Every Bible tells the story of the life of Christ, His passion, sacrifice, and the redemption He makes possible for each of us. The Bible you hold has a second story, too. It begins with the faith of people like Opukahaia and Queen Kaahumanu spreading that great message throughout Hawaiʻi. Two centuries later, both those stories continue, as the Word dwells in these Islands, now and, Lord willing, forever. Amen.
Hawaiʻian – ¨ Aka, o ka mea e inu i ka wai a’u e haawi aku ai ia ia, aole loa ia e makewai hou aku; aka, o ka wai a’u e haawi aku ai ia ia, e lilo ia i wai puna iloko ona e pipii ana i ke ola mau loa.” Ioane 4:14
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