LAHAINA - Dedicated leaders with deep church, Hawaiian and Lahaina roots, 'Anela Rosa and Grale Lorenzo Chong were recently licensed as lay ministers (kahu) to serve Lahaina's Waiola Church.
They will succeed Kahu Earl Kukahiko, who is retiring after serving Waiola Church as licensed lay minister for almost 20 years.
Rosa and Chong began their studies together in 2001, completed the program in 2007 and were called to service by the Waiola congregation in 2010.
A member of Waiola since June 1999, Chong wanted to become a church leader after returning to her hometown.
"After retiring and returning home to Lahaina to care for my aging parents, it was only natural to get involved in the church where I grew up... one thing led to another," she explained.
Rosa is a leader by nature.
"I like to take charge in most things I do in life. People have a different name for those types of people," she said.
"At Waiola, I stepped in where and when the need was necessary. As the process of doing, the process of learning came along, and I enjoyed the rewards of helping."
The two kahu completed a six-year study program through the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches' Henry Opukaha'ia Center of Learning.
Courses included church leadership, preparing sermons, blessing homes and businesses, weddings, pastoral care/caring ministry, the Old Testament "and so many more that involved not just the churches' needs but also the community," Rosa said.
"The late Kahu Fe Nebres encouraged taking the courses that would lead into the ministry, and when she suggested it, I just laughed at her. She had faith in me and encouraged me to just give it a try. I will never forget her inspiration and courage that allowed someone like me to be where I am today. If she was here, I know she would say that I did it, not her. But I know she was the inspiration that opened that door of opportunity."
Rosa and Chong were licensed as lay ministers by the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches, Hawaii Conference, United Church of Christ, on Saturday, Feb. 18.
The service was officiated by Rev. Kekapa P. K. Lee, former kahu of Waiola Church. A luau followed the service.
The celebration concluded the Aha Halawai, the quarterly meeting of the Association of Hawaiian Evangelical Churches, at Waiola Church.
Chong, 72, is granddaughter of Lincoln B. Kaumeheiwa, tenth kahu of Waiola/Waine'e Church.
When asked how it felt to become a lay minister, Chong replied, "Awesome to be following in my grandfather's footsteps."
At the installation, Rosa, 52, grasped her role in the church.
"The feeling of responsibility of our congregation and the community just became a reality. The installation service itself was surreal and emotional," said Rosa, the grandniece of John Mahele Kukahiko, kahu to many of Maui's Hawaiian churches.
"The history and foundation of Waiola, along with life lessons we continue to learn every day, now has consequences for my actions. I am not perfect - and I have told the congregation several times that no one is perfect - but together we can accomplish what is necessary."
Born and raised in Lahaina, Chong attended King Kamehameha III School and Lahainaluna High School, graduating with the Class of 1958. She worked in administration and management during her career.
Looking ahead, Chong said she will be "doing more work for ke Akua (God); being a good servant."
Rosa grew up on Oahu and moved to Maui at the age of 12. She was raised in Wailuku and Makena, where her family (Lu'uwai/Kukahiko) originates from.
She attended Baldwin High School and has been working in the visitor industry for the past 37 years.
Rosa has been a member of Waiola Church for 20-plus years, serving as head deacon, board member, Young Adults leader, treasurer and secretary.
"I will continue to serve our community as needed and continue with my faith journey with all possibilities and eyes wide open," she said.
Originally named Waine'e Congregational Church, Waiola was founded in 1823 by High Chiefess Keopuolani and Rev. William Richards.