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Against parishioners’ wishes, Kahana Door of Faith Church up for sale

By Staff | Sep 2, 2010

Auntie Cathy Ralar Lum Lung said, “We are people of little means but great faith.”

KAHANA — Will the door close on the congregation of the faithful at the Kahana Door of Faith Church? Will the power of the almighty dollar overcome the power of almighty faith?

This is the heartfelt dilemma faced by the parishioners of the Kahana Door of Faith Church in this West Side coastline community that was once a sleepy fishing village north of the bright lights and dazzle of the Kaanapali Resort area.

The once-pristine leeward coastline north of Lahaina has been eaten away by condominium and resort development over the last 40 years, and only small pockets of the family culture of the past remain.

The last vestiges of that culture — like the Cabato, Kaihue, Robinson and Smith families in Kahana — struggle to maintain that fishing family lifestyle against the onslaught of the tourist timeshare machine that flattened their neighboring homesteads and replaced them with cement towers.

Agriculture is all but gone along the foothills of West Maui, now barren and ominously brown as a result of the extreme drought conditions of late.

Kahana Door of Faith Church is located along Lower Honoapiilani Road.

But as the drought of nature and the forces of development continue to dry up and burn the ‘aina, the Christian battle of faith to nurture spiritual love continues, exemplified by the stand of members of Kahana Door of Faith Church.

The Kahana property is today listed for sale for $2.5 million by representatives of the Door of Faith Churches, and several of their other properties and churches in Honolulu and Hilo have been sold recently. There are several more Door of Faith properties up for sale.

According to a statement from Kahana Door of Faith representatives, their church has been operating for 63 years, carrying no mortgage while being self sufficient from other branches, including the main church in Honolulu.

A majority of the congregation hopes to continue their worship and mission to “save souls” at the current site, and amended 1996 bylaws are currently being contested in litigation.

In 1947, a Kahana fisherman by the name of George Ai Smith gave the land to Tutu Rev. Emma Apuna Kamaka Ralar for $1 “with love” for the sole intention of having a place to worship.

As the story goes, Smith had witnessed a healing miracle by the pastor of the church, so he decided to give the land to them. Tutu Emma, her children, and the surrounding community raised the funds necessary to build the two churches that are now the Kahana Door of Faith Church.

Michele Pupunu was raised on the property, and her family still resides at an adjacent home. She took a heartfelt approach to the situation now facing the church members.

“We just want to preserve the integrity of the church and continue its mission to save souls,” she said last week. “We’ve operated all these years. Our families raised the money to keep the church going and have been self-sustaining.

“The church membership numbers 367 from all parts of the country, but mostly from around here. The Ralar, Lum Lung, Kalua, Panlasigui, Vierra, Belden, Camacho, Samson, Marques, Kamaka, Fukugawa, Sato, Watanabe, Sharpe, Reyes, Takahashi, Casco, Kaeo, Kladstrup, Samudio, Reiman, Dapitan and Amaral ‘ohana have all been a part of our faith family. It is a historical site for us.”

Auntie Cathy Ralar Lum Lung, one of the senior parishioners at Kahana Door of Faith, added, “Please, no one come and take this church over. We have all held our faith here for decades, and we must now try all we can to keep it going.”

For information regarding Kahana Door of Faith Church, e-mail kahanadof@yahoo.com or call 276-1760.