Volunteers rebuilding Kahakuloa Hawaiian Congregational Protestant Church
KAHAKULOA – With about 25 families and a population of less than 150, Kahakuloa Village is a secluded, rural region located along the island’s rugged and sometimes treacherous northwest shoreline.
It is, in the true sense of the word, a village, a small settlement of people clustered around a focal point, in this case a church – the Kahakuloa Hawaiian Congregational Protestant Church.
Built in 1879, the picturesque Hale Pule has been much more than an idyllic, scenic stop for visitors along Kahekili Highway; the Kahakuloa Church has been a place of worship, of celebration, of song and of prayer for one of Maui’s most isolated Hawaiian communities for almost 140 years.
So it was nothing short of devastating when the walls of the aged wooden structure came tumbling down on Sunday, June 11, 2017.
It’s been almost one year since the collapse, and the revival of the congregation has been slow but sure.
Kahakuloa native son Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi shared the story of the progressive reconstruction through the power of love, community, ‘ohana, prayer and determination.
“We first started building the floor again. Everything was tore down, we just had some sidewalls up; but August 11 (2017) was our first day putting back wood,” Kaulana said.
“We are now basically three-quarters there,” Kaulana advised. “The major priorities right now are the front entry way, the steeple, pop-out back storage room and the siding.”
“Any chance that we get, we’re on it,” the 28-year-old added.
Kaulana is a member of the church board. He is focused on getting the job done; but admittedly, he’s had a lot of help.
“Lucas Sutherland (Sutherland Homes), my boss, my friend, my brother. He’s just an amazing, amazing man. I went and asked for help, and he came with a huge open heart to bring our church to where it’s at today,” he said.
Sutherland (Lahainaluna High School Class of ’93) “brings our co-workers out for work. If he pays them, he pays them out of his own pocket,” Kaulana continued. “He didn’t get one penny from our account. Not one penny. We been going out there during weekdays, weekends, and it’s all from his heart.
“The crew all had their hands in (as well). Without them, this would not have happened. I could have done it, but we wouldn’t even have been close to where we’re at. Without them, without Lucas, this would not happen,” Kaulana stressed.
Funding has also been a challenge throughout the rebuild process, but Rudy Huber and Aunty Patty Nishiyama have been right there.
“Aunty Patty has been donating a lot. I give my heart out to her,” Kaulana commented. “We started off with nothing. Aunty Patty them (Na Kupuna o Maui), they put on our first fundraiser. That was a big kick-start for our church. We got several thousand,” he added.
Huber serves on the church board as secretary. He is the track and field coach at Kamehameha Schools Maui and former director of the Maui Marathon, “but my main work is doing running events, at least eight per year for the community,” including the Kahakuloa Race.
“The Kahakuloa Race has donated pretty close to $7,000 to $8,000 I have also been sending out letters to possible donators and trying to get them to give. We have received a few anonymous donations for close to $4,000 to buy lumber and other items for the church.”
To finish the work, Kaulana said, approximately $20,000 more is needed.
Up and coming fundraisers are the fifth annual Kahakuloa Half Marathon slated for June, and a ho’olaule’a scheduled in May or July. The Go Fund Me campaign is in progress, with nearly $4,000 thus far collected from that source.
To contribute to this worthy cause, Rudy offered, “people can contact me at 280-5801 or “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com.”
But money isn’t everything.
In the long term, what has really advanced the restoration, Kaulana observed, is the innate spirit of the Kahakuloa community, the kupuna, ancestors and the next generation.
“All of the village people. They played a part in getting this church back together, and we will soon all sit in this church again, like before. That is the ultimate goal – to have everybody back again,” he said.
Kaulana is a sensitive man. He told the Lahaina News several times that he didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.
“There are too many names for this article, but they will all be recognized for their contributions when this is all said and done.”
“And realistically,” he said, “that will be around the end of the year.”