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The Gospel came to Hawaii during the period in American history called "The Second Great Awakening" (1785-1820). Henry Opukaha’ia was the first Hawaiian Christian. In the late 1700s his entire family was killed during a tribal war on the shores of Kealakakua Bay on the Big Island. As he fled from the battle with his baby brother on his back, someone threw a spear and his little brother was killed. In his grief, he pled with the captain of the Ship Triumph, harbored in the bay, to let him come on board and leave Hawaii. Eventually he ended up in the home of Timothy Dwight, the President of Yale College and the grandson of Jonathan Edwards. There Henry came to faith in Christ. He attended Yale College, learned Greek and Hebrew and became a scholar and an evangelist with a passion to go back to Hawaii to tell his own people the Good News of salvation in Christ.


But Henry Opukaha’ia died of Typhus fever before fulfilling that vision. Christians on the East Coast of the United States read his memoirs and said, “If Henry can’t go, we will go.” That led to the arrival of the first missionaries to Hawaii in 1820. Just six months before the missionaries arrived, in God’s wonderful providence, the Hawaiian people had overthrown their idol system and rejected their gods. They realized their gods were false and unable to rescue them from the many diseases they were dying of as a result of foreigners coming into Hawaii at the time – eg. the sailors on the whaling vessels. For that six month period the Hawaiians were a people without a religion. The Chief Kahuna of King Kamehameha prophesied that someone would come to tell them about the true God. Then the missionaries showed up and the rest is history!


The spiritual awakening in Hawaii between 1820 and 1840 is considered to be one of the greatest movements of the Spirit of God in the Western Hemisphere. Thousands of Hawaiians turned to Christ. Titus Coan, an early missionary on the Big Island would baptize 500 converts at a time with a broom! Churches were started all over the islands.


The missionaries gave the Hawaiian people a written language and taught them to read and write. Within 18 years the ENTIRE Bible from Genesis to Revelation was translated and printed (10,000 in the first edition – a copy of this original edition can be viewed at the Mission House Museum Library in Honolulu). Hawaiian churches today celebrate the third Sunday in February as “Henry Opukaha’ia Sunday”, recalling how God used his testimony to bring the Gospel to the islands.

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