News Articles

Hawaiians part of ‘blanket of God’s love’

HONOLULU, Hawaii (BP)–Each homeland represented among members of Honolulu’s Olivet Baptist Church reflects Southern Baptists’ heart for missions through the Cooperative Program.

“No one church, no matter how big, could begin to even think of doing together what we [as Southern Baptists] can do through the Cooperative Program,” said David Hockney, Olivet’s pastor since January 2007. “We have people here [at Olivet] with ties to Korea, South Pacific islands -– at least seven ethnicities -– and because of the Cooperative Program no one has to feel Southern Baptists don’t care about their homeland.

“Like a blanket of God’s love, the Cooperative Program spreads across the entire world,” Hockney said of the 5,000-plus international missionaries supported by the year-round gifts of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program.

“We are an Acts 1:8 church,” Hockney continued, referencing Southern Baptists’ emphasis on Jesus’ call to local, regional, national and global missions recorded in the Scripture passage. “This was an Acts 1:8 church before the Acts 1:8 emphasis was promoted; we have a wonderful history of missions.”

When Southern Baptist missionaries were forced to leave China and Japan in 1940, their first stop was Hawaii. Some never left. In addition to starting churches, their missions focus appealed to various nondenominational congregations such as Olivet, which was founded in 1926 and became Southern Baptist in 1941.

“Olivet’s missions focus is in the DNA of the church,” Hockney said. “Basically it came about because the missionaries invested in those they won to the Lord … [and] helped them realize our responsibility is not just to ourselves, but to those around us and around the world.

“We believe we have to do both -– locally and globally. And to do both as a church, we have to be personally involved in both giving and going,” the pastor said. “We believe that’s the best way to be good stewards of what God has given us.”

Olivet can spend more time praying about hands-on missions opportunities, Hockney said, while SBC missions leaders focus on the national and global strategies for which Cooperative Program dollars are allocated.

“At the Southern Baptist Convention, we can have some interesting business sessions,” he said, “but that shouldn’t divert us from what God’s called us to do, which is to win people to Jesus.”

Olivet members shared the Gospel last summer through mission trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Gulfport, Miss., Tulsa, Okla., and a prison in Kentucky. The prison outreach arose when an Olivet member who has a vocal music ministry heard of a prison housing women from Hawaii near where she would be performing. (Hawaii contracts out its prison population.) The trip included hula dancing, singing, testimonies, tracts and homemade cookies.

In Hawaii, meanwhile, Olivet members minister to the homeless, college students, the elderly and those living at what once was called a leper colony.

In addition, although Hawaii is one of the nation’s most expensive places to live, Olivet Baptist gives 18 percent of its undesignated receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program and another 2 percent through the Honolulu Windward Baptist Association.

About 250 people participate in two Sunday morning worship services at Olivet, plus another 55 in the Japanese mission, which also meets at the church on Sunday mornings. The Japanese congregation is the latest in a series of missions; Olivet lists 11 that have become churches during the last 56 years.

In a recent survey, Olivet members identified needs for more Bible knowledge; better development of an obedient/victorious lifestyle; and better family relationships -– needs now being addressed through the Sunday School that meets after the traditional service and before the contemporary service and through periodic small-group discipleship courses.

Olivet’s educational program also includes a preschool that 70-plus 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds attend five days a week. “It’s a ministry to the community,” Hockney said. “We have a number of children for whom English is their second language, and sometimes communication is a little difficult.

“Hawaii still is very much where people come from Korea, South Pacific Islands and more, and we’re still getting a lot of immigration,” the pastor said. “It makes for a wonderful variety but some interesting challenges.”

Olivet Baptist, located in midtown Honolulu, is surrounded by apartment buildings in a densely populated area where lower-paying jobs servicing the tourist industry do not mesh well with three-bedroom condos that sell for $700,000 or a one-bedroom efficiency that rents for $1,000/month. Homelessness is a problem, Hockney said, noting, “I have contacts with homeless people almost daily. We have people who were living in apartments five to eight years ago and … people who didn’t do their homework before they came here and exhausted their resources.”

In a rotation with other churches and helping agencies in Honolulu, Olivet stocks a food pantry of canned and dry goods for about 150 people once a month. Food is available throughout the month on an emergency basis, Hockney added. Every eight weeks, Olivet youth provide a meal for more than 200 people at a converted warehouse near the port of Honolulu.

Across the street from the church are two nursing homes, and within a block is a senior adult living center, all of which receive regular visitation and care from Olivet members. Throughout the year, Olivet receives donations of small items such as pen sets, macadamia nuts and small photo frames that can be given as gifts. Before Christmas each year, the elderly are brought to the church for a “Shopping Spree” where they can choose up to five free gifts to give to others. The church’s youth do the wrapping.

Twice each year, Olivet members go to a former leper colony, Kalaupapa, on Molokai Island, where people with what today is known as Hansen’s disease live. The Olivet members repair/paint buildings, weed yards, fix cars, sew or mend -– whatever the Kalaupapa residents need.

Olivet also has a hotel ministry, which averages about 50 worshippers each Sunday afternoon. Senior adults at the church participate in monthly field trips and provide a once-a-month meal for international students. Vacation Bible School attracts about 100 youngsters each summer. Woman’s Missionary Union members participate in a craft group and provide international students’ lunches and college care packages, along with the Christmas Shopping Spree.

“This church is an exciting place,” Hockney said. “We have a wonderful opportunity to reach people with the Gospel. The key is figuring out what might get our foot in the door so we might be able to share.”
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message newsjournal.