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Retiring Hawaii executive director called stabilizing force

HONOLULU, Hawaii (BP)–A steady hand at the helm is important to guide ships through rough seas. That steady hand is what Hawaii Baptists will miss most about executive director O.W. “Dub” Efurd when he retires in March 2003.

“During some of our turbulent years, he has brought peace and unity to our convention,” said Robert Miller, pastor of Waialae Baptist Church and former evangelism and church planting ministries leader for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

“He’s a real compassionate leader,” said George Iwahiro, outgoing state convention president. “He brought stability and calmness to our convention.”

Current state president Dan Van Alstine, who also served as associate pastor under Efurd, agreed that Efurd’s “quiet, faithful, and tireless work” has stabilized the convention.

“In whatever role God has called him to serve,” Van Alstine said, “Dub’s compassionate shepherd’s heart has been evident for all to see and experience.”

“Most importantly, we came to understand that if we follow Dub’s leadership, he would always lead us to the feet of Jesus.”

During the 1990s, Hawaii was mired in a deep recession that affected everyone in the state including the churches. But the problems were not just economic for Hawaii Baptists. When Efurd became executive director in 1989, there were only 14,000 Southern Baptists in a state of about 1 million people.

The convention had spread from Hawaii to other parts of the Pacific, Hawaii Baptists had begun looking at reorganizing its associational structure, and there was the perennial problem of finding enough pastors for a growing number of churches.

Iwahiro noted that even when things didn’t go the way Efurd thought they should at annual meetings, rather than getting upset, he would “accept it as the decision made by the messengers and begin looking for alternatives.”

Retired Baptist pastor Carl Kinoshita, who has been Efurd’s pastor and later served on his staff, called Efurd “a man of integrity, a servant leader, a gifted preacher, an effective administrator and a caring friend.”

Efurd started his journey to the center of the Pacific from the middle of America. Born in Fort Smith, Ark., Efurd spent most of his early years in Oklahoma. He never thought about becoming a pastor even though he was raised in a Christian family and became a Christian at 12 at First Baptist Church, Roland, Okla.

When he headed for Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, he intended to earn an agriculture degree and return to Roland to run a dairy farm. But in the summer of 1957 life changed for Efurd just one semester before graduating.

At a revival meeting at Southside Baptist Church in Stillwater, he suddenly felt God’s call to the ministry and he accepted. By January 1958, Efurd had graduated from OSU and was taking religious education classes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

But something still wasn’t right.

“I didn’t have complete peace in my heart,” Efurd recalled.

He was sure about the call to ministry, but he was not sure the call was to education. During his first semester, Efurd went to the seminary’s prayer room and told God, “If you want me to be a pastor, I’m willing to do that.”

He said instantly he had peace and he knew his call was to be a pastor.

Life changed again in 1959 when Efurd met another religious education student named Grace Agena, who was born and raised in Hawaii. The two were married the next year.

Although the young couple believed their ministry would be in a pioneer area, Hawaii was not necessarily their first option.

“Grace had lived on the mainland for college and seminary and said she didn’t need to go back to Hawaii,” Efurd said. “We were open to going anywhere.”

Efurd made his first trip to the islands to visit Grace’s family a year before graduating. He preached his first sermon in Hawaii at Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu at the invitation of Olivet’s pastor Dan Kong.

When he returned to seminary, Stanton Nash, then-executive director of the Hawaii Baptist Convention, began corresponding with him about a Big Island mission that needed a pastor. After Nash left Hawaii, Efurd continued to correspond with the sponsoring church Kaumana Drive Baptist Church in Hilo. Just before graduating in 1963 he was voted to be the mission pastor at Kona.

By September 1963, he and Grace were headed to a place neither had been before. Efurd served as pastor of Kona Baptist Church until 1972 when the First Baptist Church of Wahiawa needed a pastor for a mission in Mililani, a master planned community of about 5,000 that was projected to become a major residential area in the coming years.

In 1972, Efurd was once again a mission pastor helping a new work grow. The mission met in a recreation center with the nursery in the kitchen, children’s classes in dressing rooms for the swimming pool, and baptisms in the pool. The mission of about 35 people grew to become Mililani Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the convention. When Efurd resigned to become director of missions for Oahu in 1986, the church had two worship services and two Sunday schools that averaged 350 to 400 worshippers.

When Hawaii Baptists asked him to be executive director three years later, Efurd said he saw the position as “a tremendous challenge.” Through the years, Efurd has watched the convention respond to his leadership that he says emphasizes consensus building to help determine God’s leading. Since 1989, Hawaii Baptists have

— Grown from 14,000 to about 20,000.

— Grown from 82 congregations to 117.

— Expanded geographically to include churches in Guam and Okinawa.

— Gained representation on the SBC Executive Committee.

— Qualified to place trustees at LifeWay Christian Resources, the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.

— Reorganized the convention’s relationship to Hawaii Baptist Academy and the Hawaii Baptist Foundation to help these two organizations better accomplish their objectives.

Efurd’s style of leadership and his heart have not gone unnoticed.

“He’s real compassionate, almost like a pastor’s pastor,” Iwahiro said.

“He is a man of humility who leads by example,” Miller said. “Dub always goes that extra mile, never complains and thinks about others first.”

With a state convention that includes at least nine islands scattered across 4,000 miles, Efurd knows much more needs to be done. Church growth and church planting are concerns, as is the growing number of vacancies in convention churches and the lack of homegrown church leaders.

He believes the convention also needs to shift its thinking to better meet the needs of Hawaii today. Part of that shift involves a church planting strategy that does not limit the definition of community to geography but broadens it to include factors like professions or interests. Efurd added that high-rise communities in Hawaii are largely unreached.

To address the shortage of pastors, Efurd said Hawaii needs to “elevate our opinion of the bivocational pastor.”

Efurd intends to stay in Hawaii after retiring in March.

“This is home for me now,” he said.

He doesn’t have any specific plans other than to supply preach and serve as an interim pastor when necessary. Efurd will also watch the convention with great hopes for its future.

“I think we have a wonderful opportunity to continue the outreach and to grow,” Efurd said. “If we can make the needed shifts to our approach to ministry and reach the younger generation and be able to grow and mature them to bring them into leadership, we’ll continue to see new congregations started as well as see churches revitalized and a lot of work done for the Kingdom.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP photo library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: DUB AND GRACE EFURD, DUB EFURD AT PUU KAHEA and DUB EFURD AT THE OFFICE.

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  • Matt Sanders