Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives (Mission Houses) collaborated with Awaiaulu Foundation to digitize, transcribe, translate and annotate over 200-letters written by 33-Chiefs.
The letters, written between 1823 and 1887, are assembled from three different collections: the ABCFM Collection held by Harvard’s Houghton Library, the HEA Collection of the Hawaii Conference-United Church of Christ and the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society.
These letters provide insight into what the Ali‘i (Chiefs) were doing and thinking at the time, as well as demonstrate the close working relationship and collaboration between the aliʻi and the missionaries.
In this letter, Elisabeth Kaʻahumanu writes to Mr. Jeremiah Evarts regarding the success of the mission in Hawaiʻi. She includes her religious sentiments to the brethren of the ABCFM.
Jeremiah F. Evarts was an early leader of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM). He was a reformer who advocated for the rights of Native Americans and wrote under the pseudonym William Penn.
Kaʻahumanu, favorite wife of Kamehameha I, served as the Kuhina Nui, or regent at the time of this letter. She became a staunch advocate for literacy and Christianity for all her people.
“Oahu September 11, 1831”
“Regards to you, Mr. Evarts, missionary superintendent and my first brother in Christ Jesus,”
“Here is my message to you along with my joy.”
“Here I live by the voice of salvation of Jesus Christ who resurrected me from death. I was dwelling in the core of death. I was adorned and bedecked by the glory of death and its symbols.”
“When I heard the voice of Jesus sounding in my ears, it was a chill in my heart, speaking as follows, [“]Come unto to me all of you who are weary and heavy-laden and I shall give you rest.[”]”
“And his voice then said again, [“]He who thirsts, let him come and drink the waters of salvation.[”] So, I rose to come and lie under the shelter of his feet, with great trepidation.”
“Here I am bearing his yoke, thinking to myself that I am unable to move his yoke, he being the one who enables me with his assistance night and day; there I forever dwell in his glory and his love for me.”
“There is my desire and my affection, with the intention of my heart and my spirit to submit to Jesus. There my mouth and my tongue shall forever give thanks for the life I live until I join in his everlasting glory. That is my humble message to you.”
“Here is this other message of mine to you. I am grateful for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for his assistance in sending new teachers for us.”
“They have arrived and we have beheld their eyes and faces. We met in the presence of our Lord and in our own presence with gratitude to our Lord for protecting them on the ocean until they arrived here in Hawaii.”
“We abide here, teaching the native language of Hawaii so they will understand. Then, we sow the gardens with fruitful seeds for eternal salvation.”
“At that point, my elder brethren, them [the teachers] and my native brothers and sisters together will take up the will of our Lord in this archipelago, praying to him to assist so that the bumpy places be smoothed by him through his intentions for these islands from Hawaii to Kauai.”
“But my adopted child and I carried the word of our Lord from Hawaii to Kauai with love in our hearts for God, traveling to speak of his love, his word, and his laws and to tell people that they should abide by them.”
“That is what we, my adopted child and I, speak of. It is not according to our will, but according to the will of the Lord that we take this up.”
“That is my humble message to you.”
“Here is another remaining message that I say to you. Do express my regard to the brethren in Christ and my beloved sisters in Christ Jesus. Here are my regards to you all.”
“Do pray often to God for all the lands of the unenlightened, for all those remaining in enlightened lands, and for us as well and we shall do the same with the brethren here.”
“Pray often to God for the unenlightened lands, and for the remainder of those in enlightened lands, and for you all as well.”
“Thus we beseech our Lord so all peoples cooperate through him that his kingdom be unified to the bounds of the earth, and so all people unite behind him to praise his everlasting name.”
“That is my message of affection to you all. Deep regards to you.”
“Though we may not meet in person in this world, it is our hope that if we do meet in this world, our souls will also meet in the glory of the kingdom of our Lord of salvation, Jesus Christ.”
“That is the end of the message to you.”
“By Elisabeth Kaahumanu”
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US, led by Hiram Bingham, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) They arrived in the Islands and anchored at Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 180-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the earliest efforts of the missionaries, who arrived in 1820, was the identification and selection of important communities (generally near ports and aliʻi residences) as “stations” for the regional church and school centers across the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaiian Mission Houses’ Strategic Plan themes note that the collaboration between Native Hawaiians and American Protestant missionaries resulted in the
• The introduction of Christianity;
• The development of a written Hawaiian language and establishment of schools that resulted in widespread literacy;
• The promulgation of the concept of constitutional government;
• The combination of Hawaiian with Western medicine, and
• The evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition (with harmony and choral singing).