“I began to think about leaving that country, to go to some other part of the globe. I did not care where I shall go to. I thought to myself that if I should get away, and go to some other country, probably I may find some comfort, more than to live there, without father and mother.” (ʻŌpūkahaʻia)
In about 1807, a young Hawaiian man, ʻŌpūkahaʻia, swam out to the ‘Triumph’, a China-bound seal skin trading ship anchored in Kealakekua Bay. Both of ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s parents and his younger brother had been slain during the battles on the island.
He arrived in the Northeast US. The coming of Henry ʻŌpūkahaʻia and other young Hawaiians to the continent had awakened a deep Christian sympathy in the churches and moved the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) to establish a Foreign Mission School and a mission to the Hawaiian Islands.
“In his disposition he was amiable and affectionate. His temper was mild. Passion was not easily excited, nor long retained Revenge, or resentment, it if presumed, was never known to be cherished in his heart.”
“He loved his friends, and was grateful for the favours which he received from them. In his journal and letters are found frequent expressions of affection and gratitude to those who had been his benefactors.”
“To families in which he had lived, or to individuals who had been his particular patrons, he felt an ardent attachment. One of the latter, who had been separated from him for a considerable time, he met with great delight …”
“… and after the first customary salutations, said to him, ‘I want to see you great while: you don’t know how you seem to me: you seem like father, mother, brother, all.’”
“In his understanding, Obookiah excelled ordinary young men. His mind was not of a common cast. It was such, that, with proper culture, it might have become a mind of the first order.”
“Its distinguishing traits were sound common sense, keen discernment, and an inquisitiveness or enterprise which disposed him to look as far as his mind could reach into every subject that was presented to his attention.”
“By his good sense he was accustomed to view subjects of every kind in their proper light; to see things as they are. He seldom misconceived or misjudged.” (Memoirs)
“Said Mrs. Abbot to a friend, ‘He was always pleasant. I never saw him angry. He used to come into my chamber and kneel down by me and pray. Mr. Mills did not think he was a Christian at that time, but he appeared to be thinking of nothing else but religion. He afterwards told me that there was a time when he wanted to get religion into his head more than into his heart.’”
“In an absence of a month or two from the family, he wrote a letter to Mrs. Abbot, from which the following is an extract.”
“‘I sometimes think about my poor soul, and that which God hath done. I will cry unto God – ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ I know that God is able to take away blind eyes and wicked heart, we must be born again and have a new spirit before we die.’”
“‘As soon as we shall be dead, all we must stand before the judgement-seat of Christ. Friend, perhaps you have not done any thing wicked, so that God can punish you. I hope you have not. But if we are not his friends and followers he will cast us into hell, and we shall be there for ever and ever. I hope you will think upon all these things. Friend to you, Henry Obookiah.’” (Memoirs)
“His inquisitive mind was not satisfied with pursuing the usual round of study, but he was disposed to understand critically every
branch of knowledge to which he attended. For this reason, his progress in his studies was not rapid – but as a scholar he was industrious, ingenious and thorough.”
“His mind was also inventive. After having acquired some slight knowledge of the English language in its grammatical construction, he entered upon the project of reducing to system his own native language.”
“When he began to read in words of one or two syllables in the spelling-book, there were certain sounds which he found it very difficult to articulate.”
“This was true especially of syllables that contained the letter R – a letter which occasioned him more trouble than all others. In pronouncing it, he uniformly gave it the sound of L. At every different reading an attempt was made to correct the pronunciation.”
“ʻŌpūkahaʻia was also taught by others in his rounds of various families, and in this way ‘he soon acquired a knowledge of the spelling-book, and in a few months was able to read in the Testament. By this time he had also made considerable proficiency in writing’”.
“In one of the first letters he wrote (March 2, 1810), he mentioned: ‘I spell four syllables now.’ Mr Abbot, steward of the Theological Institution at Andover, told of his desire to know both the sight and sound of a word:”
“‘When he heard a word … which he did not understand or could not speak, it was his constant habit to ask me, ‘How you spell? how you spell?’ When I told him he never forgot.’”
“In the fall of 1813, ʻŌpūkahaʻia attended a public grammar school at Litchfield, and there he began to study English grammar, along with geography and arithmetic.”
“ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s connection with the eventual mission to Hawai’i came through his conversion to Christianity in 1815. By that time, he had not only learned English and studied the usual curriculum of the period …”
“… but had also experienced some of the fervor of the prevailing general religious revival and the awakening of a mission spirit (called the Second Great Awakening of the New Light Theology) among the Protestant churches of New England”
“ʻŌpūkahaʻia and others from the Sandwich Islands, as well as other Polynesians and Native Americans, requested the training that would prepare them to return home and share the Gospel with their own people.”
“The presence of those islanders and Native Americans, especially ʻŌpūkahaʻia, along with their evangelistic zeal, inspired the founding of the Foreign Mission School in 1816, where ʻŌpūkahaʻia was one of the first students.” (Schutz)
“After having acquired some slight knowledge of the English language in its grammatical construction, he entered upon the project of reducing to system his own native tongue.”
“As it was not a written language, but lay in its chaotic state, every thing was to be done. With some assistance he had made considerable progress towards completing a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a Spelling-book.”
“In ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s own words: ‘At this time [summer 1814], Mr. Mills wished me to go and live with the Rev. Mr. Harvey, of Goshen. This was pleasing to me, and I went to live with him and studied geography and mathematics …”
“… and a part of the time was trying to translate a few verses of the Scriptures into my own language, and in making a kind of spelling-book, taking the English alphabet and giving different names and different sounds—(for this language was not written language.) I spent some time in making a kind of spelling-book, dictionary, grammar.”
“He mentioned the grammar again on 4 June 1815. In a letter from Goshen, Connecticut, to the Reverend Eleazar T. Fitch at New Haven, he wrote:”
“‘I want to see you about our Grammar: I want to get through with it. I have been translating a few chapters of the Bible into the Hawaiian language. I found I could do it very correctly.’” (Schutz)
Go here for further explanation: https://wp.me/p5GnMi-2yo
Saturday, February 17, 2018 marks the Bicentennial of ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s death.
Hawaiian Mission Houses will be hosting a Free Open House that afternoon.
- 10 am (HST), February 17, 2018 State-wide bell ringing;
- 10 am, Feb 17, Haili Church, Kawaiaha’o Church & Hawaiian Mission Houses;
- 10:15 am, Feb 17, Mokuaikaua Church, Henry ‘Ōpūkaha’ia Memorial Concert;
- 3 pm (Eastern) Feb 17, Remembrance at original ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s gravesite at Cornwall, CT;
- 9:30 am, February 18, 2018, commemoration services at Kahikolu Church;
- 9 am & 11 am, Feb 18, Mokuaikaua Church Services, Speaker to discuss Life of ‘Ōpūkaha’ia;
- 10 am, Feb 18, service at Henry ‘Ōpūkaha’ia Memorial Chapel/Hokuloa Church, Punalu‘u;
- 10 am (Eastern), February 18, 2018 Services at UCC Cornwall;
- 6 pm, February 17, 18, 24, 25 at Kalihi Union Church, a musical drama on life of ʻŌpūkahaʻia.