“It is for no private end, for no earthly object that you go. It is wholly for the good of others, and for the glory of God our Saviour.”
“You will never forget Opukahaia. You will never forget his fervent love, his affectionate counsels, his many prayers and tears for you, and for his and your nation.”
“You saw him die; saw how the Christian could triumph over death and the grave; saw the radient glory in which he left this world for heaven. You will remember it always, and you will tell it to your kindred and countrymen who are dying without hope.”
On October 23, 1819, a group of northeast missionaries, led by Hiram Bingham, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) With the missionaries were four Hawaiian students from the Foreign Mission School, Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Prince Humehume (son of Kauaʻi’s King Kaumuali‘i.)
The Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in giving instructions to the pioneers of 1819 said:”
“Your mission is a mission of mercy, and your work is to be wholly a labor of love. … Your views are not to be limited to a low, narrow scale, but you are to open your hearts wide, and set your marks high.”
“You are to aim at nothing short of covering these islands with fruitful fields, and pleasant dwellings and schools and churches, and of Christian civilization.” (The Friend)
The points of especial and essential importance to all missionaries, and all persons engaged in the missionary work are four:
• Devotedness to Christ;
• Subordination to rightful direction;
• Unity one with another; and
• Benevolence towards the objects of their mission
To this high and holy service you are solemnly designated; to this arduous and momentous work you are henceforth to hold yourselves sacredly devoted. You go to the Sandwich Islands as the messengers of the churches and the glory of Christ.
But it is an arduous enterprise, a great and difficult work. To obtain an adequate knowledge of the language of the people; to make them acquainted with letters; to give them the Bible with skill to read it; to turn them from their barbarous courses and habits; to introduce the arts; above all, to convert them from their idolatries and superstitions and vices, to the living and redeeming God, his truth, his laws, his ways of life, of virtue, and of glory.
To effect all this must be the work of an invincible and indefectible spirit of benevolence – a spirit which is not to be turned from its purpose, by any ingratitude, or perverseness, or maltreatment, or difficulties, or dangers; which, in the true sense of the first missionary, will become all things unto all men; which will give earnest heed to the counsels of, wisdom, and be studious in devising the best means and methods of promoting its great object; and which, most especially, and as its grand reliance, will, humbly and thankfully avail itself of the graciously proffered aid of Him in whom all fulness dwells.
Beloved members of the mission, male and female, this christian community is moved for you, and for your enterprise. The offerings, and prayers, and tears, and benedictions, and vows of the churches are before the throne of everlasting mercy. They must not be violated; they must not, cannot be lost.
But how can you sustain the responsibility? A Nation to be enlightened and renovated; and added to the civilized world, and to the kingdom of the world’s Redeemer and rightful sovereign! In his name only, and by his power, can the enterprise be achieved. In him be all your trust. To Him, most affectionately and devoutly, and to the word of His grace, we commend you.
In the Islands, the kapu system was the common structure, the rule of order, and religious and political code. This social and political structure gave leaders absolute rule and authority.
By the time the Pioneer Company arrived, Kamehameha I had died and the crown was passed to his son, Liholiho, who would rule as Kamehameha II. Kaʻahumanu recruited Liholiho’s mother, Keōpūolani, to join her in convincing Liholiho to break the kapu system which had been the rigid code of Hawaiians for centuries.
When the Pioneer Company of missionaries arrived, the kapu system had been abolished; the Hawaiian people had already dismantled their heiau and had rejected their religious beliefs – and effectively weakened belief in the power of the gods and the inevitability of divine punishment for those who opposed them.
Christianity and the western law brought order and were the only answers to keeping order with a growing foreign population and dying race. Kamehameha III incorporated traditional customary practices within the western laws – by maintaining the “land division of his father with his uncles” – which secured the heirship of lands and succession of the throne, as best he could outside of “politics, trade and commerce.” (Yardley)
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 ABCFM in the Hawaiian Islands. (The information here is mostly from the initial instructions given to the missionaries in the Pioneer Company – those were included in 15-pages of instructions, summarized into about a page, here.)
The Annual Meeting of the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society begins at 10 am, today (April 12;) at about 11 am, there is the “Cousins” Annual Roll Call (a competitive counting of the descendents of the respective missionary families who were called to serve in the Islands.) From 1 – 4 pm, there is a free open house at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives.
The image shows the Mission Houses in a drawing by James P. Chamberlain (LOC) ca 1860.