Three years after the arrival American Protestant missionaries of the Pioneer Company in 1820, Asa Thurston, Artemis Bishop, Joseph Goodrich and William Ellis toured the island of Hawaii to identify appropriate Mission Stations there. The reported on six locations, with the priority given to Kailua in the Kona District and Waiakea in the Hilo District. At Waiakea, the missionaries erected two houses and a church within two months after their arrival. The needs of the congregation increased. A larger building was required as well as one that could weather the climate for a longer period of time.
The first churches for the Waiakea Mission Station were of Hawaiian thatch construction and were replaced, as they deteriorated. Haili, the name of the church, was derived from the forest, Haili Kulamanu (Paradise of the Birds) from which most of the ‘ōhi‘a wood was cut, located 6 to 8 miles southwest of the church. The Hawaiians hewed the wood in the forest, then hauled it to the mission with drag ropes. “The Haili Church Choir is one of the oldest and most widely acclaimed Hawaiian church choirs. Since the beginning of the 1900s, it has been the ‘training school’ for some of Hawai‘i’s foremost names in traditional Hawaiian music, both sacred and secular.