“Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
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)
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) They landed at Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 184-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the ABCFM in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the earliest efforts of the missionaries 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.
By 1850, eighteen mission stations had been established; six on Hawaiʻi, four on Maui, four on Oʻahu, three on Kauai and one on Molokai. Meeting houses were constructed at the stations, as well as throughout the district.
Within five years of the missionaries’ arrival, a dozen chiefs had sought Christian baptism and church membership, including the king’s regent Kaʻahumanu. The Hawaiian people followed their native leaders, accepting the missionaries as their new priestly class. (Schulz)
“The missionaries at all the stations (were) seeing many thousands of the people ready to hear and inquire”. “With thousands the missionaries held personal conversation, endeavoring to know their thoughts and their state, and to lead them to Christ or to confirm them in faith and hope.”
“Examining great numbers, and selecting such as appeared to be born of God, they propounded them for admission to the church, and after some probation, usually two or three months, baptized those who in the judgment of charity were the true disciples of Christ.” (H Bingham)
“The showers of blessings which have been refreshing the garden of the Lord in these islands of the sea, have not been withheld from our field. I have never before witnessed among the people so earnest an attention to the means of grace and so deep concern for the salvation of the sou.” (Alexander, Waioli, Kauai)
“Some of the congregations were immense. That at ‘Ewa was about four thousand in number. Honolulu had two congregations, one of two thousand five hundred, the other between three thousand and four thousand.” (R Anderson)
“Our congregation has increased to about four times its former number. About one thousand was the former number of regular hearers. We have now, perhaps, four thousand on the Sabbath morning, but not that full amount in the evening service.”
“We have laid aside the use of our chapel, and built a large lanai, or shelter, where we meet in fair weather which is with us the greater part of the year.” (A Bishop, O‘ahu)
“Several of the native brethren were sent out to the outstations to converse with the people and they were astonished to find that the Lord had preceded them and had inclined the hearts of many to attend to His word.”
“From the commencement the people seemed prepared to believe the word and every successive sermon seemed to increase the fears of sinners and to make them the more earnest in inquiring for salvation.”
“No means but the naked sword of the spirit were resorted to on this occasion and yet there seemed to be scarcely an unconverted sinner in the assembly, which averaged during the meeting between four and five hundred. Never did I witness a more fixed and anxious attention to the word of God.” (H Hitchcock, Kaluaʻaha, Molokai)
“The interest we had observed among the people previous to the meeting now became more general, and the cases of decided conviction or awakening began to multiply. Indeed the little cloud had already spread till it seemed to rest over the whole population. There seemed to be an awe over the whole.”
“Our congregations had increased in size before the protracted meeting. The house was almost always crowded to excess. Probably two thousand were generally present, while many went away who could not gain admittance. and more deep solemnity, stillness, and fixed attention could never be found in any part of the world. All classes crowded to the place of worship.” (D Baldwin, Lāhainā, Maui)
“My public labors during the past year have been more abundant than they have any previous year of my missionary life. From last January till May first I attended more than twelve meetings a week, besides almost constant conversation with individuals in private.”
“Indeed, many days, I have been so pressed from daylight in the morning till late at night as scarcely to allow me time to eat, or spend half an hour with my family.” (R Armstrong, Wailuku, Maui)
“Thousands on thousands thronged the courts of the Lord. All eastern and southern Hawaii was like a sea in motion. Waimea, Hāmākua, Kohala, Kona, and the other islands of the group, were moved.” (T Coan, Hawai‘i Island)
“Sabbath was a glorious day here. I baptized and received seventeen hundred and five to this church. Yesterday I spent the afternoon in baptizing the children of the church, several hundreds in number. Sinners are coming in from Kau and all parts of Hilo and Puna, and hardened rebels are constantly breaking down.” (T Coan, Hawai‘i Island)
When Kamehameha III began his rule, Kalanimōku wrote a letter to Evarts of the ABCFM. Kalanimōku states, “Love to you for sending over the missionaries and the word of God to us so that we know the good word of God. We observe the good word of God and we want the good word of God, Jehovah, our great lord in heaven. It is he who fashioned us well.”
“We all want the word of God and all the chiefs desire the good word of God. We have seen the righteous word at this time. We are repenting for our past faults. … That previous, ancient heart is ended, along with that former king of ours. … We regard the good word of our great God.” (Kalanimōku to Evarts, April 10, 1826; Ali‘i Letters Collection, Mission Houses)
“From the beginning, the Hawaiian churches were taught the duty and the pleasure of giving to the needy. All the missionaries inculcated this doctrine, so that it became one of the essential fruits of their faith.”
“The native ministers now outnumber us more than five to one, and when we meet in our evangelical associations they know, of course, their numerical power, and it requires great wisdom on the part of the foreign members to secure that influence which is necessary to good order and to harmonious action.”
“Our Hawaiian churches are not called Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Congregational, or by any other name than that of the Great Head, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls. We call them Christian churches.” (Coan)
Related to that, here is an audio of Puakea Nogelmeier’s presentation at Mission Houses related to the translation project he worked on associated with letters from the ali‘i to missionaries. In it he noted many believe the missionaries “just kind of came in and took over. They got off the boat and said ‘stop dancing,’ ‘put on clothes,’ don’t sleep around.’” … “And it’s so not the case ….”