(8) E ʻoaka ʻoe i kou waha no ka mea kuli,
No ka hoʻopono i nā keiki makua ʻole a pau.
(9) E ʻoaka ʻoe i kou waha, e hoʻoponopono ma ka pololei,
E ʻimi hoʻi i ka pono no ka poʻe ʻilihune a me ka mea nele. —Na Solomona 31:8-9

(8) Open your mouth for the people who cannot speak,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
(9) Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the poor and needy. —Proverbs 31:8-9

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Written by Kahu Kalani Wong, Chaplain at Kamehameha Schools Maui and a member of the Hawai‘i Conference United Church of Christ. This devotional was originally posted on January 17, 2023, on the Daily Devotional Calendar on the Kamehameha Schools website, and is shared with permission.

My favorite genre of books or TV shows is mysteries, more specifically police procedurals. To solve the crime, the suspect is interrogated and asked, “Where were you when the crime took place?” Sometimes the time between the questioning and the crime, would be years. If I was the suspect, I would have difficulty saying what I was doing last week. Yet I can tell you exactly what I was doing 30 years ago on January 17, 1993.

I started the day at Kawaiahaʻo Church with a group of ministers and key national and local leaders of the United Church of Christ (UCC). I was asked to join the group as the president of the Tri-Isle Association of the Hawaiʻi Conference UCC. What added extra connection for me was that I also a minister and a Hawaiian. We met to pule and to get an orientation of the day, which would be a culmination of years of meetings and planning. At the appointed time, we rose and made our way to ‘Iolani Palace where UCC’s President and General Secretary Paul Sherry would stand before the kanaka maoli to apologize for the church’s complicity in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. The churches in the time of the overthrow were told to not take part in the events. The church was supposed to stand up for those who had no voice, to stand against the wrong, yet it didn’t. It stood silent.

As we made our way to the Palace, I could sense the energy of the crowd. Haunani-Kay Trask was concluding her speech and the volume of the crowd rose. When we reached the bandstand, our small group split into an even smaller group, of which I was a part of. As Haunani-Kay Trask ended her talk, she settled down the crowd. She then introduced Dr. Sherry and we made our way up the stairs of the rotunda. I must admit, I was anxious and pondered what would be the response to our presence there that day. As Dr. Sherry, began his comments, the crowd quieted down even further.

We stand before you, we of the United Church of Christ to repent of wrongs done na Kanaka Maoli by the United Church of Christ. I will apologize for the involvement of some of those who preceded us in the unprovoked invasion of the Hawaiian nation on this date, 1893, that harm has been done because of assumptions of cultural and racial superiority that some among us brought and continue to bring to these islands. May God help us.

That day has left a lasting impact on my life for I’ve had to reconcile the fact that I was both “them and us”. “Them”= missionaries/minister/church, “Us”= Hawaiians. It has also helped me to remember that a believer is called to action and to do that which Iesū would have done. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has a lot to say about how we are to respond in times like this:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and
convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

I pray that I might make a stand during times of challenge and controversy. A stand that reflects the actions of Kristo and Dr. King, to be a keeper of peace through the spirit of aloha.