In the Hawai‘i Conference United Church of Christ, the fourth Sunday in January has been set aside as Kalaupapa Sunday—to remember, commemorate, and honor all the patients of Kalaupapa, many of whom came from or had connections to the families and churches within our Conference. In 2022, Hawai‘i began officially recognizing the entire month of January as Kalaupapa Month “to serve as an annual reminder to people all over of the importance of Kalaupapa and the significant sacrifices and contributions made by its residents throughout the history of Hawaii” (SB697).

Then-governor David Ige shared, “In dedicating January of each year Kalaupapa Month, we hope to inspire the people of Hawaii to remember the estimated 8,000 patients who were sent to Kalaupapa. “And … despite the odds against them, came together to build a community of caring, respect and aloha for each other, and for the broader community.

We share this devotional written by Kahu Kalani Wong, Chaplain at Kamehameha Schools Maui and a member of the Hawai‘i Conference United Church of Christ, who has visited Kalaupapa and its residents numerous times over the past couple decades. This devotional was originally posted on January 7, 2022, on the Daily Devotional Calendar on the Kamehameha Schools website, and is shared with permission.

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3 A ua hoʻopiha au iā ia i ka ʻuhane o ke Akua, ma ke akamai, ma ka naʻauao, ma ka ʻike, a ma ka hana ʻana i nā mea a pau,
4 E ʻimi i nā mea akamai, e hana hoʻi ma ke gula, a ma ke kālā, a ma ke keleawe,
5 A i ke ʻokiʻoki pōhaku, i mea kāpili: a i ke kālai ʻana i ka lāʻau, e hana hoʻi i nā hana a pau.
Puka ‘Ana 31:3-5

3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship,
4 to create artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze,
5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, so that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.
Exodus 31:3-5

Nestled in the sleepy settlement of Kalaupapa, is a hale in which a variety of crafts were made. All beautiful, all useful, all from the hands of Kenzo Seki. A coconut shell turned into an ashtray, a piece of copper pipe flattened so a fork or spoon can be inserted and used more easily, or a rod shaped into a hook and anchored to a wooden handle to help with pulling up zippers. Each item made life easier for those needing an assist so they could live independent lives. Besides being a craftsman, he also cut hair for those needing a trim. Kenzo himself was a patient so he knew how best to serve his fellow patients.

Ke Akua gifts people like Kenzo with special talents so they may help others. Such was the case with Bezalel and Oholiab. In Exodus, Iehova gave specific directions to Moses on what the Tent of Meeting, and all the elements that was to be used in it, was to look like and how they were to be made. The ornate fixtures and tools were to be used in the service of God, therefore, they needed to be of the highest quality. Instead of leaving that kuleana to just anyone, God gifted Bezalel and Oholiab with all the abilities to do what was necessary.

[You] have been given the gift to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary. Be thankful and know that you have received that for a special reason. When the time is right, God will lift you up. Honor that call by serving with honor, pride, and humility. Take the time to give your best, for you have been equipped for service which helps others and honors God.

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Loving Creator, we give thanks for the people of Kalaupapa who have shown us the power of care and community. May we have the wisdom to utilize the gifts you’ve given us to strengthen the bonds between us.