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The Spiritual Visitation That Brought the Remains of Hawai‘i’s First Christian Convert Back Home | Essay

The Spiritual Visitation That Brought the Remains of Hawai‘i’s First Christian Convert Back Home | Essay

Deborah Li‘ikapeka Lee, a younger Native Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) lady, woke within the wee hours of an October night time in 1992 to an internal sensation, inconceivable to outline and equally unattainable to disregard.

Alone and not sure of what was occurring to her, she feared sickness and anxiously rose from her mattress, looking for the consolation of her Bible. The feeling continued to properly up inside her, forcing its method out, yielding a voice that spoke as clearly as if its supply was standing in entrance of her. She heard 5 phrases: “He needs to return residence.”

The “he” in Debbie’s religious visitation was her seventh-generation cousin, Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia, who was the primary Native Hawaiian to turn out to be Christianized. Born in 1792, his mother and father have been brutally slain earlier than his childhood eyes by Kamehameha I’s warriors, and he contemplated leaving the Huge Island within the first decade of the 19th century fairly than remaining there as an orphan. Whereas coaching to develop into a kahuna, a Hawaiian religious chief, on the Hikiau Heiau, a standard place of worship in Nāpo‘opo‘o at Kealakekua Bay, ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia secured passage onboard an American service provider ship, crusing midway all over the world hoping to exchange ache and reminiscence, trying to outrun his survivor’s guilt, and looking for peace from the violence he skilled in his youth.

Portrait of Henry “Obookiah,” undated frontispiece in Memoirs of Henry Obookiah. Courtesy of Eleanor C. Nordyke/Wikimedia Commons.

Fatefully, his journey took him to Connecticut, the place he was launched to Christianity and skilled a revelation that led to him accepting Jesus as his private savior. He studied the Bible in hopes of returning residence as a missionary to transform his fellow Hawaiians to the Gospel, however he by no means fulfilled his want. He died of typhus fever in 1818 and was buried underneath the frozen New England sod.

And there his journey stalled, removed from his homeland, till 174 years later when Debbie Lee heard of his want within the nonetheless of the night time. Quickly, she launched the trouble to deliver cousin Henry residence.

Because the Connecticut State Archaeologist, a place I held for nearly 30 years, I had the duty of supervising the disinterment and forensic identification of the surviving bodily stays of Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia per the request of his genealogical descendants. We labored intently with the Lee household and a workforce of funeral administrators, forensic scientists, archaeologists, historians, and church officers to conduct the exhumation and put together ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s stays for the ultimate leg of his repatriation to the Huge Island of Hawai‘i, the isle of his birthplace.

To satisfy my duties in knowledgeable and appropriately respectful method, I discovered extra about ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia from studying his Memoirs, revealed posthumously in New England by his tutor Edwin Dwight. He descended from a household of Hilo chiefs on his mom’s aspect, distant kin to Kamehameha I. He developed right into a resilient, clever boy with a humorousness and the power to imitate village members. He ultimately made his flight by swimming out to the Triumph, an American service provider ship anchored in Kealakekua Bay and was taken aboard as a sailor. Captain Caleb Brintnall wrote the Anglo appellation “Henry Obookiah” into the ship’s logbook, which might stay the identify he can be recognized by throughout his sojourn in New England.

Arriving in New Haven in 1809, “Henry Obookiah” was launched to Christianity by the educators and non secular households with whom he resided, together with the Rev. Timothy Dwight, then president of Yale School and a number one mild within the Second Nice Awakening. At first, Henry didn’t settle for the brand new faith into his coronary heart; he solely accepted it in an mental sense in his nice want to study. His full conversion happened when he had a revelation in a woodlot whereas working for the Rev. Samuel Mills and his household in Torringford, Connecticut.

As soon as transformed, “Obookiah” immersed himself within the Gospels, memorizing each story and miracle, whereas absorbing his English spelling guide so he might write and skim the Bible extra proficiently. He made speedy progress in his spiritual coaching, translating Hebrew chapters of the Bible right into a phonetic Hawaiian alphabet he had developed. His new objective in life was to deliver his studying and the Gospel residence with him to Hawai‘i. The mental and religious instance of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia led the American Board of Commissioners for Overseas Missions to develop the Overseas Mission Faculty in Cornwall, Connecticut, to organize younger indigenous males to return to their homelands with the Christian Gospel in hand. Henry was their first and main scholar.

Within the midst of this time of nice mental power, ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia contracted typhus fever within the winter of 1818 and was quickly in essential situation. In response to Edwin Dwight’s shifting account of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s dying, when Henry was requested if he was afraid to die, he cried, “No, I’m not. Let God do as he pleases.” Then once more, he so desperately needed to reside. Stay to be a strong witness to the one, true God. Reside to convey salvation to his individuals. Elevating his arms heavenward, Henry lamented, “Oh, how I need to see Owhyhee!” His approaching dying was peaceable, and he appeared freed from ache for the primary time in weeks. Together with his compatriots beside his mattress, he spoke in his native language, “Aloha oe,” “My love be with you.”

Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia died on February 17, 1818, and was buried underneath a table-topped granite monument, which was the most important and most elaborate shrine in Cornwall Cemetery at the moment, demonstrating the love the New Englanders of the Overseas Mission Faculty had for this younger Hawaiian man.

As Henry “Obookiah’s” mortal stays reposed beneath a hilltop cemetery in Connecticut, a ship christened the Thaddeus set sail from Boston harbor on October 23, 1819, en path to Hawai‘i. In achievement of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s missionary promise, the brig carried an organization of two ministers, two academics, a physician, printer, farmer, all of their wives and youngsters, and 4 Hawaiians.

When the ship arrived in Kailua-Kona on April four, 1820, Hawaiian society was present process nice modifications, and lots of native individuals had died because the arrival of Captain James Prepare dinner in 1778. By 1853, 90 % of all Kanaka Maoli had perished of Previous World illnesses for which that they had had no publicity and no immunity. Inside 4 years of the arrival of the Thaddeus, over 18,000 Hawaiians, 20 % of the native inhabitants on the time, had transformed to Christianity. Whereas ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s corporeal journey residence would take one other 175 years, his formidable affect had reworked Hawai‘i endlessly.

After she was awoken that night time in 1992, Debbie Lee spent ten months polling relations till she gained their consent to exhume Henry’s stays from Cornwall Cemetery and convey him residence to Hawai‘i. She resolved to provide Henry’s life modern religious which means by returning his bodily stays, his iwi, again to Hawai‘i in achievement of his deathbed want.

Our mandate because the state archaeologists was to take away for repatriation the bodily stays of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia, so we commenced excavations under his granite stone monument in Cornwall Cemetery. Whereas shifting my trowel gently over the soil, leveling the top area of the coffin at a depth of 5 ft, I heard a dulled tone.

Instantly considering I had encountered a small stone or coffin nail, I put my trowel apart and grasped a small, fine-haired paintbrush. The fabric encountered felt arduous, too arduous for bone that had been in Connecticut’s acidic soil for nearly two centuries, however as my brush swept the granular sand apart, uncovering a one-inch diameter circle, I acknowledged the rounded construction of the brow and realized his skeletal stays have been agency, unusually well-preserved for a grave of this time interval. In reality, ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s skeleton continues to be the most effective organically preserved we’ve got ever encountered in a historic New England cemetery. I keep in mind considering to myself, “Henry will return residence.”

Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia died on February 17, 1818, and was buried underneath a table-topped granite monument, which was the most important and most elaborate shrine in Cornwall Cemetery at the moment, demonstrating the love the New Englanders of the Overseas Mission Faculty had for this younger Hawaiian man.

Debbie Lee, wanting the easiest for ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s return to Hawai‘i, organized an itinerary that may be an enduring tribute. The 2-week, two-island journey started with a farewell ceremony on the United Church of Christ Congregational in Cornwall, the place I, together with our archaeological staff, have been honored to function pallbearers. This was adopted by providers on O‘ahu at Honolulu’s Kawaiaha‘o Church, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Memorial Chapel, and Kaumakapili Church.

Then ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s stays have been flown to the Huge Island of Hawai‘i. There, Henry’s casket was lashed between two outrigger canoes at Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, “the Place of Refuge.” Among the many canoeists paddling northward to Kealakekua Bay, was Henry Ho‘omanawanui, first cousin to Debbie Lee and namesake of the Christian martyr he was accompanying house. When the outrigger rounded the southern level into Kealakekua Bay, Ho‘omanawanui searched the wooded hills above the harbor for the white spire of Kahikolu Congregational Church, quickly to be the location of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s ultimate resting place. Debbie had instructed Ho‘omanuawanui to swim towards the shore as soon as the steeple got here within reach. Spying the church, he dove into the cool waters, recreating in reverse ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s outward swim to the anchored Triumph, metaphorically finishing Henry’s return residence.

The ultimate phase of the welcoming residence tour introduced Henry to Kahikolu Congregational Church and Cemetery in Napo‘opo‘o. After church providers attended by over 200 household and pals on the afternoon of August 15, 1993, Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia’s casket was lowered by ropes beneath a phenomenal, black volcanic stone monument overlooking the harbor from the place he had set out on his journey to seek out peace and self-fulfillment. This was a part of a ceremony referred to as “kao he olahou,” “the bamboo lives once more.”

Bringing Henry residence grew past quick household curiosity, extending throughout all the Hawaiian group, and emphasizing the importance of repatriation. Facilitating the completion of his lengthy journey developed into one thing past the return of a person ancestor.

The “Island Boy” who had left Hawai‘i looking for peace and function; who got here to Connecticut and acquired a scholar’s schooling and transformed to Christianity; who had discovered love in God and translated the E-book of Genesis into his phonetic Hawaiian alphabet; whose martyrdom impressed Protestant missions all through the world, had lastly come residence.

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