I recently read that there are as many as 127,000 people in Waikiki on any given day. This number is made up of approximately 20,000 residents, 32,000 workers and 75,000 visitors. What is more amazing about this number is that when you search for a church in Waikiki, only a handful can be found. There aren’t even enough to churches to cover the people who live in Waikiki! In contrast, the area of Ewa Beach has been called the Bible Belt of Hawaii and has only approximately 16,000 residents and over a two dozen churches. This is staggering. This seems to support what we had often heard which is that local people avoid Waikiki like the plague.
When people think of Waikiki, the world class beaches and hotels come to mind. Most people don’t think about going to church in Waikiki. Church isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Waikiki. When we decided to start a church in Waikiki, we did so with a word from God. Like all the other big decisions we’ve ever made, we prayed and asked God where we should go. When God told us that we should go to Waikiki we assumed that He was sending us to the least and the lost. There is a large group of homeless people, prostitutes, drug addicts and drunkards that call Waikiki home. Additionally, there are many tourists who need a place to go to where they will be loved and cared for during their vacation.
For RK, the church started with a thought: Wouldn’t it be great if people came to Waikiki because they heard that Jesus was there? Waikiki was once a place where healing magic was performed. There is a rock monument in the middle of Waikiki that was erected by the ancient Hawaiians to commemorate this fact. We want to make Waikiki a place of healing again. We want to make Jesus, the Healer of the Nations, famous in the place where nations gather together.
We are learning that there is so much more to Waikiki than tourism. We have found ourselves among some of the poorest people in the islands living amongst all the decadence in Waikiki. The homeless here in Waikiki have become our church. We talk story about Jesus on Tuesday nights and eat a meal together. On Sundays we meet behind the Waikiki Band Stand, under the Banyan trees. We see them as mighty men and women. They are the nameless and faceless ones who will change Waikiki. Right now, they don’t know that they are mighty men of valour but they will. We will be there when they realize who they are and recognize Jesus for who he is. We will be there when they bring healing to Waikiki.