Huaka'i i Moloka’i

How can families heal from the damage of disease, racism, and colonization?

This cross-cultural immersion experience will take ministry leaders to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Molokai to learn about the complicated history of colonization, evangelism, and the transition from a kingdom to statehood. We will learn from ministry leaders in Hawaii about the tension that exists between preserving native Hawaiian identity and Christian identity. The focus of our learning will be on the settlement of Kalaupapa and the question; 

What role do Christian communities play in helping families and communities heal from the damage of disease, racism, and colonization?

Situated on the island of Moloka’i in Hawai’i, surrounded by the ocean and by steep sea cliffs, is the remote community of Kalaupapa. Now a national park, this area functioned for over a century—beginning in 1866—as a leper colony, where people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) were forced into isolation from the outside world. Over this period, over 8,000 people lived and died at Kalaupapa.

Those who were once banished there are now free to live there. As of 2015, 60 individuals between the ages of 73 and 92 were still living. Today that number has dwindled to 3-4, all in their 90’s or 100’s who live with Kokua, or “helpers.” Like the initial positive environmental impact of “the world shutting down” at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Kalaupapa remains a uniquely protected environment, home to a third of America’s endangered species list – exposing the complicated interconnectedness of human and ecological thriving and suffering.

To prepare for the trip we will read, watch, and listen to a myriad of perspectives on this community including interviews with residents who lived at Kalaupapa, the historical fiction account of this colony, Moloka’i, by Alan Brennert, and “Molokai: The Story of Father Damien” directed by Paul Cox (1999). We will also watch the more recent film, “The Wind and the Reckoning,” (2022), which depicts one small group’s resistance to the government mandated exile for those infected by Hansen’s disease.  

Theologically, we will continually be asking what reconciliation looks like for families and communities after this kind of damage, and what role congregations play in rebuilding communities. This theological thinking and learning is especially significant considering the social and individual impacts of the COVID pandemic. Families have been divided in their homes when they have needed to quarantine or protect medically vulnerable grandparents. They have been separated from their congregations when worship services went online. Some have been distanced from family members because of differing views on vaccines and masking. The negative effects of social isolation on our faith communities and our families has been significant and it is clear that ministry leaders are still struggling with how they can encourage healing and reconciliation within and across families. This course will offer us the space to consider what healing and health look like and the ways the pandemic has exposed deep fissures in our social structure.

Frequently Asked Questions

When looking at places where residents from Hawai’i move, Washington state is second only to California. At Seattle Pacific University, more than 10% of our incoming freshman each year are from Hawai’i.

As we considered this program, we thought about how we might enrich our relationship with Hawai’i while serving Hawaiian and Hawaii-based ministries. We want to involve them in our learning community, bring them to campus for our annual one-day spring conference, invite them to complete the Faith Formation Certificate, and bring ministry leaders in the PNW to Hawai’i – bringing rest, awe, and a learning experience to those who are feeling burned out by their ministries in rainy Seattle.

This huaka’i will first be a study “abroad” course for seminary students at SPU in June 2025.

Then in Spring 2026 we will invite Seattle-based ministry leaders from our learning community.

We have allocated funding to cover full or partial costs for a limited number of participants. It is possible that additional spaces may open up for applicants who wish to self-fund their participation in the trip. Further details will be available when applications open.

The huaka’i i Moloka’i will take place for seminary students in June 2025 and for Seattle-based ministry leaders in Spring 2026.

Applications will appear on this page when available. To be notified when we start accepting applications, sign up for our email list!

We hope to extend the option for selected participants to bring family along, space allowing. Further details will be available when applications open.