Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.
Choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike or drive can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice. Even more so, finding quality information on the history, culture, geology and natural history of the area can be almost impossible–and much of what you do find is inaccurate, or third-hand retellings that are, well, better stories than histories. Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time and understanding what they are seeing, the culture they are visiting.
This is why Tour Guide Hawaii is so excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod video tour that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, as an example of the fabulous coverage our App for iPhone and iPod provides, let’s look at a fascinating historical site in the heart of Old Kailua Town itself, one which you might pass by, uninterested and uninformed, if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App to pique your interest and feed your curiosity.
Imagine leaving a comfortable home in Boston in the chilly October of 1819, setting out to a new, unknown and mysterious land. Imagine crossing the Atlantic Ocean sailing south along the coast of Africa and then fighting the frigid, turbulent waters off Cape Horn. After enduring 5 months of intense stormy weather and unimaginably cramped and filthy quarters below decks on the Brig Thaddeus, imagine sailing into Kailua Bay; this how the first Christian missionaries to Hawai’i came to Kailua, in 1820. Moku’aikaua Church is their legacy; it is the first Christian church in the state of Hawai’i.
The inside of the church is beautiful, cool and inviting, and visitors are welcome between services and on weekdays between sunrise and sunset; admission is free. There is a fascinating mini-museum, small but informative, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset and free tours are conducted from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. The Museum features exhibits about Hawai’i, the life of the missionaries and contains a scale model of the Brig Thaddeus.
Unknown to the Congregationalist missionaries when they left Boston in 1819, in that same year, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and the great queens Ka’ahumanu and Keopuolani had publicly defied the kapu law, thus destroying the basis of the stratified Hawai’ian society and they had fought and won the Battle of Kuamo’o, establishing Christianity as the state religion of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. This made the job of the missionaries much easier when they arrived in 1820.
Immediately upon arriving in Kailua (also called “Kairua” at that time) the missionaries set to work building a congregation and erected a grass-hut church on a plot of land given by Kamehameha II. This was the first place of Christian worship in the state of Hawai’i.
Under the leadership of missionary Asa Thurston, construction of Moku’aikaua was begun in 1835 and completed in January of 1837. The church was specifically aligned so that the prevailing breezes would pass through it, but also so that it presented a strong, stone façade to the south and west, the direction from which strong Kona Winds, large storms and hurricanes come. The 112-foot steeple was for many decades the highest structure in Kailua and served as a navigation landmark both for ships at sea and people on land.
The church is constructed of rough-hewn basalt blocks mortared with lime made from burnt coral and bound with kukui nut oil. The corner stones were taken from a heiau built on the same spot by King Umi in the fifteenth century. The interior beams and woodwork are of koa wood. The joints were painstakingly joined with ohi’a wood pins; this is a magnificent example of the architectural style brought to Hawai’i by the missionaries in the 19th century. Moku’aikaua Church takes its name from a now-razed patch of koa forest above Kailua where the beams were cut.
In 1824, Asa Thurston boasted a large congregation based on a population of no fewer than 20,000 residents in Kailua; by 1835, the census reported 11,000 people living in Kailua. This is a sad reflection of the incredibly high death rate amongst natives from imported diseases such as venereal disease, flu, tuberculosis and measles.
The museum contains a small but rich collection of displays, paintings and materials highlighting the history of Christian Hawai’i. A scale model of the Brig Thaddeus is the centerpiece of the museum exhibits; this replica was painstaking built by the men of the Pacific Fleet Command in 1934, and was given to the church in 1975.
To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
Copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.