Kalaupapa "A Place of Hope": Kahu Kalani Wong shares
In January of 1866, the first of an estimated 8,000 people diagnosed with Hansen's Disease (leprosy)—90 percent of whom were Hawaiian—were exiled to Moloka‘i's remote Kalaupapa Peninsula. January 2022 marked the first observance of Kalaupapa Month by the state of Hawai‘i. In 2013, the 191st ‘Aha Pae‘āina of the Hawai‘i Conference United Church of Christ established Kalaupapa Sunday (the fourth Sunday of January) to remember, commemorate and honor all the patients of Kalaupapa, many of whom came from or had connections to our families and churches.
We met with Kahu Kalani Wong as he recollected his experiences (over the span of 20 years) visiting Kalaupapa—what he’s come to know as a place of hope and resilience; a place to learn about acceptance and celebrate the diversity of life.
“I thought it might have been a place of despair, a place where people were sent to die. But really I see it as a place of hope, I see it as a place of resilience, because that’s what the people are. They’re a model of resilience, making a life in the settlement where everyone does whatever they can to make it into a living and thriving community.”
Kahu Kalani Wong is an ordained minister in the ‘Aha O Nā Mokupuni o Maui, Moloka‘i a me Lāna‘i (Tri-Isle Association) of the Hawai‘i Conference United Church of Christ (HCUCC). He sits on the steering committee for Wisdom of Kalaupapa which is a joint collaboration of HCUCC, ReSource for Christian Spirituality, and Episcopal churches on Kaua‘i. Kalani is the Chaplain of Kamehameha Schools Maui and writes daily devotionals which can be found on the school’s website.
View these Kalaupapa devotionals from January 2022:
Learn more through the Wisdom of Kalaupapa project:
Kalaupapa Wisdom for Today (2020)