A few days after writing Ke Kai Wa’a, my poem about the ocean canoe, I wrote a little prose piece called “The Voyager and The Voice.” In it, I explored celestial navigation as a way God leads us to our destination. Little did I know this ancient way of sea-faring was re-birthed in the Hokule’a! Little did I know that a year later, I would meet a man who lives as the voyager I described. May God speak to you as you read…
A good journey requires the hope of a worthy destination. It’s like the lighthouse, or the dream and hope of a lighthouse that will finally guide the voyager home to her resting place. In the meantime, there are stars: signs in the sky that are always visible… but only to the one who is humble enough to look up and persevere in patience through the storms and fog that sometimes obscure one’s vision of them. But the passionate and trusting voyager trusts that the stars are there, whether or not at the present time she can see them. The wise voyager knows the One who made the stars and orders their course. She trusts not in the stars themselves as her guide but in the heart of the one whose voice capitulated them into existence in the vast expanse of space. And so, more than the signs like stars in the sky, and even more than the hope of the lighthouse of her homeland, the voyager listens for the Voice of the One who charters her course. She hangs on his every word and finds strength, meaning, and abundant purpose in every utterance. This Voice is her existence, for if she were to forget or cease to listen, she would cease to live.
— Journal entry May 6, 2013
Last summer* I learned from Junior, a part-Hawaiian, part-Micronesian man who grew up in Hawaii, but went back to Micronesia to sit under Mau, the famous navigator. Mau was one of the last remaining people with the knowledge of celestial navigation. A resident of Satawal in Micronesia, 1 mile by 1.5 miles with 600 residents, Mau’s navigation skills were essential to survival. Fishing in the deep sea helped to sustain the community.
Mau Piailug is known primarily because of his connection to Nainoa and the Hokule’a. In the cultural renaissance of the 1970’s, the Hawaiian community reached out to him for help. Nainoa Thompson, the original navigator for Hokule’a and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, sought out Mau for his wisdom of seafaring. As he spent time with Mau, Nainoa absorbed the wisdom of the natural world, learning to read the ocean, the wind, the movements of the water, and mastering this ancient system of navigation to lead the Hokule’a on numerous voyages to Tahiti and around the Pacific Rim. As Mau transferred his wisdom to Nainoa, a culture was strengthened. Now it was proven true that the ancient Hawaiians had navigated over 2,000 miles to come to Hawaii!
Junior also learned from Mau, and his knowledge went deeper. Mau was a follower of Jesus. As Junior learned from him, he not only learned to read the natural signs as Nainoa did, but he learned the deeper mysteries of the Creator of the seas. Junior knows that navigation is intimately connected to prayer to the living God. He is the one who calls out the storm and stills the sea (Mark 4:35-41). He is guiding the light when the clouds obscure the moon and stars. He is the one who gives life to the sailor and the crew and carries them safely home. As mysterious and beautiful as the natural world is, there is a deeper mystery still. Mau knew it. Junior knows it. And any of us who reach out for this Secret Knowledge will also lay hold of it, for he is not far from any one of us.
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us — Acts 17:26-27
The day I met Junior, he took me and our group from Ho’olohe Pono out on a canoe that he is building. It is like the Hokule’a but about half the size. Instead of a canvas sail, it is made of woven grass–the old way. What an honor to have my first sailing experience aboard a vessel made in the traditional Hawaiian way. My poem and prose came to life that day!
*Each summer, our InterVarsity group in Hawaii hosts a summer immersion program called Ho’olohe Pono (Listen intently & righteously) to the native Hawaiian community. Find out more here & see if you can join us!