In May 2013, I spent a day in quiet retreat with the Lord. That year I had taken up a practice of doing a 24 hour solo retreat once a month–I cannot emphasize enough what a difference this made in my personal well-being and fruitfulness in ministry! God has been teaching me good patterns of work and rest as I labor for the Kingdom!
On this particular day in May, God spoke to me through an image of a sailing vessel. I’d never been sailing before, but the image gave me a vicarious experience. With surprising ease, I penned the works of my poem Ke Kai Wa’a. I say surprising ease because I don’t write poetry much, I don’t think of myself as a poet, and yet sometimes, the anointing just comes and the ink that flows from my pen forms words that shape more profound meaning than that which comes from my own mind. When I penned Ke Kai Wa’a, I really felt it was really God who wrote it, and I was merely the hand he used.
The image I had was of a sailing boat that represents me: My will is like a sail on the open sea. The poem then describes how I try to take control of my direction and destiny, but I find myself swaying out of control with the fear of capsizing. The ultimate reality about my life is that it’s held by God’s love and grace, represented by the ocean. Even more, it’s the wind, God’s breath, that determines my direction, thus it is best for me to yield and let him blow me to the place he wants me to go.
Little did I know that only a few weeks later, on a visit to Maui, a pastor would give me the Hawaiian name, makani, or wind. God speaks to me through the wind, so this touched me very personally. When the wind blows around me, I feel surrounded by his presence. A couple months later, in July, I was on a Hawaiian cultural immersion trip with InterVarsity called Ho’olohe Pono, touring the island of Molokai when we pulled up to the wharf. There among the common fishing boats was an uncommon vessel. It was made of wood with tall masts and sails and had no motor. As we pulled up closer to it, my friends gasped in disbelief, “It’s the Hokule’a!” They’d never seen the vessel in real life and mused, “There’s no way we’ll get to go on board.” (At this time, the Hokule’a was completely unknown to me and I was only beginning to learn about Hawaiian culture.)
An hour later, the sun was sinking beneath the horizon and we were still talking story with the crew members. We held the rudder which was so heavy due to the buoyancy of its girth. We saw the cots where the crew sleeps in the canoe hulls. We learned how the crew suspends themselves overboard using a harness in order to relieve themselves. We noticed names engraved of previous navigators and crew, each with their own legend. A plaque toward the stern was dedicated to a fellow by the name of Eddie Aikau and read, “No Greater love has a man than this, that he laid down his life for his friends.” Though this name was unrecognizable to me at the time, later I would learn his legend.
A couple of my Hawaiian sisters had the wisdom to know what to do in this moment. Makaiwa spoke for all of us, “We are so grateful for this opportunity to meet the Hokule’a. We would like to bless you the best way we know how–we want to pray for you.” The crew members who were on the dock eating dinner quickly joined us on the boat and we all circled up holding hands–about 30 of us. Makaiwa and Dani prayed beautifully in Hawaiian and English, blessing the crew and their upcoming circumnavigation tour. (At the time, I had no context for Hokule’a and how fortunate I was to be there, but I knew this was a very special moment.)
Later that week, I shared my poem with my group and they were very touched! One Uncle said it reminded him of Hokule’a! Fast forward to a few nights ago as I sat in Kawaiaha’o Church in a special Pule (Pray) for Hokule’a service. My memories often went back to that day when I stood on the deck and joined hands with the crew–some of whom are on the vessel now. I was even more awestruck when the pastor spoke of the same image–of the sailing boat being like our lives that God wants to send in His best direction, propelled by His winds.
I wrote the poem at the beginning of May, but at the end of May during a visit to Maui, I heard God’s call to move to Hawaii and watched as he confirmed it in many ways. In July, I stood on the deck of an icon of cultural renaissance for the Hawaiian nation–Hokule’a. Isn’t it like God to plant something in my mind that I knew nothing about from experience, but had great significance to the culture He was calling me into? Before I had been sailing, had heard about Hokule’a, or heard his call to the island nation, he was writing it onto my heart. I’m so glad I spread my sail out wide to let [his] wind be me guide. (last line of poem)