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A History of the Leeward Congregation
This congregation is forty-one-and-a-half years old, and there are few of the original members around anymore who would remember much about how and when this congregation began. In view of this, it seems worthwhile to me for those who are members now to know something about the history of the congregation, and I’ve been wanting to write of this for quite some time.
Events which would ultimately lead to the establishment of the congregation occurred long before the people who were to make up the congregation began meeting together.
While a student at Florida Christian College (now Florida College) in 1955, I was asked to visit brother Homer Hailey, vice-president of the school, in his office. During the visit he informed me that brother F. B. Shepherd, preacher for the Keeaumoku and Dominis congregation in Honolulu had asked him to recommend two of his students who might be interested in coming to Hawaii to work with him in a sort of “intern” program. Brother Hailey told me that he had recommended Abe Guillermo (Guy’s father) and me.
While Abe decided to continue his education at FCC, I accepted the offer, and came to Hawaii in October, 1955 to begin working with brother Shepherd and the Honolulu congregation. That was a time of turmoil for the Honolulu congregation because of some internal problems and for the brotherhood at large because of the controversy over institutionalism, both of which played a role in my returning to the mainland at the end of 1956.
Some good things happened during that time, though. For one, Joan Cole, whom I had met and dated in my last year at FCC, flew to Hawaii, and we were married by brother Shepherd at the Honolulu church building in April, 1956. Almost immediately after my arrival in 1955 I began teaching a Bible class at Schofield Barracks on Tuesday evenings. In time, this led to the establishment of the Wahiawa congregation, which began meeting in a white frame building at the intersection of Wilikina Drive and Kunia Road. I worked with this congregation until shortly before we returned to the mainland.
While working with the Wahiawa congregation I began teaching a Bible class in the home of Enrique Ranada here in Waipahu. After I left, this class ultimately provided the nucleus for the beginning of the congregation that meets today on Apowale Street in Waipahu. Enrique Ranada, his family and several others who were among the original members of that congregation would later become members of the Leeward congregation when it was established in 1963.
In 1970 brother Roy Cogdill came to Hawaii on a vacation, and while here visited several of the congregations and talked with a good many brethren. Finding brethren who were opposed to institutionalism, but who were worshiping in congregations that favored it, he returned to the mainland with the idea of finding someone who might be willing to come to Hawaii to establish a non-institutional congregation.I had been having some correspondence with some brethren with regard to the possibility of returning to Hawaii myself, and this came to brother Cogdill’s attention. After talking with him and others, we decided to come back to Hawaii with the idea of establishing a new congregation somewhere on the Leeward side of Oahu.
With considerable help and encouragement from brother Cogdill and others, Joan and I and our three children (at that time) left our work and home in Louisville, Kentucky to return to Hawaii in January, 1963.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, 1963, a new congregation was established and began meeting in Pearl City on the island of Oahu. Its first services were held in the home of Jim and Evelyn Buford at 518-A Birch Circle, in Pearl City. It would later become the “Leeward church of Christ” when it began meeting in Waipahu after securing property there for a meeting place.
Most of the members had previously been members of the congregation in Waipahu that meets on Apowale Street. Much of the ground work for the establishment of the new congregation had been done by the teaching of James L. Hawkins, who, with his wife, Betty, were also members of the new congregation.
A bulletin, called “The Exhorter” began to be printed almost immediately, and it was mailed to most of the members of the other congregations on the island. The front page article of the first issue of “The Exhorter, which announced the beginning of the new congregation, stated: “The congregation consists of a group of Christians who are meeting together for no other purpose than to serve God faithfully according to His will. Only that which is authorized by the Word of God will be taught and practiced. The truth will be defended and a warfare will be waged against all sin and error.”After three weeks, Jim Buford was able to secure for our use as a meeting place a no-longer-used boy scout building at 933 Franklin Avenue on the Pearl City peninsula. He also located some very nice wooden chairs (surplus military) that we could use. Partitions were made and set up for classrooms for the children, and a baptistery was built. While meeting there two gospel meetings were conducted in which Warren Cheatham and Roy Cogdill did the preaching.By the end of 1963 we were notified that the boy scout building was to be torn down and replaced with navy housing, which meant another meeting place had to be found.Early in 1964 we were granted permission to begin using Bldg. 53 of the old Navy Manana Fire facility on Kamehameha highway in Pearl City (where Sam’s Club is now located). All of our chairs, partitions, furniture, song books and the baptistery were moved to the large, well-ventilated building so we could begin using it for our meeting place in the early spring of 1964. It served us very well for awhile, in spite of the fact that it was in the middle of an overgrown lot and no water nor restrooms were available.Sometime in the fall of 1964 that building burned along with all of our equipment and furniture, and we had to look for another place in which to meet. For a couple Sundays or so, the congregation met at our home on Noelani Street in Pearl City with two Sunday morning services to accommodate the number who were attending at that time. Then, by November, we were given permission to begin using the Cafetorium of the Aliamanu Intermediate School on Salt Lake Blvd. in Honolulu for our Sunday morning and evening services. The Wednesday evening service was held at our home in Pearl City.
Early in 1965 Enrique Ranada learned that a small two bedroom house on a large lot at the corner of Peke Lane and Waipahu Street in Waipahu was for sale. Hurriedly, a decision was made to purchase it and convert the house into a meeting place for the church. In order to come up with enough money for the down payment, members made special contributions, with some having to borrow the funds they contributed. A mortgage loan was secured from Pioneer Savings and Loan Association in Honolulu, and we began work to get the house ready for the congregation to use as a meeting place.
Considerable work had to be done before the city would allow us to begin meeting in the house. Floor support beneath the building had to be more than doubled, and another restroom had to be provided. All of the partitions in the house were removed to create an auditorium that sometimes held as many as fifty to sixty people. Folding partitions were used to create classrooms for the small children, while the Filipino and older children were in classes outside the building.By February, 1965 the congregation was meeting in the house, and happy to have the problem of a meeting house solved for awhile, at least, and the congregation began to be called the “Leeward church of Christ, with members coming from Honolulu, the windward side, Eva, Waipahu, Wahiawa and from the Waianae, Nanakuli area.
Several gospel meetings were conducted in the next few years, with preaching being done by Osby Weaver, Arthur Atkinson, Lowell Williams and others.
Having begun meeting in the new building in early spring 1965, it became evident, with a Sunday morning attendance frequently in the mid-sixties, that the new building would not be adequate for long. We began looking into the possibility of adding on a larger room for an auditorium and then converting the original building to classrooms. We became alarmed when we learned that the city and county building codes were due to change in the near future, which would make adding on to the building an impossibility.
In the summer of 1966 Joan and I and our children made a vacation trip (for Joan and the kids, but all work for me as I preached in back-to-back meetings in San Bernardino, CA, Horse Cave and Louisville, KY, Fultondale, AL and Hillsboro, OR and visited with several other congregations) back to the mainland for the purpose of reporting to the congregations that had been supporting me in the work here and to determine whether they would be willing to continue that support so that the congregation here could undertake a building program.While we were away, brother and sister L.B. Clayton of Tucson, Arizona came to Hawaii, lived in our home and brother Clayton worked with the congregation in my place. We were gone about five or six weeks, as I remember.
In the summer of 1967 we began discussing the possibility of building the new auditorium, and a decision was made to do so as soon as possible while the existing building code was still in effect. By August plans for the new auditorium had been drawn and a building permit was secured.With about ten-thousand dollars on hand, we ordered a load of lumber and construction was begun in September. We hired Hegino Acosta as the carpenter and construction supervisor, and all of the men helped as much as possible with the work. Basilio Agsalud, Enrique Ranada and I worked with “Acosta” nearly every day, helped by Walt and Nancy Radke when they were not in school, and other men on Saturdays and some evenings.For a while we were able to accumulate enough money to continue construction, but in time it became apparent that we would need to borrow money to finish the construction. Four or five of the men of the congregation signed a note at First Hawaiian Bank for the $10,000 we needed. With this loan the building was completed, and we began using the new auditorium at the end of the year.
At the beginning of 1968 we rejoiced to begin meeting in the new auditorium. Using folding chairs at first, we soon drew up some plans and built the pews we are presently using. Now most of our classes were able to meet inside the building. New song books were ordered, and not long after a baptistery was added. Our attendance began to increase, and both gratitude and enthusiasm were evident.
Nineteen-sixty-eight was a year of many changes in the membership of the congregation. Several of our military families left, while new ones arrived all during the year. In March Melchor and Roger Ranada were joined by the rest of their family, arriving from the Philippines. There were several baptisms that added to our number. There were also some serious problems that required disciplinary action to be taken.
In the summer Arthur W. Atkinson returned to preach in a gospel meeting. Sunday morning assembly attendance was averaging in the mid-70’s, and in the mid-50’s on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. By the fall the Sunday morning attendance was in the mid-90’s. Mainland visitors were present nearly every Sunday, as well as local visitors.
In early 1969 there were evidently more members leaving than coming in, so that the Sunday morning attendance dropped to the mid-70’s and 80’s again. Early in the year several debates were conducted between representatives of the Iglesia ni Cristo (a Filipino denomination) and myself, usually in our building but once or twice in their meeting place. In the spring my dad, C. B. Shropshire, then living in Hermiston, Oregon, came and conducted a teachers’ training course, and in July James P. Needham of Louisville, Kentucky preached in a twelve-day gospel meeting. Later in the year attendance on Sunday mornings was back in the 90’s again. In the fall Alex Fajardo and Justino Mateo, with their wives and families remaining temporarily in the Philippines, arrived here and began attending our services.
Early in 1970 both Alex and Justino were baptized after studying in a home class with Enrique Ranada, Ernest Bautista and me. The Shropshire’s had made plans to return to the Mainland in the summer, but when a preacher could not be located to take my place, the decision was made for us to remain until the summer of 1971.
Our attendance in the spring of summer of 1970 had climbed to well over 100 for both the Sunday morning Bible classes and the morning assembly, and in the 80’s for the Sunday evening service. In the early summer, Roy Cogdill and Cecil Willis came through Hawaii on their way to the Philippines, and preached in a short gospel meeting for the congregation. In the summer the property on Henokea Street was purchased (for $24,000, I think), with the intention of using it as a residence for the preacher and his family, and the Shropshire’s moved into it in July. Late in the summer saw a mass exodus of military families due to rotation, but some were replaced by a few new arrivals.
During the last few months of 1970 several families left (mostly military rotation), but new families also arrived to take their places. Attendance for the Sunday morning service remained in the high 90’s or low 100’s for the rest of the year.
In August Enrique Ranada, who was a pillar in the congregation from the time of its beginning, was discovered to have tuberculosis, and entered Leahi Hospital for a three or four month period of treatment. He was sorely missed in our worship and work. As I remember, though, his recovery was achieved sooner than expected, and he turned to us to become as active and involved as ever.
In view of the Shropshires’ plans for leaving in the summer of 1971, efforts were made to find a preacher to work with the congregation upon their departure. Letters were received from three or four men who expressed an interest in coming. Olen Holderby of San Pablo, California held a meeting for the congregation in March with a view to moving here. He was invited to come, but things did work our for his doing so.
I left on March 22nd to hold meetings in Joliet, IL, Florence, AL, Horse Cave and Louisville, KY, and Hermiston, Or. I also visited with congregations in Mt. Pleasant, TN, Hazelwood, MO, and San Bernardino and Napa, CA. Some of these visits were with a view to our relocation on the mainland when we were to leave Hawaii. I returned on May 8th, and announced to the congregation that we would be moving to Hazelwood, Missouri in the summer.
In April Ernest Bautista and Val and Mary Dumlao went to Maui to help a family there in efforts to begin a faithful congregation at Lahaina. This work would be continued for quite some time afterward.
In May, June and July four discussions were held on the subject of institutionalism (church cooperation and the care of the needy) between Chuck Huber of the Apowale Gardens congregation and myself, with members of both congregations attending and with sessions at both locations. While the discussions did not result in a position change on the part of either congregation, they did result in a better understanding of the respective positions.
By the beginning of June the congregation had no prospects for a preacher to take my place. In the middle of the month Ron Howes of Anchorage, Alaska came to talk with the congregation about he possibility of moving here. He was offered the work, and accepted, with a view to moving here soon after the departure of the Shropshires.
At the end of June a farewell pot luck dinner was held for the Shropshires at the home of Gary and Gladys Collins in Maili. That will always be a memorable day for our family. Joan, Lisa and Laura Shropshire then left Hawaii on July 3rd for a visit with Joan’s folks in Florida before joining me in St. Louis sometime August 1st. Jeff, Doug and I remained here for the month of July. Then, on Sunday evening, July 25th, we flew to California for a short visit with my folks before driving to St. Louis, MO to begin our work with the Hazelwood congregation.
This history, covering the first eight-and-a-half years existence of the congregation was written by me as an “eye-witness.” The history from 1971 to the present needs to be written by someone who was here during that time, but I will try to give a few details.
Ron Howes only remained with the congregation for a couple of years, and was replaced by Gor-don Pennock. He, too, stayed for only two years, I believe, and was replaced by John Miller. During this time I returned to Hawaii on three occasions, to preach in two gospel meetings and to help resolve some problems on the third occasion. Following the departure of the Millers, Abe, Emma and Guy Guillermo moved here to begin working with the Leeward congregation. Abe was a “native son,” having been born and growing up in Waipahu. Abe had been my roommate in college, and was presented with the same opportunity as I to come to Hawaii in 1955 to work with the Honolulu congregation, but chose to stay in school. I’m not really sure how long Abe worked with the congregation, but he was replaced by Don Givens, who preached here for about six-and-a-half years, I believe, leaving in 1990. Since that time there has been no full-time evangelist working with the congregation until now, though Michael Lusk did most of the preaching for several years, and, of course, in the past three years or so the preaching and teaching have been done by Ernest Bautista and David Jennings.
Later, I suppose, I’ll be able to add to this history of the congregation to relate what will have happened in the two or three years that Joan and I will be here.
In my “farewell” article in our bulletin (“The Exhorter” of July 25, 1971) I wrote: “Some have asked if we ever plan to return to Hawaii, and I think I can safely say that we would like to come back some day. When we left here in 1955 to return to the mainland after a short stay in Hawaii we said we would return, if the Lord were willing, and He was. Perhaps He will be good to us in this way again in the years to come.” And He has been.